As I’ve mentioned many times, it is difficult to predict what will happen in U.S.-Cuban relations with the re-election of President Obama. Things are never as simple as they seem, and the opinions of experts are still all over the map. However, I sincerely believe that there is a golden opportunity for normalization of relations early in the new Obama Administration.
I just can’t think of a better way for the President to get off to a good start than to rapidly implement this process. The time is more than right. Four years ago, he won 37% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida. This time around, he won 47%–almost half. And it’s widely accepted that many Cuban-Americans who didn’t vote for him would still like to see normalization. For several years, a majority of Cuban-Americans have favored unrestricted trade and travel, while a very large majority of Americans in general have favored the same thing. The bottom line is that there would no political cost to normalizing relations SOON. The process would probably begin with the Cubans releasing imprisoned contractor Alan Gross, and the U.S. would release five imprisoned Cuban “spies” who are national heroes in their own country. Their faces are on television and on posters throughout Cuba. Then after the details are arranged, Bill Richardson or even Bill Clinton (or both) could fly into Havana, bringing the Cuban Five with them for a trade. There would be tremendous warmth and celebrations, and fabulous publicity for the new administration. The only people this would bother are the rapidly declining hard-core delusional exiles in Miami, who for over 50 years have clung to a hope that they might someday return to Cuba to claim expensive real estate and take over the country once again. (Almost none of these people voted for Obama, so it wouldn’t be a political loss for him.)
Anything is possible, but if President Obama doesn’t act quickly, he will soon be mired in too many other projects to even consider Cuba, which always seems to fall to the bottom of the foreign relations priority list. There have already been several articles in U.S.A. Today and other periodicals, discussing how Obama may respond to various situations all over the world, but I haven’t seen anything about how he may change policies about Cuba.
This is a golden opportunity for President Obama—a win-win scenario for him, the U.S., Cuba, and those imprisoned as pawns in an outdated Cold War. Mr. President–please don’t blow this chance to make history. Do the right thing.