Why U.S. Policy On Cuba Has Reached A Tipping Point

Sipping a mojito in Miami’s Little Havana

Increasingly, the general American public and even anti-Castro businessmen now seem to agree that less hostility toward Cuba is the best road to take.

BOGOTA – Public debate on Cuba in American politics had long been frozen, due to Florida’s importance in U.S. elections and the weight of the Cuban-American lobby. But something has changed, and we can begin to discern an emerging consensus among politicians, businessmen, intellectuals, media, civic leaders and the public on the need to change Washington’s strategy toward Cuba.

Two polls this year by the Atlantic Council and the Florida International University confirm that an ample majority of the U.S. population favors the normalization of ties with Cuba, and an end to restrictions on trade and travel. Most share the view that the embargo on the island has simply not worked.

Regarding Miami, where the majority of Cuban Americans live, levels of support for this change are actually above the national average. This change of position among those who used to be the main obstacle to any overtures to the communist regime is reflected in the case of the sugar magnate and former donor to Castro opponents, Alfonso Fanjul.

He recently admitted to The Washington Post that he had made several trips to Cuba in pursuit of various attractive investment opportunities. Likewise 50 prominent businessmen and politicians recently wrote to President Barack Obama, urging an acceleration of bilateral rapprochement.

Colombia’s role

Indeed, when a recent editorial in The New York Times called for a change to the outdated policies on Cuba, it actually came as no surprise. The embargo is now effectively weighing on the U.S., depriving it of the opportunities generated by a loosening of economic policies in Cuba that are being cashed in on by such trading partners as Brazil and the European Union, which are increasingly replacing Venezuela as partner-investors in various infrastructure projects, like the Mariel mega-port.

We should decode the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ calls at the UN inviting the U.S. to reformulate its embargo and soften policies toward Cuba, strictly into context. Santos made his declarations at an investment forum for Colombia on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and some observers explained them as a gesture of thanks to the Castro brothers, for facilitating the peace talks held in Havana between Colombia and the communist FARC guerrillas.

But there is a more convincing reading of his declarations. As Washington’s unconditional ally in Latin America, whose voice is closely heard, President Santos may have sought to boost from the outside those bipartisan voices in the United States that back President Barack Obama’s policy change on Cuba in the face of Republican critics.

All eyes will now be on the next Summit of the Americas set for April, when the entire continent and the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States will seek Cuba’s attendance. If Obama is there too, we may witness a historic turning point in U.S.-Cuba relations.

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