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Obama, Raul open new chapter

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December 17, 2015. Mark it down in your diary, etch it in your memory, for that was one occasion that the term‘historic’ could not be overused. It was the day on which US President Barack Obama finally had the courage to back up his stated convictions and commitment as regards US/Cuba relations.{{more}}

The bold move towards restoring Cuba/USA diplomatic relations after more than a half a century of crass ignorance, was announced simultaneously in Havana and Washington by the respective Presidents Raul Castro and Obama. It at last brought the USA into the halls of reality and civilized international relations.

Since the start of the decade of the sixties, the USA has allowed itself to become hostage to a rabid group, largely Florida-based, which has consistently refused to contemplate anything but outright hostility towards Cuba and to perpetuate the myth that the blockade of Cuba will somehow bring “the Castros” to their knees.

Over the half a century of the futile attempt to isolate Cuba, and to “restore democracy” there, there have been no fewer than 10 American presidents, hundreds of senators and Congressional representatives, and no shortage of desperate efforts to undermine and overthrow the government of Cuba, even to the extent of botched assassination attempts on Cuba’s leaders.

Worst of all, the people of Cuba, in whose name all these efforts are supposedly initiated, have been made to suffer from a most unjust trade and economic embargo. Not even medicines, the most humanitarian of considerations, were exempted, yet all this was supposedly for the “betterment” of the Cuban people.

Over those 50 plus years, the government of the USA has waged war on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; has invaded the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada in our hemisphere; spent countless resources in fighting “communism” in Eastern Europe; and, today, in combating radical Islam in the Middle East and North Africa.

It has come to normalize relations in all these spheres – agreements with Russia, strategic economic and financial relations with China, become a “friend” of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, granted Most Favoured Nation trade status to Vietnam. Yet, where Cuba is concerned the USA has remained implacably fossilized, refusing to countenance anything but complete surrender from the Cuban government and people.

At long last, it has dawned on some of the more enlightened in the American political leadership, prompted by the more realistic in the business sector and civil society, that it is time to WAKE UP. The blockade has hurt the Cuban people badly, has facilitated excuses for not opening the Cuban society to a greater degree, but, IT HAS FAILED!

Whatever one’s views of Cuba’s domestic policies, the appropriateness of its economic and political models, there can be no justification for either the embargo or the refusal to re-establish diplomatic and civil relations between neighbouring countries. We should all welcome the bold steps of President Obama, albeit in the last years of his presidency. But better late than never.

‘SOLLO’ WOULD HAVE BEEN HAPPY

It is a pity that our departed brother, Winston ‘Sollo’ Butler, did not live long enough to hear President Obama’s historic announcement. He, like the more progressive of our generation, never hesitated in his support for the Cuban Revolution.

It was part and parcel of the enlightened outlook of this stalwart pillar of the farmers’ movement in St Vincent and the Grenadines and of his own community of Diamond Village. That community has spawned solid comrades, sisters and brothers, dedicated to uplifting the standard of living of the rural communities and working people in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Over the past four decades, ‘Sollo’ of the quiet demeanour, but sometimes sharp tongue, has been part and parcel of every genuine democratic struggle of the working people of our country, steadfast to his convictions to the end. He may not have had the high profile that others enjoyed, but his commitment was unchallenged, his dedication never in question.

The farmers’ movement and the struggle for democracy in St Vincent and the Grenadines have been enriched as a result of his unflinching commitment. As we say farewell, it is important that we note, remember and appreciate the contribution of ‘Sollo’ and other unsung patriots.

He, too, would have appreciated Obama’s move, perhaps even questioning why he isn’t going further.

REST IN PEACE, my brother!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com-mentator.

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