Its Historic Day today, as U.S. President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will hold a bilateral meeting, the first between the two nations in more than 50 years.The history between the United States and Cuba is obviously complicated, and over the years a lot of mistrust has developed. But during the course of the last several months, there have been contacts between the U.S. and the Cuban government. And in December, as a consequence of some of the groundwork that had been laid, both President Obama and President Castro announced a significant change in policy and the relationship between the two governments.
The Summit between President Obama and Raúl Castro will serve to further the relationship and continue momentum for the normalization process between U.S. and Cuba.
“We are now in a postion to move on a path towards the future”President Obama concluded, “…And some of our immediate tasks include normalizing diplomatic relations and ultimately opening an embassy in Havana, and Cuba being able to open an embassy in Washington, D.C. so that our diplomats are able to interact on a more regular basis”
Last Friday, when the Brookings Latin America Initiative hosted Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson to discuss the state of inter-American relations and expectations for the Seventh Summit of the Americas, she noted that there are many areas of mutual interests on which the United States can work together with Latin America countries as equal partners. Jacobson explained: this desire to forge equal partnerships based on common values and interests was precisely the notion expressed by President Obama at the 2009 Summit in Trinidad. Assistant Secretary Jacobson outlined the four priorities for the United States going into the Summit:
- Democracy and hunan rights
- Global competitiveness
- Social development
- Energy and climate change
Latin America remains the most unequal region of the world. There have been important reductions in poverty and growth of the middle class. Jacobson noted, however, that there remain very real challenges to democracy in Venezuela and the U.S. engagement with Cuba will not deter the United States from speaking out on human rights violations.
There was no shortage of facts supporting the U.S. view of Cuba ,, “defining Castro´s regime as totalitarian and the Cuban people as victims”, as President John F. Kennedy referred to it. Castro´s regime imprisoned tens of thousand in the name of protecting the revolution. The administration’s view is that the human rights situation in Cuba is inadequate. Jacobson reiterated the need to respect international norms of human rights and that the United States will continue to support those who peacefully fight for that space to be open.
The Summit is a chance to showcase the updated U.S. foreign policy architecture for cooperation and partnership, which includes the CEO Summit of the Americas (initiated in 2012) and the Civil Society and Social Actors Forum (new this year). Reseach has shown that U.S. core interests in the hemisphere have steadily improved in recent decades and U.S. policy can help Latin America and empower the Cuban people. As President Obama said, “We’ve tried isolation for fifty years. It’s time to try something different.”