This week was definitely historical in the world of international relations. A few months ago, after a few years of negotiation, President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the U.S. would resume diplomatic relations with Cuba, a previous Cold War-era foe. On Monday, this announcement became reality when both Cuba and the United States re-opened embassies in each other’s capitals. This was the first time in 54 years – since 1961 – that flags would be raised at these buildings, an event long overdue.
Ties between the U.S. and Cuba were severed in the early sixties based on a number of events. Contrary to popular belief, diplomatic relations did NOT end because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In fact, this event occurred in 1962, after the two nations had ended their relationship. The embassies closed after Cuban leader Fidel Castro said he would deport or expel any U.S. diplomats who would continue to meddle in Cuba’s affairs – a lot of which included the 1959 Bay of Pigs incident and CIA investigations into the brutal, Castro-led regime change. Instead of risking an international incident, President Kennedy pulled his diplomatic employees from Havana. Additionally, a travel ban and a trade embargo were put in place in 1962 – an embargo which continues to this day.
However, feelings have thawed since the height of the Cold War. To improve diplomacy, both countries opened “Interest Sections” in each other’s countries in 1977 to allow some dealings without full formal relations. In more recent years, the U.S. and Cuba have been working together on a newly mended relationship, including issues such as drug smuggling, immigration, and the environment, according to this CNN article.
Now that there are officially formal relations, it is the hope that this cooperation will strengthen and continue in the future. It is the hope of American businessmen that the trade embargo will also lift soon, which will open up a whole new market. Regardless, this is a historical step in the right direction. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Havana by the end of the summer to visit the newly re-opened embassy. “We are determined to live as good neighbors,” Kerry said in this USA Today article. “The interests of both countries are better served by engagement than by estrangement.”