or more than half a century, nothing more than a couple of hasty handshakes has exchanged between American and Cuban leaders, until this month. At the Summit of the Americas in Panama city, President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raúl Castro sat down in what hopefuls saw as the culmination of Obama’s overture from December of last year to normalize relations with Cuba after a 54 year trade embargo. Simply put, the long years of sanctions have done little toward their intended goal of isolating Cuba to force change, and it is time for a new approach: diplomacy. Aside from a good chunk of American congressional representatives, many of those who still support the trade blockade are bitter Cuban-Americans from the same generation as the Castros. However, polls show that the majority of Cuban-Americans under the age of 65 favor restoring relations and ending the embargo. Outside of Cuba, this diplomacy will go a long way to improving the US standing with all of Latin America, especially in terms of what was lost to the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has taken notable steps toward a renewed relationship with our neighbor just off the coast through secret talks. One of the most prominent results of Obama’s efforts so far was the returned ability of Americans to visit Cuba, and it is this travel that could give a significant boost to a struggling Cuban economy. While that makes Mr. Castro look good to his people, it comes with a tough pill that he will have little choice but to swallow.
The US-Cuba thaw brings with it expectations on behalf of the Cuban people that will be no easy task for Castro to live up to under his current regime of command and control. Already American businesses are finding their way into Cuba, and Obama is seeking to craft the rules so that they support continued economic liberalization. Knowing what this could mean for his regime, Castro has focused first on diplomatic issues such as getting Cuba removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the reestablishment of embassies. When the embargo is finally lifted altogether, a thing that now seems inevitable, it could very well force Castro into loosening his control on the country, or else lose it altogether.