jeudi 4 avril 2013

U.S. needs a fresh approach to Cuba

The  United States needs to change its policy toward Cuba.

By Louis A. Perez Jr.

From the Bradeton Herald

For  nearly 55 years, over the course of 11 successive U.S. presidential  administrations, Washington has treated Havana with hostility – from the Bay of  Pigs invasion and the assassination attempts on Fidel Castro to the economic  embargo that remains in place to this very day.

This  strategy hasn't worked.

Perhaps  the stars have aligned to point to a different approach, one of engagement  based on the proposition of mutual respect.

The  new secretary of state, John Kerry, has recognized that change is necessary.  "We cling to a policy that has manifestly failed for nearly 50  years," Kerry wrote in 2009, adding: "For 47 years, our embargo in  the name of democracy has produced no democracy at all."

As  a senator, Kerry long supported freedom of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba  openly, without restrictions.

The  restoration of the constitutional right of Americans to travel would represent  an excellent start.

Removing  Cuba from the list of states sponsoring terrorism would also provide an opening  to a new approach.

Like  Kerry, the new secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, has also been a nonbeliever  in the efficacy of the embargo.

"Our  Cuba policy is outdated and ineffective," Hagel insisted as early as 1999,  "and not relevant for the next century." Nothing indicates that Hagel  has changed his mind.

Far-reaching  changes are occurring in Havana. The selection of 52-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel  as first vice president – a position that designates him as direct successor to  President Raul Castro – portends a generational change. The age of the Castros  is coming to an end. Surely that suggests the possibility of a new beginning.

And  the Cubans have indicated a willingness to engage in discussions with the  United States toward a new approach.

These  are propitious circumstances, and seem to offer an occasion for resolving one  of the enduring conundrums of U.S. foreign policy. Now may be the time, for the  stars do not remain aligned for too long.

Louis A.  Perez Jr. is J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor in the Department of History and  director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of  North Carolina.

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