Time for U.S. and Cuba to kiss and make up

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ENJOYING HAVANA–Beyonce and Jay-Z, tour Old Havana, Cuba, April 4, 2013. R&B’s power couple is in Havana on their fifth wedding anniversary. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

by Simon Tisdall
(CNN) — Right-wing U.S. Republicans are up in arms over Cuba again. Their ostensible cause for concern is last week’s visit to the island by Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who were photographed in Havana, apparently celebrating their wedding anniversary.

These blinkered conservatives need to get over themselves. The 60-year stand-off between the U.S. and Cuba is absurd. It is counterproductive and harmful to both countries. It is time to end this Cold War anachronism, kiss and make up.

Anger over Beyoncé’s supposed breach of the U.S. embargo rules restricting American citizens’ travel to Cuba is symbolic of a deeper fear among right-wingers. Two key factors have changed since the days — not so long ago — when Washington seemed to be regularly threatening the Castro government with Iraq-style overthrow.

One is that George W. Bush has been replaced by a Democrat. As Barack Obama enters his second and final term, immune to electoral imperatives, conservatives worry he may use his freedom of action to effect an historic rapprochement with Cuba. American liberals certainly believe he should do so.

The second change is in Cuba itself, where the government, now led by Fidel Castro’s brother, Raoul, has embarked on a cautious program of reform. The government — dubbed the world’s longest-running dictatorship by the American right — has even set a date for its own dissolution.

Doing what “dictators” rarely do, Raoul Castro announced in February that in 2018, he would hand over power and that any successor would be subject to term limits. The Castro brothers have reportedly chosen a career communist, first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, to succeed them. But in reality, once their grip on power is relaxed, anything may happen.

The two Florida Republicans who have been making a fuss about the Beyonce visit are Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart. They are veterans, and beneficiaries, of the anti-Castro campaign that has long been waged from Little Havana, in Miami, the home to the state’s large Cuban exile population. The Cuban vote, as it is known, has traditionally gone to Republicans.

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