Repairing US - Cuba relations
It's now President Obama, and changes are on the way. With respect to US relations with the Americas we have few details of what those c...
It's now President Obama, and changes are on the way. With respect to US relations with the Americas we have few details of what those changes might be. Democrats who worked to help Obama win the votes of most Americans living in Panama and the rest of the region ought to speak up, rather than remaining silent and hoping that the usual apparatchiki get things right. We are the Democrats who know this region best.
Obama can't afford to ignore "the Hispanic vote" but he should not treat either Latinos within the United States or the various Latin American societies as fungible masses. Yes, he ought to include a Spanish section on the House website, but no, he should not confuse Mexican-American with Cuban-American voters. The former voted strongly Democratic, the latter strongly Republican. That's cause to strip the Cuban exiles of their veto power over US policy toward this region.
Obama promised to make it easier for people living in the United States to send money to relatives living in Cuba, and to ease travel restrictions. We also know that he's going to close the prison at Guantanamo.
Any change in US relations with Cuba should be a reciprocal process, but there are a few unilateral moves that Obama ought to make.
First, not only should he close the Guantanamo prison, he ought to abandon the naval base altogether. Such rights as the United States possesses in Guantanamo were the products of sordid power plays. Just moving out and leaving a set of keys and a note at the gate would be one way to do it, but it would be better to send someone to talk with Raúl Castro or his designee about which infrastructures might be left behind under what conditions.
Second, the United States should tacitly recognize the ugliness of the US-based terrorism that has been directed against Cuba. Airliner bomber Luis Posada Carriles should be expelled as a persona non grata, without any regrets about the possibility that he will be punished for his crimes. Also, the five Cubans who are serving prison sentences because they spied on the Miami exiles should have their sentences commuted. No pardons are in order because the United States should never admit the propriety of espionage, but leniency based on a recognition that the men were defending their country would be appropriate.
Cuba offered a prisoner swap for their five spies, which Bush rejected. Obama should send the guys home, then wait to see what moves the Castro regime makes.
There would be enough outstanding issues left that the Cubans would be wise to respond. However, the governments in Havana and Washington are going to continue to be what they are and because of that a change in relations would have to be a prolonged process.
And how might this affect Panama? First, any healthy reform process eliminates the need for Panamanian intermediaries between Washington and Latin American governments with which it will not talk. Second, if the US economic embargo against Cuba ends, the Colon Free Zone will get new competition as Cuba will be able to shop in another "elsewhere." Third, a dissipation of US-Cuban tensions would reduce political stress throughout the Americas, including here. Overall, it would be a positive development for Panama.