Mr. Obama’s Historic Move on Cuba
Mr. Obama’s Historic Move on Cuba
By THE EDITORIAL BOARDDEC. 17, 2014
Following months of secret negotiations with the Cuban government,
President Obama on Wednesday announced sweeping changes to normalize
relations with Cuba, a bold move that ends one of the most misguided
chapters in American foreign policy.
The administration’s decision to restore full diplomatic relations, take
steps to remove Cuba from the State Department list of countries that
sponsor terrorism and roll back restrictions on travel and trade is a
change in direction that has been strongly supported by this page. The
Obama administration is ushering in a transformational era for millions
of Cubans who have suffered as a result of more than 50 years of
hostility between the two nations.
Mr. Obama could have taken modest, gradual steps toward a thaw. Instead,
he has courageously gone as far as he can, within the constraints of an
outmoded 1996 law that imposes stiff sanctions on Cuba in the pursuit of
“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Mr. Obama
said. “It’s time for a new approach.”
Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro, deserves credit for his pragmatism. While
Cuba remains a repressive police state with a failed economy, under his
leadership since 2008, the country has begun a process of economic
reforms that have empowered ordinary Cubans and lifted travel
restrictions the government cruelly imposed on its citizens.
“We must learn the art of coexisting with our differences in a civilized
manner,” Mr. Castro said on Wednesday.
The changes the Obama administration announced have the potential to
empower Cuba’s growing entrepreneurial class by permitting commercial
and financial transactions with the United States. The White House also
intends to make it easier for American technology companies to upgrade
the island’s primitive Internet systems, a step that could go a long way
toward strengthening civil society. Given Cuba’s complicated history
with the United States, it’s all but certain that this new chapter will
include suspicion and backsliding. Leaders in both countries must make
every effort to deal with those in a rational, constructive way.
The United States has been right to press for greater personal freedoms
and democratic change. But its punitive approach has been overwhelmingly
counterproductive. Going forward, American support for Cuba’s civil
society and dissidents is likely to become more effective, in good part
because other governments in the Western Hemisphere will no longer be
able to treat Cuba as a victim of the United States’ pointlessly harsh
As part of the negotiations, the Cuban government released an unnamed
American intelligence agent who had been imprisoned for nearly 20 years
and Alan Gross, a 65-year-old American subcontractor who had been
imprisoned in Havana since 2009. The United States, meanwhile, released
three Cuban spies who have served more than 13 years in prison. The
prisoner swap paved the way for a policy overhaul that could become Mr.
Obama’s top foreign policy legacy.
Administration officials recognize that Congress is unlikely to take
complementary steps toward a healthier relationship with Cuba anytime
soon. But this move will inevitably inform the debate about the merits
of engagement. In all likelihood, history will prove Mr. Obama right.
Source: Mr. Obama’s Historic Move on Cuba – NYTimes.com –