A 54 Year Old Vestige of the Cold War Finally Thaws

October 5, 2016

On August 15, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry, was the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years. His visit marks the historic end of sour relations between the US and Cuba and the re-opening of the US embassy in Havana. As he addressed the crowd, in both English and Spanish, he talked about the possibility of lifting the 54-year-old trade embargo, as well as the restoration of a true democratic system on the island. While the US is willing to give aid in various sectors across Cuba, nothing can truly be done until the trade embargo is lifted, a motion that the republican lead congress has swiftly voted down. This visit has drawn criticism from republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, which boasts one of the largest numbers of Cuban immigrants, saying that, essentially, this reconciliation is fruitless.

Fidel Castro, former leader of Cuba, is also skeptical of the reconciliation process. In a letter he wrote to the national journal, Granma, instead of a cooperative tone he was quick to mention the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan and how the embargo has hurt all aspects of US-Cuban relations. Despite the negative tones, the Obama Administration is set on righting the wrongs of the past. One of the first steps towards this was a private meeting between Kerry and many anti-Castro dissidents as well as local entrepreneurs. The Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, is willing to work this his counterpart, Kerry, to move relations forward, but change lies at the hands of a stubborn US congress.

Obama, along with the Treasury Department, have loosened travel restrictions to and from Cuba, allowing a broad range of requests to be classified under the title of “tourism.” But it seems unlikely for Obama to forgo congress and declare the end of the embargo through an executive order. The US continues to work with the Cuban government on matters of immigrations, narco trafficking, environmental issues, and global health. If traveling continues to flow freely between the two nations, both parties can get a better sense of what is needed. With more Americans traveling to Cuba, the US will get a better picture of exactly how their aid should be used in the future. More open travel regulations, as well as the re-opening embassies, mark a slow and ongoing step forward between the two countries, but this is just the first step.

  1. "Fidel Castro Chides US Ahead of Embassy Reopening - BBC News." BBC News. BBC, 15 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

  2. Labbot, Elise. "Kerry to Reopen Embassy in Cuba but Tensions Remain - CNNPolitics.com." CNN. Cable News Network, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.

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Sophia Winston
Sophia Winston is a Spanish and Urban Studies major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is also pursuing a certificate in Latin American Studies and a minor in Portuguese. She has spent a semester abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and is currently a senior.