Jamison Maeda discusses US relations with Cuba
A tropical breeze blows across sapphire blue Caribbean waters and through the palm trees that line El Malecón, the avenue running along Havana’s north shore. Strolling past historic, Spanish forts and cathedrals, you hear salsa music just around the corner. The smell of Chichachirritas (fried plantain chips) drifts through shuttered windows. As you walk among some of the Havana’s two million inhabitants you find yourself in the middle of 500 years of culture.
Cuba is much more than a Caribbean holiday destination. Cuba is living, breathing, smiling, dancing history and culture. The eyes of the people recount stories of Africans and Spanish, Chinese merchants and European immigrants.
Modern day Cuba is a source of unique folk art and of course some of the best music in the world. People from all over the world visit Cuba freely every year.
With one shameful exception:
Since 1960, the United States has imposed an embargo against the island of Cuba, restricting travel and commerce between the two countries. For over 50 years now, the US government has claimed that it is in Cuba’s best interest to continue the embargo, the main reason being human rights violations. This seems rather hypocritical considering the US has frequently been criticized for human rights violations, ironically most taking place in America’s military prison Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba. China has also been accused of serious human rights violations but remains America’s number one trading partner. Human rights is a rather weak argument for the American government considering that even the leading political dissidents in Cuba want the embargo lifted.
But, with the exception of a handful of aging Cuban exiles who lost their vast plantations during the Cuban revolution and the Republican politicians they bankroll, over 60% of Americans are in favor of reestablishing ties with Cuba. It is estimated that despite facing thousands of dollars in fines, over 200,000 Americans travel to Cuba illegally each year via Mexico or the Bahamas. And they find that many of the Cold War stories they were taught in school were completely false. Though still struggling financially, partially due to the American embargo, Cubans have religious freedom, almost no violent crime, Marlboro lights, Diet Coke and CNN.
In another example of strong arm politics, it was reported today that Edward Snowden, American whistle-blower and former National Security Agency consultant, initially planned to enter Cuba after he went public with information on America’s domestic and international surveillance programs. However at the last minute, due to significant presure from the US Government who seeks to extradite and prosecute Snowden, Havanna blocked his entry onto the island, causing him to be stuck at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for nearly six weeks. Edward Snowden has since left Sheremetyevo airport and accepted a one year asylum offer from the Russian government. This offer has caused a serious strain on the relationship between Russia and the US.