What Will Restored Diplomatic Ties Mean for the U.S. & Cuba?

Editor’s note: On December 17, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced intentions to re-establish diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. In the Featured Q&A of the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily Latin America Advisor, Andrés Rozental answers the question of whether this historic moment is a step in the right direction for U.S.-Cuba relations.

Andrés Rozental

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative

The surprise announcement of the seismic change in U.S.-Cuban relations should give us all a breath of fresh air in these days of global tensions, dropping oil prices, violence and political instability and leadership vacuums around the world. The difficult decisions made by Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro to turn a new leaf in their countries’ bilateral relationship should give encouragement to other leaders around the world to take bold steps to resolve age-old conflicts such as the Middle East. It must have been difficult for Obama to publicly admit the failure of a politically inspired decades-long policy toward Havana, but that decision will undoubtedly enhance his image not only in Latin America, but also around the world. Kudos also to Raúl Castro because his decision to take the steps announced yesterday will probably also cause him grief among the remaining diehard old guard of the Cuban revolution. The beginning of the end of the existing U.S.-Cuba reality is also good news for us in Mexico. Several times over the past years, we have had tensions in our own bilateral relationship with Washington over Cuban issues, especially in migration, trade and drug trafficking. President Peña Nieto has also made a significant effort to improve ties with Havana by being the first Mexican head of state to pay an official bilateral visit in many years and by condoning a significant portion of Cuba’s debt. The clear message that these measures send to the hemisphere is that we all want Cuba to become an integral part of the region, to play its full role therein and to begin the process of removing the last vestiges of the Cold War in Latin America.

This piece, along with other expert responses, was initially published in the Inter-American Dialogue’s daily
Latin America Advisor