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New possibilities for hemispheric relations: CARICOM was right

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Fri, Apr 17, 2015

by Renwick Rose

President SVG/Cuba Friendship Society

It is not very often in today’s world when one gets a sense of hope for the future in listening to the news; wars, atrocities, crime and disaster seem to be the daily dosage. However, in the space of just over a week, US President Barack Obama has managed to regenerate a spirit of optimism in the minds of billions of the world’s inhabitants.{{more}}

First there was the announcement of the Framework Agreement signed by the Obama administration and the Government of Iran, which promises to resolve peacefully a bitter dispute between those countries and avoid both the proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with disastrous consequences for planet earth and the people who live on it.

Then, last weekend, came the historic face-to face meeting of President Obama and his Cuban counterpart President Raul Castro. It was an event that few of us who have lived a half century and more of implacable hostility between both countries would have ever imagined that we would witness and heralds the possibility of a new era, in not just Cuban-American relations, but in hemispheric and global exchanges as a result.

Mind you, despite the new optimism, we cannot get carried away that the major differences, whether in the case of the USA and Iran, or those between the neighbours facing each other over the Florida straits have vanished. Indeed, at his press conference following the Summit of the Americas, President Obama dispelled any such illusions, saying, “…there is still going to be deep and significant differences between our governments” (Cuba and the USA).

But, as he pointed out, he did not want to fight outdated battles embarked upon before he was born, and that it is “time to try something new,” and to embark on “a new path towards the future.”

The new path opens the way for regular diplomatic exchanges between both countries with official embassies in Havana and Washington, the opening up of trade and tourism links and even the eventual lifting of the economically destructive embargo imposed by the US, creating great suffering for the Cuban people. In typical consumer style, American consumers are even looking forward to copious supplies of Cuban cigars.

The promised new dispensation is an admission both of the failure of long US attempts at isolating Cuba and the futility of the Cuban side reacting with non-engagement. Much praise is being heaped on President Obama, but spare some for President Raul Castro, who some had even opined would have been a “hardliner”, given his military background. He has certainly proven these skeptics wrong.

The Cuba-US rapprochement has certainly changed the entire mood in western hemispheric relations. From a position of instigating isolation, the US had become in fact isolated in its stupid Cuba policy, as envisaged by the nations of the hemisphere insisting on inviting Cuba to participate in the Summit and in successive resolutions in the UN General Assembly condemning the embargo.

Those who had slavishly peddled the line of hostility to Cuba and Cuban cooperation, who have attacked Cuban personnel selflessly helping our people, must now hang their heads in shame. As was pointed out on several occasions, they are on the wrong side of history. Time to wake up, apologize and let’s move forward!

Finally, the new engagement is a triumph for Caribbean diplomacy. It was the leaders of Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, the late Messrs Michael Manley, Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham and Eric Williams, who broke the ice by establishing diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba over 40 years ago. And it is the new generation, including our own PM Gonsalves, who are continuing that trend, acting as a veritable “bridge over troubled waters” to broker such rapprochement and bring normalcy, peace and cooperation to our hemisphere.

To quote Dr Gonsalves, “why must we choose between Cuba and the United States?” Friends of all, enemies of none; time to put the hatred and hostility away; let’s all move forward respecting each other, acknowledging and discussing frankly our differences.

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