US-Cuba thaw: New Year & New Hopes

As Cuba celebrates on January 1 the 55th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution which swept into power a new government led by the charismatic Fidel Castro, the deep freeze in relations with its giant neighbour shows signs of thawing at last. President Obama’s December 17 announcement that diplomatic ties would be established, and some relief provided from the economic embargo against Cuba, brought cheer to both sides of the Florida straits, the 100 mile waters that separate the two countries. The full story of US-Cuba relations goes back to the 1890s, with many colourful and eventful chapters. Now the questions are — what will this opening lead to, and how it will impact the various stakeholders, and the region?
Obama’s announcement marks a bold admission that the economic embargo against Cuba has failed to bring about a regime change. Rather, it has enabled the regime to crack down on dissent, sometimes unwisely promoted by agencies within the US, and exploit the image of a small country defending its hard-won sovereignty against a giant and powerful imperialistic neighbour.
President Obama’s announcement has received complete international support, which should encourage him and his supporters to move ahead. The US dropping its opposition to Cuba’s integration into regional architecture of Latin America will help the entire region to move forward. Cuba and the US must move to constructive engagement from destructive hostility.

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