After Panama, Where Do U.S.-Cuba Relations Move Now?

Panama Summit Defined By Normalization Of US-Cuba Relations
The seventh Summit of the Americas is likely to be defined by developments in the Cuba-US relationship and the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize relations, including removing Cuba from its terror list, contends Brookings Institution scholar Ted Piccone.

“With the removal of Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the last-minute softening of U.S. rhetoric toward Cuba’s chief ally, Venezuela, the Americas may be entering an unprecedented era of peace and cooperation. That leaves respect for democracy and human rights as the chief area of conflict between the United States and Cuba (and a few other countries),” he writes.

Thawing relations, however, does not mean Cuba is now on a path toward adopting economic liberalization and the principles of capitalism, despite its poor financial state and high rates of poverty.

“We shall continue working to update the Cuban economic model with the purpose of improving our socialism,” Mr. Castro said on Saturday, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The tougher sell for Obama may be in convincing Congress, particularly Cuban-American lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Republicans from Florida.

Ending the embargo, which has been embraced by the business community, has met with mixed reactions among those of Cuban descent with the divide occurring along generational lines. According to a recent poll, 66 percent of those born in the U.S. support the push, while 60 percent of those who arrived before 1980 oppose it.

And the elephant in the room is whether the U.S. uses its influence to push for greater human rights in Cuba, where citizens and political dissidents frequently endure abuse and intimidation from the Castro regime.

“In today’s Cuba, it remains virtually impossible for anyone to peacefully express ideas opposing the Cuban government. All media are under the strict control of the state, as are unions. Despite the subsequent release of dozens of political prisoners early this year, short-term arrests and harassment of political dissidents and human rights activists remain a troubling reality on the island.

“The harassment of dissidents sometimes takes the form of acts of repudiation (actos de repudio). These acts are government-coordinated demonstrations, usually carried out in front of the homes of political opponents. During an act of repudiation, political opponents and human rights activists are subjected to verbal and physical abuse by groups of people chanting pro-government slogans,” notes Newsweek.




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