China, Venezuela, and Brazil have at least one thing in common – they believe that their countries have a stake in Cuba’s future. Which begs the question: why don’t we?
This is the striking thing about the news this week. The president of China has just visited Cuba, offered economic aid, and signed agreements that more closely bind the two nation’s economies. President Raúl Castro will soon make his first foreign trip, since his election in February, to Venezuela. Brazil will welcome the Cuban president afterwards with economic aid that will help Cuba reinvest in its infrastructure and energy sectors.
U.S. foreign policy used to think of such developments as “meddling in our region.” The other countries call it “diplomacy.”
They have real interests in the region and so do we. But our policies of not talking to Cuba and confrontation toward governments in places like Venezuela and Bolivia are obstacles to our country realizing those interests.
Think about Cuba and where cooperation could lead. As we report this week, the United States is on track to sell more than half-a-billion dollars in food and agriculture products to Cuba, but we could sell a lot more if we dismantled aspects of the embargo that force up Cuba’s costs and impose licensing and financial impediments on our own producers. Taking this step would put more money in the pockets of American farmers and more food at better prices on Cuban tables.
Another step would be to expand cooperation with Cuba on hurricanes and disaster preparedness. We also report this week that the 2008 hurricane season is finally over. What a relief! The storms cost Cuba more than $9 billion in damage and seven Cuban lives. However in our country, fifty-two Americans died as a result of our storm season. Wouldn’t we benefit from a greater understanding of why our civil defense gets this so wrong, when Cuba gets it so right?
We will return to the subject of cooperation, again and again, in this news summary during the course of this year. For today, our focus is diplomacy. From selling more food, to learning how the Cubans cope with extreme weather, what is needed is diplomacy, and a sign from our government that it recognizes what the leaders of China, Venezuela, and Brazil already see.
Like these countries, we have real interests in working with Cuba. But our diplomacy needs to be modernized so that something as simple as sitting down with Cuban leaders is able to be accomplished. It’s long past time for us to talk to Cuba. We’d find that there’s a lot for us to talk about.
This week, in Cuba news: