From the “embargo” to dialogue and cooperation

In the fields of foreign policies and international relationships, today we question the validity and effectiveness of sanctions against other nations and selective measures or “intelligent embargos”. This debate has reached civil society where their inefficiency and the suffering, social and institutional impoverishment they entail for societies and nations are what most stand out. Since their introduction in 1960, they have not been an ideal manner to “impose democracy”, because the simple fact of an “imposition” denies the spirit of democracy itself. And what is even worse, they generate opacity and arbitrariness in the political-diplomatic processes and in the exchanges between civil societies at the same time they drag us back to the years of tension during the Cold War.

The Atlantic Council poll, presented last February 11 in Washington, as regards the opinions of North Americans concerning the first and lengthiest embargo of the modern era, Cuba, has shown that 56% wants a change in the policies towards the island and the normalization of Cuban-North American relations; this percentage reaches 62% among Latinos and 63% among residents of the State of Florida, the state with the largest population of Cuban origins. More than 80% of those questioned in this area state that they are in favor of more dialogue with the Cuban government regarding issues with common interests, such as security and cooperation in environmental emergencies. From Pericles time to our days, sanctions have proved inefficient, and the results of this and other polls and reports from international organizations and NGOs just prove that the embargo system is a penalization of citizens and nations that does not evolve towards a constructive dialogue. In some cases, the sanctions are used as alibis and accompanied by “indifference” towards third nations, something that brings even more uncertainty and mistrust to the international sphere, as well as alignments between nations that are inappropriate in this, the XXI century.

The Obama administration has taken small steps in this direction, steps directed towards abandoning the Cuban embargo, while the European Union is getting ready to close down the common position. Several European nations have signed bilateral memorandums with Cuba that, paradoxically, contradict the spirit and letter of this figure, while the High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, has obtained the commitment of the Cuban authorities to open a constructive dialogue to further the relations between the European Union and the island; the only nation in Latin America and the Caribbean with which the European Union does not maintain a political dialogue.

In the case of the United States, there has been a turning point with the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry, the latter has proposed the construction of a “creative policy” towards Cuba, as they make progress as regards deregulating travel and wiring money. These changes are not enough, and that is what both the North American society and administration are indicating. Nowadays, it is possible to encourage Cuba being removed from the list of terrorist countries, as a gesture of good will, and commence a political dialogue that will lead to the dismantling of the sanction regime, of the “embargo”. I am convinced that President Obama is in agreement with those schools of thought that clamor for new policies regarding Cuba, because the generations of Cuban-USA origins are no longer seen as an obstacle. According to Peter Schechte and Jason Marczak from the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council in Washington, they have a “very different vision, in first place, they are North Americans, proud of their Cuban heritage, but their main language is English and they consider Miami, Newark or Los Angeles their homes, not Havana, Santiago or Mayagüey.” On the other hand, President Raúl Castro has initiated a series of reforms that go beyond an economic opening and form part of his program to modernize the country and propel changes; likewise, in matters of security and peace, as was made clear during the last meeting of the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) in Havana last January.

If the Clinton administration put a full stop to three decades of sanctions against Vietnam (1964-1994), it is probably time to open channels for a direct dialogue between the governments of Barack Obama and Raúl Castro. It is, most assuredly, time to create a new Cuban-USA policy that could lead to the dismantling of the longest embargo in History, paving the path to political dialogue and cooperation.