While I am so excited to be visiting Cuba this upcoming summer, it will also do me good to study more about U.S.- Cuban relations. This piece will be my personal reflection of how the Trump Administration should handle American relations with Cuba.
While President Obama was in office he strived to normalize relations between Cuba and the U.S. However, he says that in order for this to be a success than Cuba must move towards a democracy. Obama was able to lift the travel ban between Cuba and the U.S. so that Cuban Americans can travel to and from and send money to their loved ones. Meanwhile we still provide imports, tourism dollars and capital investment to help Cuba’s economy.
Newly made President Trump thinks Obama’s agreement with Cuba is too weak to be successful in the long run. Trump claims to want to rewrite the Obama agreement with a better deal in order to benefit the Cuban people, Cuban-American people and the U.S as a whole. However he also has mentioned that if Cuba rejects the new deal then he will be forced to terminate all standing deals with Cuba entirely.
My opinion is to not fully close the door on Cuba. We have to understand that the people of Cuba are not easily willing to put themselves in a position under the pressing thumb of America because they themselves have been oppressed for decades. What they want is freedom but by their own means. They want aid but to not become fully dependant on the U.S. for financial support as many other small countries are. We should allow Cubans to travel to and from the U.S just as we should with any nation. America is founded upon immigrants after all. If roles were switched, we would never accept the U.S. government prohibiting American tourists from traveling to Cuba. Freedom of movement is a democratic ideal. It is not okay that the U.S. violates this same ideal in its own efforts to try to pressure the Cuban government. It is also not okay that we scare Cuba into agreeing with our policies by threatening to take our tourism and business with us.
For so long the U.S. government has been using sanctions to strangle the Cuban economy in hopes to make conditions so miserable that ordinary people rise up against their socialist government. This policy has proven not to work, and ordinary Cuban citizens have suffered. This looks as if the U.S. government has tunnel vision towards making Cuba a democracy, so much so that Cuban citizens are suffering along the way. Is this really for the benefit of Cuba’s economy and people, or is it a way to enlist Cuba as a business partner?
However, it is understandable that Trump is tired of the U.S. government making agreements with countries where benefits are not mutual. How long can we economically withstand giving out charity when our own debts are rising? This brings us to the question of morality. It is morally acceptable to help those in need, those who are less fortunate, if they choose to accept it. However, if they do not accept it we cannot force our hand upon them. As long as they are not committing genocide by starving their population due to their disinterest in economic change, then we do not have the authority to step in.
The conclusion? There is no perfect answer. We cannot leave Cuba out to dry but we must protect our own first. How the Trump administration goes forward with these U.S.- Cuban relations will be a critical and touchy topic. I hope that he can find an agreement that the Cuban government sees to be a benefit for their people while still staying true to the Cuban culture. Don’t force Cuba to be like America, just help Cuba be a better Cuba.