Time to re-build our relationship with Cuba
Jordan Ryan | Monday, April 30, 2018
Just 10 days ago, Cuba welcomed a president with a name other than Castro. Taking over the reigns from long-term dictator Fidel Castro’s brother Raul Castro, Miguel Diaz-Canel is only the third President of Cuba in the past 60 years. With a leadership change comes an opportunity the United States cannot waste. We should utilize this time to revive our steady progress in promoting democracy and free trade in Cuba.
Our history with Cuba has been rocky since Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Castro developed close ties to the USSR, which plagued our fight against communism throughout the duration of the Cold War. For decades, Cuba remained an isolated and poor state, burdened with regulations that suppressed free speech and economic opportunity; regulations with which the United States disagreed, but did not attempt to dismantle.
However, in 2014, President Obama decided it was time for a change. He moved to pursue free trade as well as open up embassies, beginning a joint partnership with Raul Castro’s government to provide economic opportunities to both nations.
Though these policies were successful in revitalizing a broken economy, in November 2017, President Trump rolled them back, arguing that they were unfair to U.S. businesses and consumers. Such rollback restricted certain types of trade, travel and partnerships between Cuba and the U.S. These led to noticeable economic consequences, with American tourism to Cuba dropping seven percent since the rollback. Cuban officials stated that the total number of U.S. clients for 2018 thus far is only 56.6 percent of what it was in 2017.
President Trump should take this opportunity to pursue a reunited partnership with Cuba. Not only will increased flow of American goods, tourists and ideals to Cuba likely spread the democratic values to which Cubans deserve to be introduced, but also will provide major economic opportunity to our own nations. Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment released its newly-expanded annual foreign direct investment opportunities portfolio, which details 456 economic development projects worth over $9.5 billion open to foreign investment. The US is letting opportunities with our next-door neighbor slip away.
What’s more is that Diaz-Canel has shown signs of potential interest in pursuing a new path for Cuba to follow. Though he has indicated that his predecessor Raul Castro will remain influential in the Communist Party of Cuba and will even remain a member of the National Assembly, Diaz-Canel has expressed at least some interest in reviving his nation by forming a progressive panel of councilmembers. According to the Miami Herald, 42 percent of the 31 members selected for the Council of State are new, and women now hold 48.4 percent of the council seats. Black and mixed-raced representation on the council has reached 45.2 percent. New faces with new ideas will provide new opportunities to promote our cooperation with Cuba. This generational shift in power may be a key to producing long-standing relationships.
Though clearly an orchestrated transition of power, now is time to try to revive our connections to Cuba and its ever-growing society. Our relationship with Cuba has the potential to support their advancement out of poverty and reverse the regulations of the Castro regimes, all the while supporting our economy. Now is the time to push for democracy in Cuba.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.