The need to broaden the dialogue between Cuba and the U.S. — beyond the specific issues on which they now converse — exists regardless of the state of relations between Cuba and the European Union. Europe’s review of its policy toward Cuba confirms Brussels’ update in view of the changes that have occurred on the island. All the prisoners from the spring of 2003 were released, the migration reform was enacted, and the Cuban economy advances toward a mixed system with an important non-state component. Internationally, Cuba presides the CELAC and has a role as mediator in the negotiations to end the civil conflict in Colombia.
Unlike Europe, which adjusts its policy to those new realities, the United States rhetorically acknowledges some important changes in Cuba but its actions are short even of that minimal rhetoric. Washington’s reciprocity goes no farther than saying that it likes some changes on the island and granting a few more visas and licenses for people-to-people contacts. The United States’ policy toward Cuba is more restrictive than the one it maintains toward Iran. That is irrational, by any logic of foreign policy.
Cuba has already picked the lowermost fruits on the road to reform and is entering tougher territory. The U.S. has a chance to facilitate — or hinder — greater speed and amplitude in the changes affecting foreign investment, pending constitutional reforms, and the context of presidential succession in 2018. Obama cannot eliminate the blockade because of the Congressional restrictions or impose any change on Cuba, but there are executive actions and negotiable agreements between the two countries that would provide an environment of détente and dialogue in which policies of rapprochement, such as those adopted by Europe, Canada and Latin America, would have greater impulse, ease and effectiveness.