The basics of our relations with Cuba have not changed much in the last half century. Despite the end of the Cold War, the economic embargo and diplomatic alienation persist. The main sticking point has remained Cuba’s lack of democratic elections.
However, if we used democracy as a barometer for economic and diplomatic relations, we would have to eliminate numerous other nations. They include China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Vietnam, Malaysia and many other Asian and Africa countries.
Our laws also have stipulated that Cuba must show progress in human rights, including a free press and releasing political prisoners. Try applying that litmus test to some of our economic and political allies.
Why don’t we forbid trade with China and break off relations with Saudi Arabia? Obviously, we believe we do not need Cuba. It comes down to pragmatism rather than principle. But we would be better off with Cuba as an ally rather than isolated as an official non-entity.
Another problem is that we classify Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that has remained since initiated by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 because Castro supported the rebel causes in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Cuba does not sponsor terrorism and it’s been more than 20 years since Castro said his nation would no longer be involved in supporting insurgents abroad. In 2012, the U.S. State Department reported that there was no evidence that Cuba was offering training or weapons to any terrorist groups.
So, why does the designation remain? The reason must be political because it is not based on fact.
But, as I stated earlier, Obama has taken some actions to ease our stance toward Cuba. In 2009, he fulfilled a campaign promise by lifting some restrictions on family travel to the island and allowing telecommunications firms to provide more cellular and satellite services there. Also, we can export medical supplies and agricultural products under certain conditions.