Week 33: Heroes – Cuba and USA

by Jackie_South on August 17, 2015

Cuba_USA_HeroThis week, the governments of Cuba and the USA jointly win our regular Hero award for their historic decision to reopen their respective embassies

I’m in the United States at the moment: a country I have visited many times and love. Another American country I’ve been too and love is Cuba. But for the last 54 years, the relations between the two have had the angry bitterness of wronged lovers.

The history of the two has been closely tied for 113 years: the result of Teddy Roosevelt’s victory over the Spanish, which made Cuba a de facto protectorate of the USA. That worked well for the rich in both countries, but not for the poor of Cuba as the mafia turned the island into a gambling den and whorehouse and as America’s business interests turned a blind eye to the corruption and brutality of Batista’s regime.

Cue the Cuban revolution of 1959. Whilst Castro initially wanted good relations with the USA, albeit without the exploitation of the island’s people by America’s more-moneyed folk, this wish evaporated as the Americans saw Castro as a threat to the business interests of both its own citizens and its well-off Cuban friends. This pushed the new Cuban government towards the Soviet Union, and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 funded by the CIA, and with it the closure of the embassies. The Cuban Missile Crisis the next year guaranteed Castro’s survival but made relations worse as sanctions were imposed.

After 54 years or sanctions, relations have now thawed. The opening of the US embassy in Havana is a huge deal: for decades now the building has stood with its doors closed (if not empty of American intelligence officers) with, in a sign of typical Castro defiance, the main road in front turned into an auditorium so that the Cubans could hold political rallies there. Another symbol of the Cuban resentment of their treatment has been their refusal to cash the cheques sent them for leasing Guantanamo Bay.

At last sanity has been restored. John Kerry’s visit this week to Havana to reopen the embassy marks the point when the relationship between the two can start to rebuild. It won’t be love, but at least the two no longer feel like the wrongly spurned ex of the other.

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