On July 20, an American flag will be raised in front of the US embassy in Havana for the first time in 54 years, and with it the Cold War will finally end.
Barak Obama, who was born in the year the US closed ranks on the Communist nation, says the agreement he has made with Raul Castro to reopen embassies in one another’s countries is an “historic step forward” that will close a chapter of isolation and hostility between the two nations.
He is also quick to point out that the deal is not just a symbolic gesture made to enhance his legacy as outgoing president. He will also campaign for the lifting of the trade embargo that has crippled the island nation’s economy, chipping it away piece by piece.
The president hopes the travel ban for American citizens to Cuba will be removed, ferry services and other transport links resumed and, eventually, free trade opened between the US and its old rival.
The lifting of the trade ban could change everything for Cuba; but could it actually change the character of this unique socialist experiment?
Anyone who’s visited will tell you the country is stuck in a time warp, with a bizarre two-tiered system for tourist dollars that runs parallel to the Cuban currency.
The thawing of relations will improve the lives and the livelihood of Cuba’s citizens, there’s no doubt about that. Some of the immediate benefits would be a tourism boost and its associated income, and little things like improved internet for the whole nation.
But there’s no denying the fact Cuban people are poor and lack some of the fundamental rights we take for granted. How will the US approach these issues, and does it have any right to do so? Once upon a time Washington expended a lot of energy trying to assassinate Cuba’s leader. Can it resist the urge to dictate how its near neighbour treats its citizens and approach the future?
Acknowledging America’s track record of involvement in Latin America, particularly during Cold War times, Mr Obama said, “The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity — those days are past”.
But of course, Cuba is still a communist country – and will remain so until Fidel Castro eventually dies. Is America ready to accept this?
On a lighter note, something that will concern a lot of people is: what about the cars? Cuba is a haven for vintage-car lovers, the only place you can see a street lined with 1950s American models.
CNN reports “In late 2013, Cuba eased restrictions on car imports and acquisitions in the country, doing away with a law that made icons of its old American Pontiacs and Chevys.
“Though newer cars remain prohibitively expensive for most locals, the easing of the law and thawing relations with the United States could spell the beginning of the end for these vehicular stalwarts”.
Tell us, have you visited Cuba? Is it somewhere you would like to go? How do you think it will change over the next few years?