The Independent, U.K.

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Havana and Washington Shuffle the Latin American Cards (O Globo, Brazil)


"The impact of the resumption of relations is significant for Latin America. It diminishes support for aspects of Brazilian foreign policy and its Bolivarian allies that are, for example, focused on ideas stemming from the Cold War such as the North-South confrontation, anti-Americanism and Third World-ism. … But it's still early to say for certain, as the U.S. imagines, that the diplomatic opening will result in more freedom and a more dignified life for the Cubans. The path for this, however, may already be open."




Translated By Brandi Miller


December 20, 2014


Brazil - O Globo - Original Articles (Portuguese) the United States and Cuba began to melt the immense iceberg that in recent decades has formed between the two countries separated by only 150 kilometers. In a statement announcing the beginning of normalization of relations with the communist island, President Barack Obama was clear: "These 50 years have shown that isolation does not work. It's time for a new approach." This "new approach" represents a historic turning point for the U.S. and Cuba, and will have a strong impact throughout the hemisphere because of its power to influence worn-out positions and policies from blocs and each particular nation.


The two countries have a history of hostility, hatred and frustration. In 1962, the world was on the brink of a nuclear war due to the stationing of Soviet missiles in Cuba from which they could have reached any point in the U.S.


Only Wednesday [Dec. 17] it was revealed that secret talks between Washington and Havana have been going on for the past 18 months under Canadian government auspices. We also discovered the decisive role of Pope Francis in encouraging contacts between the two sides. Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro made a point of thanking Canada and the pontiff.



With the announcement of the thaw, it was also revealed that Obama and Castro had closed the negotiation via a telephone call that lasted an hour and a half on Tuesday. They confirmed in that conversation that Cuba would release American contractor Alan Gross, sentenced on the island to 15 years in prison allegedly for spying. Having served five years of that sentence, his health was deteriorating. Havana also released a U.S. spy imprisoned for 20 years. In exchange, Washington released three Cuban spies out of an original group of five [the Cuban Five]. Cuba also committed to freeing 53 people considered political prisoners by the U.S. to facilitate access to the Internet for the population and to open up space for more assessment visits by the U.N. and Red Cross.


Raúl Castro announced the changes to the Cuban people at the same time Obama spoke, albeit more briefly.


"This decision of President Obama deserves the respect and recognition of our people," the Cuban leader said. However, he made a point of noting that the economic blockade of Cuba persists and can only be lifted by the U.S. Congress. But Obama expressed confidence in "being able to commit Congress to a serious and honest debate about lifting the embargo."



Due to the health problems of Fidel Castro, who had led the country since the victory of the revolution in 1959, Raúl took over the Cuban government in 2006. According to the U.S. government, Fidel didn't participate in the process of rapprochement.


Obama announced that the process of normalization will start with the reestablishment of embassies in both capitals. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs Roberta Jacobson will travel to Cuba in January to begin discussions in this direction with the Cubans.


"I look forward to being the first secretary of state in 60 years to visit Cuba," Kerry said. Washington will remove Cuba from the list of countries that encourage terrorism.


Cuba is an anachronistic Stalinist bastion in the Caribbean and the communist regime has made the island a closed country surpassed in this regard only by North Korea. Agreeing to reconsider relations with the U.S. is a radical shift in the Cuban position and reflects a recognition by its leaders that its economic opening, adopted sparingly in recent years, was not enough to give the country the dynamism that society demands. Added to this is the economic debacle of Venezuela which has supported the Havana regime by providing oil in exchange for Cuban physicians working on Venezuelan social programs. Other Cuban partners like Russia and Iran are also having difficulties. The crisis in the country is such that it threatens the hegemony of the Communist Party, which had already increased its repression of dissidents.


The U.S. finally understood that the arsenal of measures applied to Cuba had long since only served as an argument for communist leaders to maintain the foundations of the regime. Cuban leaders learned to rely on Washington's enmity to justify crackdowns on dissidents and high levels of military spending. To Cubans themselves were left only the crumbs.


Maintaining the embargo has became an issue capable of profoundly stirring up U.S. politics. Florida concentrates a large population of Cuban Americans containing many of those who left the island in recent decades to escape political persecution and/or poor living conditions. Those who represent this segment of the U.S. population learned to use their aversion to the Communist regime politically and have always threatened to prevail over them to vote against candidates favorable to lifting the embargo. Florida has an important role in U.S. president elections, but with the new generation the situation is changing - although Senator Marco Rubio, a descendant of Cubans and a possible Republican presidential candidate, has criticized the resumption in relations. In his view, this will give new impetus to the Communist Party to remain in power. That seems like an electoral strategy.

Posted By Worldmeets.US


In another twist, the U.S. announced that it will not object to Cuba's participation at the next Summit of the Americas, to be held this April in Panama and with the presence of Obama. For decades, despite pressure from Latin American countries, Washington has resisted Cuban attendance at hemisphere summits.


The announcement of the Cuban-American resumption took place when leaders of Mercosur were meeting in the city of Paraná, in Argentina, and it fell to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to recognize "the gesture of President Barack Obama, a gesture of courage necessary to history."



The U.S.-Cuba initiative hits Venezuela at a delicate moment, with its economy devastated by the fall in oil prices. The Chavista policy of diverting attention from domestic problems with an external enemy - the U.S. - has lost its appeal with the rapprochement between Havana and Washington.


If course, the U.S. wants to do business in Cuba, but the Cuban market is still small and poor. In the short term, the impact of the announcement is more significant for Latin America. It diminishes support for aspects of Brazilian foreign policy and its Bolivarian allies that are, for example, focused on ideas stemming from the Cold War such as the North-South confrontation, anti-Americanism and Third World-ism.


But it's still early to say for certain, as the U.S. imagines, that the diplomatic opening will result in more freedom and a more dignified life for the Cubans. The path for this, however, may already be open.




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Posted By Worldmeets.US Dec. 19, 2014 11:12pm




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