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Chadwick: Why Obama's Right On Cuba

Monday, 6 Apr 2009 | 11:02 AM ET

Thank you, Mr. President, for doing what should have been done long ago, by moving forward to open up diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba.

Not only is it the right thing to do from a human rights point of view, it will enhance the economies of both the United States and Cuba at a time when any stimulus to economic activity is an answer to prayer.

It always seemed a bit odd to me that President Nixon could open the door to relations with China and then President Reagan engaged with Gorbachev the head of the Soviet Union, but this little tiny country, a mere puppet of the Soviet Union, was treated by the U. S. Government as a danger.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., answers a question during the first Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2008 election hosted by South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C., Thursday, April 26, 2007. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., answers a question during the first Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2008 election hosted by South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C., Thursday, April 26, 2007. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Of course the issue was not that Cuba was a threat to the United States – at least not after the demise of the Soviet Union and we had normalized relations Russia.

It was obvious that the substance of the matter was one of domestic and local politics and the votes of Cuban Americans.

That first generation of Cuban Americans who fled Cuba had good reason to hope that the U.S. might eventually oust the Communist regime and reinstate a democracy and that they could eventually return home and reclaim their confiscated property.

By keeping a stranglehold on the country, U. S. politicians were tacitly promising that once Castro’s regime died or was toppled, Cuban Americans could return triumphantly to their homeland.

This policy appeared sacrosanct, and neither Democrat nor Republican Presidents attempted to alter it.

Fidel Castro
Ismael Francisco
Fidel Castro

But after half a century with no such outcome and with now a third generation of Cuban Americans fully integrated into American society, it appears that the grandchildren of the refugees from Cuba do not have the same aspirations as their parents and grandparents.

In fact it is as though the tables have turned, and Americans with relatives in Cuba want to support their less fortunate kin both with financial aid and with personal visits.

No doubt there are still hard-liners who cling to the belief in the policies enacted at a time when Cuba, under the aegis of the Soviet Union, truly was a threat to the United States. But with time, those people are becoming a smaller and smaller minority of those with views on relations between our two countries.

The potential for the economy of Cuba is great, and there are meaningful benefits to our economy as well from an array of investment opportunities. It would have been a shame for the benefits of all that growth to have been missed because of an outdated policy.

Today the United States has cordial relations with many nations – Vietnam, Cambodia, China to mention only a few – with whom we do not agree with regard to social and government policies. That is the real world. But by opening up economic opportunity both for Cubans who have suffered for five decades and for Americans who wish to engage with them, the world – well, at least the Western Hemisphere – is a better place.

President Obama deserves credit for moving so fast on this important issue.

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Patricia W. Chadwick has had more than 35 years of investment experience. She is the founder and president of Ravengate Partners LLC, a consulting firm that provides advice on financial markets and global economics.

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