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The New York Times Joins Clamor to Change US Policy Toward Cuba

Concierto Paz sin Fronteras, celebrado en La Habana en 2009

“Peace Without Borders” concert, held in Havana in 2009. Photo by Juventud Rebelde, used with permission. 

The New York Times has intensified its criticism against U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba with a series of editorials published since October 11. 

The powerful newspaper has described the state of relations between the United States and Cuba as “dismal,” and called on President Barack Obama to “take a hard look at Cuba, where a major policy shift could yield a significant foreign policy success” for his administration.

The editorial entitled “A Cuban Brain Drain, Courtesy of the U.S.”, for example, harshly criticizes the double standards of the United States, which on the one hand praises the Caribbean country for sending Cuban doctors to treat Ebola patients in West Africa, but on the other has a public policy that “easily [enables] medical personnel posted abroad to defect.”

More than 1,278 Cuban health professionals who work on official overseas assignments obtained authorization to immigrate to the United States in 2014 as part of this program, which provides “an opportunity to strike at the core of the island’s primary diplomatic tool, while embarrassing the Castro regime,” according to The New York Times. 

"La fuga de cerebros en Cuba, cortesía de EEUU", editorial de The New York Times.

Editorial in The New York Times.

According to the newspaper:

For the first time in more than 50 years, shifting politics in the United States and changing policies in Cuba make it politically feasible to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and dismantle the senseless embargo. 

A survey of 2,000 U.S. citizens published in February 2014 by the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank, indicates that a majority of Americans are ready for a change of policy on Cuba, including those residing in the state of Florida, which is located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the island country and home to the largest population of Cubans outside of Cuba. “This is a key change from the past,” the report said. “Cuba used to be intractable because Florida was intractable. This poll argues that is no longer true.” 

Fifty-six percent of Americans and more than 60 percent of Floridians favor a change in policy toward Cuba, according to the survey. While support for a policy shift is more common among Democrats and Independents, the majority of Republicans also advocate the normalization of relations. 

Given public opinion, The New York Times suggests that “the Obama administration should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorist organizations.” The inclusion of Cuba on this list dates back to 1982, due to the country's support for rebel movements in Latin America, a tie that no longer exists. “American officials recognize that Havana is playing a constructive role in the conflict in Colombia by hosting peace talks between the government and guerrilla leaders,” says the newspaper. 

Additionally, the newspaper calls for: ending the embargo, resuming diplomatic relations, supporting U.S. companies interested in the telecommunications sector in Cuba, trading U.S. contractor Alan Gross for three Cuban spies that have been imprisoned in the United States for over 16 years, the end of undercover projects financed by USAID to overthrow the government, and searching for “ways to empower ordinary Cubans by expanding study-abroad programs, professional exchanges and investment in the new small businesses cropping up around the island.” 

One possible approach could occur during the seventh Summit of the Americas, a high-level meeting of leaders across North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. After being expelled in 1962, Cuba has been invited to participate in this meeting, scheduled for April 2015 in Panama, a move that Panamanian Vice President and Chancellor Isabel de Saint Malo considers consistent with “Panama's position that its foreign policy promote dialogue and consensus.”

“The Obama administration is leery of Cuba’s presence at the meeting and Mr. Obama has not committed to attending,” The New York Times wrote. “He must — and he should see it as an opportunity to make history.”

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