The visit by Secretary of State, John Kerry, to Havana on August 14 to preside over the official opening of the North American Embassy, signaled the commencement of a new era in Cuba-U.S relations.
The very presence of the U.S. diplomatic chief in Cuba provoked a widespread wave of speculation, and marks a turning point in the process of the normalization of bilateral ties, but above all the visit afforded both sides an opportunity to define what steps will next be taken to consolidate the process.
There have been various strands of opinion expressed in international press coverage over recent days, one of which is that this is the manner in which an era of animosity between the two nations has come to an end.
Kerry, the first such senior ranking official to visit the Caribbean island since 1945, qualified this by stating that “our people are neither rivals or enemies, but neighbors”.
Another question that is the subject of debate is whether this point in bilateral ties and progress likely to be made over the course of the coming months, could be undermined by a future president of the U.S.
Kerry dismissed the possibility by commenting that he could not envisage another president, republican or democrat, undoing everything done to get to this point, because for the past 54 years Washington’s policies have failed.
There is opposition amongst those in U.S. conservative ranks, some of whom, such as senator Marco Rubio – one of 17 candidates for the republican 2016 presidential campaign nomination - immediately took to the public pulpit.
This politician, of Cuban origin, threatened that if elected to be president, he would revert the process. This may not prove such an easy task given that he has the support of only 4% of the party.
His declaration is inconsistent with the views of those who elected him and party colleagues on Capitol Hill, a majority of which favor ties with Havana.
What is certain and recognized by both Cuban and U.S. authorities is that both have, as sovereign nations, undertaken a new direction in their ties, and in spite of differences that separate them, propose to peacefully coexist.
However, as President Barack Obama said in his speech on December 17, 2014, Washington is merely prioritizing new mechanisms to achieve its goals in Cuba, a point Kerry reiterated in Havana in asking for “real democracy” – according to U.S norms – for Cubans.
In this regard, Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez said on December 14 that Cuba has an exemplary record in respecting human rights and he categorically rejected any attempt at interference in the internal affairs of his country.
Meanwhile, Cuba is demanding that the U.S. return lands illegally occupied for the Guantanamo naval base, that they cease illegal radio and television broadcasts, and discontinue subversive plans for which Congress approves millions of dollars annually.
To address these and other outstanding matters, both governments have decided to establish a bilateral commission that will start working next September.
Kerry indicated that one of the issues to be addressed is compensation for North American companies nationalized after the triumph of the Revolution, something Havana has said it is willing to explore.
The success the two countries can achieve in committing to these next steps will tell to what extent their relationship – unilaterally fractured by Washington in January 1961 – has really improved.Share on FB Share on TT