Polls show most Americans want U.S. ties with Cuba normalized, even as the forces still hold strong among those who prefer the status quo. Time may have come for change.
The world of politics and diplomacy has its prizes, hanging like ripe fruit and just waiting to be picked — that is, if the thorns around them can be avoided.
Ending the civil war in Colombia is one such prize, which has scratched and cut quite a few political hands along the way. But there is no more prized fruit in the Americas now than the normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba. It remains a blank page of history, waiting to display somebody’s name for posterity.
Cuba — with its 11 million inhabitants — has had more impact on modern history than any other American state except the United States. It was the Soviet Union’s vehicle of influence on practically all the continent’s rebellions in the 20th century. Tense relations with the United States — and flashpoints like the 1962 missile crisis — led the U.S. to impose a crippling embargo and turn Cuba into a pariah state.
The embargo continues some 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and change remains elusive. U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who would end the embargo, recently said the White House called him to explain why nothing could be tried for now with Cuba. He was given one word: Florida.
Yet he observed last week that a poll commissioned by the think tank Atlantic Council showed that 57% of U.S. citizens favored a change of policy toward Cuba. In Florida, that number is 63%. Indeed a “silent’ majority of Republicans are said to favor ending the embargo.
Certainly, ending this isolation would be a slap in the face to those who want to paint democracy in strokes of black and white. Radical Republicans in Florida, cowardly bureaucrats in Washington, extremists on the Right and the Left — in Colombia, Havana or Caracas — would then have to watch the collapse of a storyline they use to spread fear.
To the megalomaniac and self-perpetuating leaders, one can only say that the fruit is ripe for picking, and it’s hanging lower than you may think.