U.S.-Cuban Policy Shifting between Administrations

By Bryan Campbell Romero, Global Politics Research Assistant

One of the most interesting points during the Obama’s decision-making with Cuba, was the construction of a new narrative and opportunity for an official engagement between the Cuban and U.S. governments. It was important that a comprehensive and effective policy needed the use of a renovated and very specific diplomatic language, more balanced and focused in finding the appropriate angles to approach the many issues that even today continue in the negotiation agenda. Through this communication strategy, the Obama Administration was able to identify and empower different layers in Cuban society that for too many years were lost in the dynamics of the rhetorical political confrontation.

By establishing a new direction for dialogue, the Obama Administration was able to find new allies within Cuba, beyond the traditional political sensibilities. People who were and remained interested in creating a better life for themselves, away from the hostility of the last few decades. These sectors were never well represented either in the version of the official public opinion in Cuba, nor in the editorial pages of most publications in the United States.

It is important to analyze the current approach of the new Trump Administration as it seems to be just one of the few profound adjustments made in Cuba policy so far. “The National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States toward Cuba”, presents a scenario with more continuity than change. However, we now have a U.S. government that is ready to use language and tools of the cold war era. It is the same language and tools that they never left behind despite all their criticism for its use against Washington and the “hardliners of the Cuban-American community.”

Before President Trump’s announcement of policy changes on Cuba, most pressure was on the window of opportunities for some reforms on the island. This was especially true in regards to both economic and political issues, including the upcoming elections without the participation of the current president Raúl Castro. Now, most of that pressure has fallen on the Trump Administration and its “crusade to provide economic freedom and basic respect for H.H.R.R. in Cuba.” Although it is the responsibility of the Cuban people to create those opportunities for themselves, and the current level of the discourse in the American side gets confused very easily and may be understood as basic U.S. interventionism, not just by Cuba but by Latin American and Caribbean states as a whole.

The government in Cuba now has the opportunity to simplify the debate and present the issue again in terms of “us against them.” it is not about individuals and their rights to certain liberties anymore, it is not about the pressing changes that the island needs either, the debate has been pushed by both sides to a corner with a small framework for constructive diplomacy and very low chances of understanding.

Bryan Campbell Romero is a Global Politics Research Assistant with CDS. He is completing his undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of Havana, Cuba. 

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