By Lucy Njuguna
The United States ended a fifty-year stalemate in November 2014 when President Obama announced an effort to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba. Negotiations between U.S. and Cuban government officials took place during the last weeks of January, leaving more questions than answers to key issues. However, goals for a peaceful settlement were voiced by major political leaders.
The renewal of ties between the U.S. and Cuba grew from shared humanitarian concerns, for which Pope Francis has been given much credit. According to US News, the Vatican claims that Pope Francis wrote letters to both Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama, encouraging them to resolve humanitarian issues, including the release of certain prisoners.
In his announcement, President Obama highlighted the U.S. and Cuba’s complicated history, especially the Bay of Pigs Fiasco and Cuban Missile Crisis, which led to the embargo.
During the January talks, however, Cuba accused the U.S. of encouraging the illegal immigration and human trafficking of Cubans, reports Reuters. The Cuban government also demanded to have their country removed from the list of state-sponsored terrorism, and the reestablishment of the Guantanamo Bay naval base. According to the Associated Press, Cuba’s first demand will likely be approved in a few months, though the second one was rejected.
The U.S. Congress has yet to decide on whether trade restrictions against Cuba should be lifted. According to Reuters, one lawmaker showing resistance is Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Despite the opposition of Republicans, who control the majority of the house, Obama continues to pursue diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro also voiced his support for the discussions. According to The Huffington Post, Mr. Castro said, “I don’t trust the policy of the United States nor have I had an exchange with them, but this does not mean a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts or the dangers of war.”