From the Editor-in-Chief: History restored in Havana

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, March 31st, 2016
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Despite what Fidel Castro might say about the change in Washington-Havana ties, US President Barack Obama has certainly created his niche in history, even if it is many years before this achievement is properly acknowledged. Observing historical events in hindsight has generally been a major part of scholarly study, which is why the American leader’s ground-breaking trip to Havana might take a fairly long period of time to be properly analysed in the context of diplomacy. President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 has been touted as a visit that changed the world. It may well be that Obama’s journey to Havan will be regarded as a decisive reassertion of the forces that go into the making of history.

 

Obama is not just the first US president to visit Cuba in eighty-eight years, the last one being Calvin Coolidge in 1928. He is, more significantly, the first occupant of the White House since the Eisenhower era to have closed a dark chapter in Washington-Havana relations. Ties between the two nations, we might add, were marred with the rise to power of Fidel Castro and his guerrillas in January 1959 by America’s negative response to it. The ouster of the Batista regime was a shock to US interests, for the simple reason that American politicians were keen supporters of the corrupt regime. American determination to keep Castro’s Cuba at arm’s length was reinforced by its perception that the new regime was leaning increasingly toward an alignment with what used to be the Soviet Union. In its preoccupation with trying to isolate the Castro regime, the US made grave mistakes, as seen in the Kennedy administration’s wrong move in early 1961 to support an invasion of the island country by Cuban exiles based on American shores. The invasion was an unmitigated disaster for Washington and left President Kennedy and his government with a loss of. More tellingly, the Cuban missile crisis brought Moscow and Washington to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962.

 

For more than fifty years, American sanctions against Cuba have kept normal relations between the two countries from being restored. In all this time, no American president has been agreeable or bold enough to go for a change in the circumstances. In fact, every president has been adamant to voicing the old idea, misplaced of course, of Cuba being a danger, because of its communism, to the region. Rightwing politicians in the US, have been scathing in their arguments that Washington must not engage with Havana at all. Such positions have not helped. We are glad that President Obama, in these final months of his leadership of the United States, has given Americans, especially their extreme political right, an opportunity to pursue a new direction in diplomacy. With his visit, new opportunities for trade, tourism and overall regional cooperation have arisen in the Americas.

 

Fresh new hope is thus there for the future of US-Cuba relations. There has been a turning of the page and history is being put in its proper perspective.

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