The possibility of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States should be thought of as an almost optimistic challenge that we must accept with great responsibility. This past December 17, at noon, a door that was shut for more than a half-century was re-opened, ushering the two governments, as well as both societies, into a new era that shall be marked by easing tensions, understanding and cooperation, as much between the two countries as within the Cuban community itself.
The speeches of both presidents, around the same time, going over the same wide set of themes -- although each one spoke from his own realities, principles and logic, which could make them seem very different -- represents an untying of the biggest knot that has constricted the possibilities of sustaining a far-reaching, powerful and peaceful dynamic of development in Cuba.
With this affirmation, I don't want to downplay the significance of the internal errors committed by Cubans and, above all, by the government. However, it is necessary to endure this political short-sightedness in order to also disregard that the hostility that the USA let loose on Cuba, varying on different occasions in its degree of intensity, closed the authorities of the Island off from the possibility of correcting significant errors and impeded their ability to launch the evolution of the Cuban socio-political model.
The presidents of the USA and Cuba have made this first step with bravery and high political esteem, although some unfairly want to neglect these merits altogether. Now we must oblige the authorities, politicians, businesspeople and societies of both countries to start down this path, as well. If we make sure this happens sufficiently, both countries will benefit. Above all, Cuba could strengthen its economy and balance its social dynamics, which in time would foster conditions for even greater political reform.
President Barack Obama courageously remarked that Cuba should not be pushed toward a collapse and, consequently, that he would center his politics on the interests of both peoples. He claimed that, using various means, he would help provide the Cuban people with more resources, facilitate conditions for the expansion of the Internet on the Island and work to repeal the embargo. He continued this path of improving relations by announcing that both countries would open conversation about other important matters, including: human rights and democracy. Likewise, he signaled his concerns regarding the many occasions Cuba has deferred to the United States on International Policy.
For his part, President Raúl Castro was a bit less candid, but still clear. He recognized that Obama's decision to speak on Cuba-USA relations deserves everyone's respect and recognition. Additionally, he indicated that, in order to reestablish relations with the USA, he is open to any type of exchange and will work to better the attitudes on both sides. Yet, in order for this to happen, he insists it is necessary to abolish the embargo. He continued to make clear that the Island's government is ready to open dialogue with the USA's administration about international policy (a topic that Obama noted for the many, very serious differences between administrations), human rights and the relation with democracy (topics also touched on in Obama's speech) and the question of national sovereignty (an incredibly important issue for the majority of Cubans).
However, it is crucial to highlight that the capacity of the Cuban government to even allow itself to be questioned or judged and to share solutions demonstrates a synthesis of the most essential values that the Cuban authorities and different national segments might achieve through relations with the USA. It would be essential, then, that the dialogue between the governments and the dialogue within Cuban society develop in unison. This challenge forces us to widen the set of tools of participation, dialogue, and consensus, in order to develop attitudes that build the political confidence necessary to make civilized conviviality possible.
We know that the road won't be easy, as it will be marked by personal limits, political errors and human fears. Besides, those of us seeking mutual understanding will have to be ready for the multiple obstacles and innumerable provocations that dissenters on either side will execute to make this recently begun process a failure.
However, I am sure that we can trust that Cuba boasts a majority of citizens that have great education, supportive attitudes, intelligence, a disposition for undertaking such an immense project and an insistence in a prosperous society that guarantees space for all and assures well-being for every Cuban. These qualities will help the Cuban people to endure the many changes as we untie the knots that have compromised our possibilities for advancement and as we begin to take advantage of building a country that continuously betters itself.
This post is part of a Huffington Post blog series called "90 Miles: Rethinking the Future of U.S.-Cuba Relations." The series puts the spotlight on the emerging relations between two long-standing Western Hemisphere foes and will feature pre-eminent thought leaders from the public and private sectors, academia, the NGO community, and prominent observers from both countries. Read all the other posts in the series here.
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