President Barack Obama announced July 1 that the U.S. is formally reestablishing relations with Cuba, starting with the reopening of embassies as early as July 20.
“This is a historic step forward in our effort to normalize relations between our governments and people, and to begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas,” Obama says.
The U.S. and Cuba had a mixed relationship from the turn of the century until 1961, when the U.S. severed its diplomatic ties following the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly heated the Cold War to a boiling point.
In December 2014, the White House announced its intentions to normalize relationships with Cuba.
“I do believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result,” Obama said at that time. “Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse ... We should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help.”
Farm groups have expressed interest in establishing Cuba as a trading partner once more. The U.S. could capture as much as an 80% to 90% market share for grain exports, like it does most other Caribbean nations.
Critics have questioned why the U.S. would want to open relations with a Communist government.
“The Obama administration is handing the Castros a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing for the Cuban people being oppressed by this brutal communist dictatorship.,” says Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The White House’s solution boils down to the axiom, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” In other words, freer flow of information “to, from and among the Cuban people” will empower change in that country. It will also allow travel to Cuba for educational activities, religious activities, humanitarian projects, family visits and more. Cuba currently has an estimated 5% Internet penetration, which is one of the lowest rates in the entire world.
“Our attempts to isolate Cuba, despite our good intentions, increasingly had the opposite effect,” Obama says.
For a more detailed look at the White House’s new approach to foreign policy with Cuba, click here.