Obama to Partially Normalize Relations With Cuba

Obama to Partially Normalize Relations With Cuba December 18, 2014

In a move that should have been made decades ago, President Obama is partially normalizing relations with Cuba. We’ll be opening an embassy there for the first time in half a century and easing some of the travel restrictions (which isn’t enough, in my view).

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”…

In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time for a new approach.”

The right wing is predictably outraged because they live perpetually 50 years behind the times:

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants who may run for president in 2016, denounced the new policy as “another concession to a tyranny” and a sign that Mr. Obama’s administration is “willfully ignorant of the way the world truly works.”

“This whole new policy is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” Mr. Rubio said. “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to stay in power.”

Fox News is losing their minds over it, of course. But this is all just nonsense. Yes, Cuba is clearly lacking in political liberty and is ruled by a dictator. That makes them no different than half the nations of the world. What is truly bizarre to me is that the first people who will freak out over this is the Cuban exile community in Florida, the ones most affected by the travel ban. They have been prevented contact with their families still in Cuba for decades by this absurd policy, but they — most of them, anyway — will be the first ones to demand that it continue.

In fact, that’s what this is all about. The opposition will be fueled not by genuine concern but by a need to pander to the Cuban ex-pats in Florida to position themselves for the 2016 presidential election. Don’t be surprised if Congress tries to block this, led by Rubio and Ted Cruz, who never passes up an opportunity to pander to the far right. This despite the fact that a majority of Americans support this and an even higher percentage of Floridians and Latinos do.

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