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Friday, December 19, 2014

New Chapter for Cuban/American Relations

When should nations turn the page and enter a new chapter in foreign relations? I guess no answer is totally correct if the two countries have had a long history of aggression; however, the passage of time can also serve to heal old wounds and make leaders consider small steps to reconciliation. As thoughts of bitterness and revenge based on past actions slowly soften, old enemies often find mutual benefits in renewing friendships.

Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to President Obama and to Cuba's President Raul Castro urging them to resolve American hostage Alan Gross's case and to address Cuba's interest in the release of three Cuban agents who'd been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.

Obama has agreed, and along with this exchange, the President hopes to make history by easing restrictions on Cuba while beginning to normalize relations between the two countries. Through these bold changes, the United States and Cuba intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people and, as the President said, “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”

Despite the understandable American distrust of the long-established Communist regime just off the coast of Florida, the President is addressing an issue that has been troubling foreign policy for more than 50 years. The old, hard line is now an outdated, archaic strategy. According to Obama, it now serves “to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else.”

The President continued to explain his rationale of appeasement: “And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions. And it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.”

As Obama says it is increasing clear that “neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that's rooted in events that took place before most of us were born” even though the actions were prudent at the time. 

Obama explains recent, renewed relationships with other Communist states ...

“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.”

Isn't cautiously establishing relations the ideal solution to long, rigid policies that serve little purpose, and isn't this the answer to reducing the odds of future direct conflict with Cuba? How often armed aggression and policies of hatred are questioned when compromise and new relations promise to offer better answers. Here is an opportunity for real change that can empower all human beings to live with dignity and self-determination in the 21st century.

The normalization between the two nations offers an approach to the end of the legacy of both colonization and communism through friendly relations. It does require we Americans to rise above the terrible memory of the past -- the tyranny of missile bases, drug cartels, dictators, and sham elections.

As the President says, “A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together. Not to maintain power, not to secure vested interests, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.”

To fulfill our promise of being the cradle of peace and hope, America is bound to make changes and bound to offer forgiveness. This does not mean people opposed to ending restrictions must agree with the new policy or stop providing much-needed insight into Western relationships they have learned from hard experience. Cuban-Americans have every right to be bitter about the Castro dictatorship.

And, granted, we all are aware that human rights violations still occur within countries with which we now have open diplomatic relations. To oppose inhumane treatment of people anywhere is very important. Many Cubans have left their homeland because of terrible conditions there, and they have established new citizenship and new dreams in America. We must continue to oppose tyranny and injustice anywhere in the world. Yet, at the same time, we cannot be true humanitarians by closing our hearts and minds to those in nations that require change.

Instead, new policies forged by the President are tools to provide positive and lasting transformation in Cuba. A people freed from chaos to enjoy important, simple necessities will be very grateful for such liberties. These can be the first steps to seeking complete freedom in their homeland.

President Obama says, “We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow US sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens which we seek to help.”

Of course, in typical Fox News fashion, columnist Mike Gonzalez warns us of the Obama's proposal...

“Not only does President Obama’s action fail to advance freedom in Cuba, it throws a lifeline to Cuba’s dictators, whose current supplier of funds, Venezuela, is on the ropes because of plunging oil prices. It surrenders to the demands for normalization that the Castros have been making for decades.” 

Gonzalez is a native of Cuba and an American citizen. He is now a senior fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for International Studies He escaped the Castro regime at age 12. A brave, spirited patriot, Gonzalez is a man whose views should be respected.

I understand that Mike Gonzalez believes our rigid policy toward Cuba for the last half a century is deeply rooted in the beatings and in the imprisonment that Cuban dissidents receive to this day and that he understands the Cuban government's bold affront to our values. He is speaking with wisdom and personal knowledge.

Still, I believe President Obama is attempting to initiate changes that offer the populace of Cuba a much-needed opportunity to become a new nation as it breathes the warm winds of freedom. If the countries do work together, the President's efforts will bring fruitful outcomes as they are given the required effort and compromise.

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." 

--Albert Camus

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