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Op-ed

Obama's visit won't change Cuba's reality: expert

Xinhua News Agency | Wed,2016-03-23

U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to Cuba has not produced concrete results as Havana has made it clear that it won't change its political system for the sake of normal relations with Washington, an expert has told Xinhua.

Obama called for further engagement with Cuba despite "profound differences" on issues like democracy and human rights, and said that Washington will not decide the fate of this Caribbean country.

Obama's reconciliatory statement is in sharp contrast with Washington's long history of hostility toward Cuba, international relations professor Luis Suarez told Xinhua.

"This visit has not modified the reality of Cuba because our government decides along with the people what is best for the common interests," said the expert.

Suarez, nonetheless, highlighted Obama's "positive step" to normalize relations with its Cold War foe, a decision that will leave a legacy for him.

"There is clear message from the White House to start a new day in its relations with Cuba and make this process irreversible," the political analyst said.

Both nations seem to have respect and political will to strengthen cooperation and there are prospects for continued improvement of ties although there is still a major barrier.

"The blockade is still a huge barrier that limits our economic relations with the U.S. and ... Obama has issued various executive orders to ease travel and trade restrictions on Cuba," said the expert.

Obama has said the embargo should end, while Republican-controlled Congress has refused to budge, arguing that Washington is giving up too much to Havana with too little in return.

Around 70 percent of Cubans have lived their lifetime with the embargo in effect and it is definitely a hot topic among Cubans.

Suarez appreciated Obama's Tuesday remarks about Cuban people, especially the younger generation.

"The U.S. president had a clear intention of selling the American dream to Cubans as a possible way of life and that many of our nation's troubles could be solved with the help of the United States," said Suarez.

At the same time, Obama added, there has to be an evaluation within the American society of its perception of Cuba and its economic and social changes.

Suarez also commended the leaders for their positive attitudes toward the differences and their willingness to move things forward.

"There are profound differences in topics like human rights, democracy, the economic and social system of each nation, and there is total knowledge of that by Cuban and U.S. authorities," he said.

Obama said the goal of his administration's engagement with Cuba is to advance the common interests of their countries and improve the lives of the Cuban people, particularly those in the emerging private sector.

Suarez said the strategy by Washington to place the private sector as the center of its economic engagement with Cuba is part of a plan to make them main actors of change from within the society toward a free market economy.

There is a total correlation between Washington's recent measures of easing trade and travel restrictions and its intentions to favor the private sector after years of failed policies to topple the Cuban government, he said.

"Cuba has not changed because of Obama's visit. However there is hope that some of the country's economic problems related to more than 50 years of hostility with the U.S. can start to disappear with greater cooperation in areas of mutual interests," he added.

Bringing down a bridge is easy, while rebuilding one after more than half a century of hostility is a demanding task. 

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