Obama, Castro summit represents shift in renewal of U.S., Cuba diplomatic ties

By Steven Viera || Managing Editor

For the first time in over 50 years, the presidents of the United States and Cuba met face-to-face. This occurred at the Summit of the Americas, held last weekend in Panama City, Panama, President Obama sat down with Raul Castro, president of Cuba, to discuss diplomatic relations between their respective countries.

Obama described his meeting with Castro as candid and fruitful, according to the article “Obama-Castro summit caps thaw in US-Cuba relations” on bbc.com. Both leaders indicated a mutual respect for each other and a willingness to work together, while conceding they may disagree on certain issues.

“In my opinion, President Obama is an honest man,” Castro said, according to the article entitled “Barack Obama and Raul Castro meet, launch new era of U.S.-Cuba ties,” published on cnn.com. “I admire him, and I think his behavior has a lot to do with his humble background.”

Obama echoed these sentiments and commented on the need to move beyond issues created 50 years ago.

“The Cold War has been over for a long time,” Obama said according to the cnn.com article. “I’m not interested in having battles, frankly, that began before I was born.”

Here, Obama referred to President John F. Kennedy’s severing of diplomatic ties and establishment of an embargo against Cuba in the wake of the Missile Crisis of 1962. In fact, Obama’s announcement in December 2014 to renew relations with Cuba — including embassies in both Washington, D.C. and Havana — marks the first significant change in tone in U.S.-Cuba policy in decades.

However, the Obama-Castro summit did not resolve all issues between the two nations: Cuba remains on the U.S.’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, which will inhibit the renewal of diplomatic relations. According to the cnn.com article, Obama received an update on Cuba’s status as a sponsor of terrorism to help him consider whether or not to remove the distinction.

In Latin America, the summit and move toward reconciliation was hailed by many, including leaders like Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina, according to the bbc.com article.

But, in the United States, the thaw in relations met with some skepticism by both Republicans and Democrats. Senators like Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) — themselves Cuban by background — have criticized Obama’s actions toward normalizing ties with Cuba according to the cnn.com article, as they feel that Obama is seeking to do business with a corrupt, repressive
government.

Junior Steven Viera is the Managing Editor. His email is sviera@fandm.edu.

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