Here’s a true story about President John F. Kennedy as told by his former Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger. On February 2, 1962, Kennedy asked Salinger to go out and get him 1,000 Cuban cigars, telling him he needed them by the next morning. Salinger obliged and returned to Kennedy the next morning with 1,200 cigars. When he told the president, Kennedy said “Fantastic!” He then reached into his desk, pulled out a document, and signed it.
That document was the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.
For more than five decades, the U.S. pretended that severing diplomatic ties and travel restrictions has been “effective” in thwarting communism in Cuba.
Despite the longtime conflicts between the U.S. and Cuba, relations are now beginning to be mended.
In April, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shook hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, marking the first meeting between a U.S. and Cuban head of state since the two countries severed their ties in 1962.
Maria Brera, 25, spent a week in Cuba during this last spring break with a group of students for one of her classes.
“As a political science major, I was just expecting a communist regime that’s strict and harsh, and I was surprised in every aspect,” said Brera. “It was very fun, very interesting and very educational.”
“People in Cuba actually want this, it benefits everybody,” said Brera. “I remember specifically one man that even told me ‘thank you for coming to my country’ after he knew we were Americans.”
Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Havana, Cuba to mark a major step in the thawing of relations between the two Cold War-era foes. The U.S. flag was raised above the recently-reopened Embassy on this now historic day, August 14, 2015.
A Pew Research poll from December 2014 found 63 percent of Americans supported resuming diplomatic relations, and 66 percent would like an end to the trade embargo.
Despite positive public opinion of Americans, restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba has brought political controversy for Obama.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and presidential candidate, said the policy change was the latest in a long line of failed attempts by Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost.
The anger retained by the Cuban exile community about this issue is real, but we also must admit that the embargo has been a failure. The time for change is overdue.
“There are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation. But it’s long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked for 50 years. It shuts America out of Cuba’s future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people,” Obama said.
President Obama is right. For 55 years, the United States has done everything possible to shut off key resources to the island in hopes of weakening the Castro regime to drive it into the dust or where it could be easily overthrown.
But the perseverance and the staying power of the Castro regime continues, and the embargo has only worsened the suffering of the Cuban people.
We have failed to make the changes necessary, only bringing worse conditions to a country that continues to suffer due to ghosts of the past.
“Cold War Cuba isn’t the reality anymore,” said Brera. “I think that this step makes the U.S. look wiser and powerful; powerful without having to look violent.”
Raising our flag again in Cuba was a huge step towards ending the long years of hostility. We do not need to be friends or allies yet, but merely acknowledge this positive path will benefit both countries.
The milestones and accomplishments we create today are a part of the powerful history for our future. There is a lot that is changing with our country every day, and we have to remember that despite the importance of our country’s history, we should not dwell in the past.
By Rebekah Barquero, The Cougar
August 27, 2015
Opinion columnist Rebekah Barquero is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]