(GEORGE CURRY MEDIA)—President Obama’s historic trip to Havana, Cuba—the first American president to visit since Calvin Coolidge in 1928—opens the door to a new era in relations not only with Cuba, but with our neighbors across the hemisphere.
Extensive press coverage of the trip featured the president’s meeting with Cuban leader Raul Castro, the Tuesday baseball game pitting the Cuban national team against Tampa Bay, the president’s meetings with business leaders and with Cuban dissidents. We’ll get pictures of aged Chevy’s held together by duct tape, of lovely but crumbling Havana mansions, of Cuba’s lively culture and its widespread poverty.
Cuba surely is a poor country. Its government, while still enjoying popular support, is a far remove from a democracy. Freedom of speech and assembly are greater than most realize, but still severely policed. But much of what we think about Cuba is upside down, and inside out.
First, in many ways, the president’s initiative to normalize relations with Cuba isn’t so much ending their isolation as ending ours. Cuba has enjoyed good and growing relations with our neighbors across the hemisphere for years. In recent years, those countries have threatened to exclude the U.S. from hemispheric meetings if we continued to demand that Cuba’s exclusion. We have sought to isolate Cuba for over 50 years; we ended up isolating ourselves.