Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Let's Take Another Look at Cuba

     It is time to re-evaluate the relationship of the United States and Cuba.   Raul has loosened control of the Caribbean island since taking over from his brother in 2006 (officially in 2008) and polls suggest that American views on Cuba are changing.
      Where to start?  How about removing Cuba from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism?  It was placed there in 1982, more than thirty years ago.  Communism is not a threat to the US, nor is communism associated with modern terrorism as we know it. Twenty years ago, Fidel Castro stated he was no longer funding insurgents abroad.  But Cuba is still on the list despite a recent U.S State Department report that could not produce evidence of funds moving to Central and South American terror groups. The State Department also admits to Cuba's role in mediation between the FARQ and the Colombian government.  Since Raul Castro took over from his brother, he has started small steps (more than 300 small steps to be precise) to open his economy.  Cuba is following similar steps taken by China in its development to state run capitalism.  Freedom House polls show optimism among the Cuban public about economic reforms that took place in 2011. 
     Most people, including a consistent majority of Cuban-Americans under age seventy, also favor normalizing diplomatic relations.  The recent Cuban Research Poll (FIU) shows that a slight majority of all Cuban-Americans polled in Miami-Dade county oppose continuing the American embargo.  Remarkably, ninety percent of younger Cuban-Americans nationwide support renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba.  These finding were supported in another 2014 poll completed by the Atlantic Council.
     The Cuban economy is also changing, as other global interests look to Cuban markets and ports to expand their businesses. Who is trading with Cuba now?  China, Brazil, and the EuropeanUnion- the three largest economies in the world outside of the U.S.  And since they started trading with Cuba, the millions of dollars in trade that the United States was doing with Cuba has dropped in half.  Why?  More favorable trade terms and ongoing diplomatic relations with those non-Americans.  In fact, China signed thirteen cooperative agreements regarding trade with Cuba in 2011, and continues to pursue more.  These agreements include interest free loans as well as investments in telecommunications, oil and natural gas refining, and updates to port infrastructure.  The Diplomatic Courier reported in 2013 that bilateral trade between Cuba and China was over 2 billion dollars, and that Cuba is China's largest Caribbean trading partner.  
     Brazil's economy is also engaging with Cuba.  A Brazilian company now runs one of Cuba’s largest sugar plantations in the Cienfuegos region.  Brazil has also helped create a container port with a free trade zone in Mariel, Cuba.  
     The European Union is the largest foreign investor in Cuba.  One third of Cuba’s tourists come from the E.U.
     It is time to take an honest reassessment of the U.S.-Cuban relationship.  Engaging with Cuba will help both economies and help integrate Cuba more firmly into the sphere of western influence.

photo courtesy of Enrique De La Osa/Reuters

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