In the last month, President Obama has used executive orders to address the two largest structural impediments to better US relations with Latin America; immigration, and Cuba. We commend his leadership on both counts. Today, nearly 55 years of ineffective Cuba sanctions policy has come to an end.
Even our closest Latin allies repeatedly advised us to ‘fix’ our Cuba policy; the Cuba embargo placed a boulder-sized pebble in the shoe of US-Latin American relations. It is a relief to have it removed, to walk comfortably together towards a more fully democratic region.
The ever-smaller, yet still noisy, pro-embargo crowd in this country will surely kick and scream over these changes, accusing the President of “giving in” to the Castros. They are wrong. With the US sanctions out of the way, the conversation can turn away from US sanctions policy to fully focus on a half century of dictatorship and repression. The international community – which normalized relations with Cuba long ago – can now openly encourage a democratic Cuba. And isn’t that the whole point?
America was long ready for this change. The Atlantic Council’s poll released in earlier this year found that domestically the president has support from Americans on both sides of the aisle for normalizing relations and removing Cuba from the terrorism list. It also found that the strongest proponents of this move are voters in Florida, historically those most invested in Cuba policy.