Cuba-US Relations: Normalization and its Challenges

Margaret Crahan, Soraya M. Castro-Mariño, William M. LeoGrande, Soraya M. Castro-Mariño, Jorge I. Domínguez, Claudia Marín Suárez, Susan Eckstein, Jesús Arboleya Cervera, Margaret Crahan, Alberto R. Coll, Geoff Thale, Bárbara Garea Moreda, Ramón Pichs Madruga, Julia Sagebien, Eric Leenson, Robert L. Bach, Ashley Miller, Ted Piccone, Carlos Ciaño Zanetti, Mike Kopetski, John H. Coatsworth, Philip Brenner, Colleen Scribner
Content Type
Institute for Latin American and Iberian Studies at Columbia University
This volume is a result of the dialogue between experts on Cuba-U.S. relations initiated by the Centro de Investigaciones de Política Internacional of the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales (CIPI/ISRI). Aimed at bringing together scholars and policymakers, among others, with expertise on the topic, the annual meetings in Havana have for years stimulated in-depth discussions by participants primarily from Cuba, the United States, and Latin America. The exchanges represent a wide range of perspectives and even of vocabularies. For example, the Cubans use the word blockade when referring to the U.S. embargo of the island and tend to hear “regime change” when U.S. officials refer to “democracy promotion”. In one respect there has been considerable consensus—that U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1960s was a failed policy as the Obama administration eventually concluded and many experts have argued. The 2014 annual CIPI/ISRI meeting was in full swing on December 17, 2014 when rumors began to circulate that President Raúl Castro and President Barack Obama were going to make statements at mid-day concerning Cuba-U.S. relations. Tension mounted and at noon there was standing room only in the conference auditorium as the two Presidents announced on TV their commitment to the normalization of relations that had been ruptured in 1961. The room erupted in cheers, sobs, and the singing of the Cuban and U.S. national anthems. The experts were shocked. In panel after panel during the previous two days, they had speculated that there might be some relaxation of tensions, but no one predicted the initiation of a move toward normalization and the resumption of formal diplomatic relations. In the midst of the celebration Wayne Smith, who as a young Foreign Service officer had been tasked with closing the U.S. embassy in Havana in 1961, entered the auditorium and soon chants of “WAYNE—WAYNE” echoed throughout and he was pushed forward and asked to speak. Wayne had been honored the night before for his work to resolve U.S.-Cuban conflicts beginning when he resigned as the Chief of the US Interest Section in 1982 over differences with the Reagan administration’s policies toward Cuba. From that time forward he fought for a reconceptualization of U.S. policy toward Cuba as a scholar-advocate. Wayne simply said that the night before December 17, 2014 he had prayed that normalization would occur before he died and that his prayers had been answered. The moment catalyzed what many conference participants were feeling—a sense that after more than fifty years of hostilities the long road toward normalization could begin. It is the objective of this book to analyze the first two years of the process toward normalization of Cuba-U.S. relations from December 17, 2014 to January 2017. The majority of the chapters are revised and updated versions of papers presented at the 2015 CIPI/ISRI conference. A few of the chapters were commissioned afterwards to cover such topics as sanctions and claims. This volume does not attempt to modify the opinions or conclusions of the authors. Rather it lets the differences stand in an effort to better comprehend what has kept the two neighboring countries apart for so long and the nature of the challenges facing the process toward normalization. The authors analyze the causes of over fifty years of hostile relations interspersed with fitful negotiations that were marked by lack of trust, misperceptions, and miscues, as well as the challenges the process toward normalization currently faces. Since D17 (December 17, 2014) a bilateral Cuba-U.S. commission has been established, as well as technical working groups, in order to devise new agreements and stimulate the unravelling of the substantial accumulation of laws, regulations, and directives in both countries that have slowed the process toward normalization. Progress in introducing new regulations and directives has been slow and arduous. While some advances have been made particularly in terms of easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as encouraging commerce and communications, much remains to be done. In addition, major impediments exist—the principal one being the U.S. embargo/blockade of Cuba which requires action by the U.S. Congress to remove. There are also major issues relating to U.S. preferential treatment of Cuban immigrants, continuing U.S. sanctions, as well as legal claims by both parties for expropriated properties and damages. The identification of mutual interests and agreements to cooperate has been apparent in Cuba-U.S. exchanges on security and environmental issues, among others. Both the Cuban and U.S. negotiators have admitted over the last two years that the process is difficult. Among the challenges are developing a common vocabulary regarding issues of sovereignty. Other questions are related to the direction of each country’s foreign policy particularly given domestic developments in both countries, for example, the level of political and ideological polarization in the United States and the actions that President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress might take beginning in January 2017. Add to this the stated intention President Raúl Castro to end his term as head of state in early 2018 and unknowns abound.
Climate Change, Diaspora, Bilateral Relations, Immigration, Sanctions, Regional Integration, Normalization
Political Geography
Cuba, Latin America, Caribbean, North America, United States of America