The news of U.S. President Barack Obama’s March visit to Cuba has been greeted with much speculation as to what he will discuss with President Raul Castro and how the Cuban people will respond, said Mexican academic Pia Taracena Gout in an interview with Xinhua.
For Taracena Gout, a researcher of international studies with the Ibero-American University in Mexico City, this trip will hammer yet another nail into the coffin of the Cold War and mark the beginning of a “new era.”
However, he said the two countries still have “a long and complicated road of political negotiation ahead of them,” as the matter of the long-standing U.S. economic embargo on Cuba remains unresolved while the U.S. wants to see human rights improvements and political freedom increase in Cuba.
Josefina Vidal, the lead negotiator in the Cuban government’s talks with Washington, welcomed Obama’s upcoming visit as “a further step toward improving relations between Cuba and the United States.”
“Cuba is open to talking with the United States on any issue,” Vidal told reporters in Havana. But she also noted that the normalization of bilateral relations is dependent on the resolution of key outstanding issues, including the lifting of the blockade, and the return to Cuba of the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base, Vidal said.
“Ultimately, everything cannot be done with only good intentions,” Taracena Gout commented.
On Thursday, Obama wrote on his official Twitter account that he would travel to Cuba, along with his wife Michelle, “to promote our efforts to improve the life of the Cuban people.”
This announcement came seven months after the two countries re-opened their embassies in Washington D.C. and Havana.
“Dialogue between countries is always positive. However, we have to see how much help Obama can really bring to the Cuban people. He needs the help of Republican Senators to lift the embargo, which will be difficult to see in an election year in the U.S.,” explained Taracena Gout.
Therefore, the researcher feels it is important to see what ideas Obama will present to help the Cuban people. From there, a full evaluation of his trip to the island could be made.
“It is a real shame that this trip could not happen in other circumstances, with more peace of mind. However, complex as it is, it is better late than never. Obama did not have much time to decide (whether) to go or not before he leaves office,” said Taracena Gout.
During his scheduled visit to Cuba on Mar. 21-22, Obama will meet with Castro, as well as Cuban businessmen and representatives of the civil society.
The American head of state has said he will continue to pressure Cuba to improve its human rights record and respect freedom of expression.
However, as Taracena Gout noted, no matter what he does, Obama is likely to face accusations from Republicans that he is “helping the Castro regime.” Enditem