Millennium Post

Winter of Cuban discontent ends

Normalisation of diplomatic relationship between the USA and Cuba is one of the most significant events of recent times and is in the interests of world peace movement, which strongly endorses the principle of peaceful co-existence of different states and different political systems. The US President Barrack Obama in his 2265-word announcement stated candidly, “Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China — a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party. Nearly two decades ago, we re-established relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation. 

That’s why — when I came into office — I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy. As a start, we lifted restrictions for Cuban-Americans to travel and send remittances to their families in Cuba. These changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. Cuban-Americans have been reunited with their families, and are the best possible ambassadors for our values. And through these exchanges, a younger generation of Cuban-Americans has increasingly”.

If all goes well, it will not be just the end of 53-year diplomatic alienation but will put an end to economic blockade too. Obama looks optimistic about it. “Where we can advance shared interests, we will — on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response. Indeed, we’ve seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before. It was a Cuban, Carlos Finlay, who discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever; his work helped Walter Reed fight it. Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban healthcare workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease. 

Now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly — as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba. But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement. After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach”.

The Cubans were ecstatic when the news reached them. Lauren Céspedes Hernández encapsulated this mood in Granma, the central organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, “Joy, excitement, euphoria, tears, optimism, expectation, surprise. Words can not describe how the Cuban people feel. More than 50 years have passed since the severing of diplomatic relations with the United States and the establishment of the unjust economic blockade; and 16 since the incarceration of the five Cuban heroes, thus the national reaction to the yesterday’s news was one of delight and absolute joy.”

The Cuban President and Army General Raul Castro was no less in his brief address to the nation, “United States respect Cuba’s communist rule as the two countries work toward normalizing diplomatic ties. President Barrack Obama this week reset Washington’s Cold War-era policy on Cuba and the two countries swapped prisoners in a historic deal after 18 months of secret talks”, he stated. It means a victory of two peoples, he too opined. His mood of optimism is explicit: “We have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations.”

Here in India, the central committee misconceived as essentially a triumph of the Cubans, “A victory for the Cuban people and government.” In contrast, the national committee of CP of USA, fraternal party to both CPI(M) and CPI, hailed the event as “Historic. Earthshaking. Breathtaking. All these words describe the announcement by President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro setting in motion the normalization of relations between our two nations. It has immense ramifications for relations between our two countries, for relations throughout the Americas, the Caribbean and globally. It is a victory for peace, sovereignty, democracy, justice and friendship between the peoples of the US and Cuba. It ends the 56 year-old policy of overthrowing the Cuban government, assassinating its leaders, disrupting its economy and society.” Its mouthpiece, People’s World , reflects the new window that has opened up. “Americans and Cubans woke up on Dec. 17 to the jaw-dropping news that the U.S. is making a monumental shift in its relations with Cuba. The remaining three Cuban Five prisoners had been freed from U.S. jails, and two U.S. prisoners, Alan Gross and an unnamed intelligence operative, were returning to the U.S.. Hours later President Obama told the nation: “I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.This shift was in the making for a while.…Public attitudes towards Cuba in our country have been changing dramatically over the years, with majorities now favoring ending the embargo, opening up trade, scientific and cultural ties, and travel and re-establishing full diplomatic relations. Even in the all-important state of Florida, the shift among the politically significant Cuban American population has been seismic. For the first time ever, this previously solid Republican voting bloc chose a Democrat who had called for the end to the embargo over a Republican in the governor’s race this year.”

Indian official communists seemed to have forgotten that the overwhelming majority of American people were unhappy about the protracted economic blockade and are neither reactionary nor counter-revolutionaries. Raul Castro hyphenates from such erroneous perception.  “Since my election as president of the State Council and Council of Ministers I have reiterated in many occasions our willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality, in order to deal reciprocally with a wide variety of topics without detriment to the national independence and self-determination of our people. The heroic Cuban people, in the wake of serious dangers, aggressions, adversities and sacrifices has proven to be faithful and will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice. Strongly united throughout these 56 years of Revolution, we have kept our unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of our principles since the beginning of our independence wars in 1868.”

But this does not mean Obama or Raul Castro will give up their political positions, as the latter made it very clear, The  U.S. officials will visit Havana in January to start talks on normalization, and Obama has said his government will push Cuba on issues of human and political rights as they negotiate over the coming months. Castro said Saturday he is open to discussing a wide range of issues but that they should also cover the United States and he stressed that Cuba would not be giving up its socialist principles. “In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours,” Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly in a session that turned into a celebration of resistance to U.S. aggression.” 

Acceptance of peaceful co-existence between the two systems marks a new beginning. The US President admitted poignantly, “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. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas. There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 — just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. 

Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.”  

The western media prominently carried the video-statement of Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President, that the island nation would not return “to being a servile country to hegemonic interests of the most powerful financial groups in the US”, but this is too obvious to have been re-asserted. Rather it does not help the process of normalisation. 

The next step is normalisation of economic relations including scientific and technological collaboration and trade exchanges in the interests of both the peoples. And the first thing to come from Washington is unconditional lifting of economic blockade, barring which the historic event will lose its meaning. 
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