Historic. Earthshaking. Breathtaking. All these words describe the announcement by President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro setting in motion the normalization of relations between our two nations.
It has immense ramifications for relations between our two countries, for relations throughout the Americas, the Caribbean and globally.
It is a victory for peace, sovereignty, democracy, justice and friendship between the peoples of the US and Cuba. It ends the 56 year-old policy of overthrowing the Cuban government, assassinating its leaders, disrupting its economy and society.
In one bold stroke it recognizes the sovereign right of the Cuban people to choose their own form of government and path of social development – socialism.
This is a happy day for the remaining three members of the Cuban 5 – patriotic Cubans who languished in US prisons for 16 years and who were supported by a worldwide campaign for their freedom. They undertook the courageous task of protecting their country from terrorist attacks emanating from US soil. They are home, reunited with their families and countrymen.
The announcement opens the possibility for wide ranging cooperation on many fronts including economic trade, international labor solidarity, scientific, agricultural, medical and oceanic research, climate justice, healthcare, hurricane preparedness and disaster relief.
It opens the possibility for American and Cuban people to experience wide ranging social, cultural, sports, religious and educational exchanges.
But President Obama can only go so far. It is up to Congress to repeal the entire ugly edifice of laws that established the blockade in the first place, preventing trade and travel, including the Helms-Burton Law.
The announcement is recognition that the 56-year-old blockade has been an absolute fiasco for both the Cuban and American people. It has totally isolated the US in world public opinion, undermined US businesses from competing for trade, costing US jobs in manufacturing and agriculture and deprived the US people of their democratic right to travel freely to the island nation.
It has only caused suffering to the Cuban people.
President Obama’s bold announcement matches new hemispheric and global realities. It matches majority US public opinion, which along with sections of the US ruling class, wide sections of business and the Cuban American community, supports ending the blockade.
The President should be urged to now close the US Naval base at Guantanamo, which has been maintained despite Cuba’s insistence it be shut down.
We are already seeing the howling and desperate protests of right wing politicians, trapped in the Cold War past, who still conjure fantasies to destabilize and overthrow the Cuban government and restore its colonial status.
This victory is also a testament to the bravery and persistence of the Cuban people who stood united for the past 56 years against all odds.
It is a testament to so many Americans who fought to change this policy and promoted peace and solidarity with the Cuban people over the years. Now we must redouble our efforts to mobilize a broad based response to insure that the process toward normalization succeeds and the blockade is once and for all ended.
But today is a day to celebrate.
Photo: Creative Commons 3.0