Obama shocked the world last Wednesday.
Despite his unpopularity on many other fronts, I think, he will now go down in history as one of the boldest Presidents that USA ever had.
By calling the current US approach towards Cuba as “outdated”, and by condemning the US policy of isolating Cuba, “a failure”, he called a spade a spade.
He brought to light the stark naked truth which many people were finding uneasy to confront – Like those people in that old, old fable, unable to say that the emperor’s new clothes were no clothes at all.
The naked truth is this: Cold war thinking is no longer relevant in today’s world.
US-Cuban ties have been frozen since the early 1960s – a policy of isolation – which from Eisenhower’s time to Obama’s, has benefitted neither US nor Cuba.
Cuba only went on to get an inflated image, as an unfortunate underdog, to the disadvantage of US.
With most of Latin America disliking this stance, US-Latin America trade relations have also been ailing for a while.
Moreover, as a country that prides itself in pushing for open societies and open markets, US was clearly looking like a big fat hypocrite.
Its archaic foreign policy on Cuba was giving it a very bad image. Like an unforgiving child, it was obstinately hanging on to an ideological relic of the Cold War era.
But thanks to this bold stroke now, US will now seek to set up an embassy in Cuba, expand US visitors to Cuba, open up banking and increase caps on how much cash Cubans can post to relatives on to the island.
And I am sure, it will make a world of difference.
Mack McLarty who had served as President Bill Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff, and as the Counselor to the President, and Special Envoy for the Americas, said in Huffington Post, “By ending policies started in the Eisenhower administration and beginning a process of normalising relations, President Obama has changed the game”.
“This historic reset can improve long-term prospects for our (US) interests”.
Some people, like me, will remember that huge international political uproar, in 1999, when USA and Cuba were caught in a custody-battle over a five-year old Cuban boy.
The boy Elián González was found floating on a raft in the sea, by Florida fishermen, some 60 miles north of Miami.
Elián’s mother who was divorced was trying to escape the harsh conditions of Cuba, and wanting to go to the US main land. But a boat accident killed her and her companions, and had left the boy all alone at sea.
The boy’s paternal relatives in US, and the boy’s paternal father in Cuba then, both fought for custody bringing a huge diplomatic confrontation that saw massive protests in US and Cuba.
That has, thankfully, gone into the past.
Some will also remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, of 1962, when the whole world – for thirteen days in October – tottered on the brink of a World War, over the discovery of nuclear missile sites in Cuba that Soviet Union was secretly building.
US and USSR were so close to war that the whole world breathed a big sigh of relief when the Kennedy-Khrushchev showdown did not occur.
Thankfully, that too, is now a thing of the past.
But we should now look into the future.
And as Mack McLarty says that if Americans stretch out their hands in friendship, “Cubans will see us not as archenemies from the past, but as allies for the future”.
No wonder, the Cuban President Raul Castro praised Obama for starting the biggest change in US-Cuba policy in more than 50 years , while also reaffirming that restored relations with the US did not mean the end of Communist rule in Cuba.