By Federica Simone:
President Barack Obama has finally put an “end” to the Cuban embargo; leading the way to the dawn of a new era, where finally los estadounidenses will be able to freely enjoy Cuban cigars on American soil and enjoy the summer holidays in Cuba. But what will really change, now that President Obama has almost opened the doors to Cuba?
“If you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and things haven’t changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.” President Obama said during a press conference, and even if the embargo will somewhat continue to be enforced, the bilateral relations will definitely warm up. Almost 3 decades after the end of the Cold War, and 53 years after the end of Cuban-America diplomatic relations, the Obama administration decided to make plans to open an embassy in Havana, and to re-establish economic relations. As the Democrat President said during the press conference, the Cuban economy is not doing very well, and suggested that it might benefit from a new partner – because after all, if you can’t beat them, join them.
As soon as the new policies will enter to force, it will be much easier for American citizens to freely travel to Cuba (read- holidays!), use their credit and debit cards there (read – banks will be able to expand their businesses there!), and after their trips, Americans will be allowed to bring back 400$ worth of Cuban goods and souvenirs (read –cigars!).
The embargo is one of the few Cold War policies which are still active. During the Cold War era the red scare was under everyone’s bed (as the popular saying “reds under the beds” suggested) leading the various administrations to initiate many anti-communist decisions. The policy of Containment, initiated by President H. Truman at the dawn of the Cold War, drove American business out of many countries, and in the Cuban case it also drove American tourists out of the favourite holiday destination. The rise of Fidel Castro –a friend of the USSR rather than the U.S.A., followed by the incident of the Bay of Pigs in the early 60s during the short Kennedy administration, forced the U.S.A to take active measures against Cuba. The American embargo had disastrous effect on some sectors of the economy -for both countries-, leading to the loss of over 1 trillion dollars of possible income for the U.S.A; but it certainly seemed to be a popular measure against communism, in particular among Republicans. The fear that Cuba might set an example to other South America countries, and allow the spreading of communism in more countries in the U.S.A.’s backyard was stronger than any economic and financial concern.
President Obama is not the only Democrat President who tried to warm up relations with Cuba. Both President Carter and President Clinton, tried to pursue softer and warmer policies with Havana, however this only lead to disastrous outcomes. While Cuba is still under the same regime that has been in power for the last half century, as President Obama remarked during his speech, America went under many different changes and has (arguably, according to some) evolved. The Obama administration had already started taking measures to open up to Cuba since 2009, allowing tourists to travel to the island of Cuba in a slightly easier way.
To many, Obama’s ease of the embargo might seem a simple cover up to the swap of prisoners between the two countries, however to others it might seem that America has finally decided to listen to the international community which, except for Israel, has been against the Cuban embargo for decades. Perhaps this is nothing but a campaign manoeuvre, making it easy for the Democrats to collect more votes from the Cuban minority. Hilary Clinton –potential Democrat candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections- just like her husband Bill, has shown signs of openness towards Cuba, however this new era of relations will certainly appeal to those members of electorate such as Cuban-Americans and businessmen to cast their vote for the Democrat candidate over the GOP’s candidate. What is sure is that China has decided to shift the focus of its relations to its neighbours and the U.S.A. is in need of doing the same.