On Saturday, April 11, at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro had the first face-to-face discussion between the leaders of the two countries in several decades. Among other things, this historic meeting represents the last bit of thawing associated with the Cold War.
Long after the United States had established normal diplomatic and economic relations with various segments of the old Soviet Union and what was once called “Red” China, Cuba remained a pariah in the eyes of many American officials. Cuba’s uniqueness in this regard appeared linked to a complex historical relationship between the United States and the small country 90 miles to its south.
Before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, led by Raul’s brother Fidel, American business interests held considerable sway there. Afterwards, when the new Cuban regime reduced U.S. corporate power in Cuba, America launched the ill-fated “Bay of Pigs” mission of 1961. Relations between the two countries worsened in 1962, when U.S. military surveillance revealed the presence of Soviet-supplied missiles aimed at America from Cuban soil.
In the end, notwithstanding the symbolic importance of the Obama-Castro meeting, it remains to be seen if Congress will officially ratify a new diplomatic relationship with Cuba. Especially considering that Cuban dissidents, who fled to America during the 1960s, still possess potent political clout.