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Why is Obama so keen to visit Cuba?

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

02-24-2016 17:00 BJT

By Chen Jiagang, researcher, China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics, Central Compilation and Translation Bureau   

Recently, the White House announced United States President Barack Obama will pay a historic visit to Cuba on March 21-22.


There is less than one year to go before the upcoming US presidential elections in November. If this visit comes true, it will become a grand finale of diplomatic heritage for Obama’s term.

Obama has escalated military intervention in the Middle East; especially in Syria, where a new round of battles had erupted to fight against the terrorist organization, "Islamic State" (ISIS).

As for the Korean peninsula, Washington has broadened blockades and sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

A few days ago, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket and conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6. Washington had strengthened its strategic military deployment in Northeast Asia, claiming that would deter DPRK, but could trigger a new round of cold wars instead.

Nonetheless, Washington has repeatedly handed out an olive branch to Havana, a neighboring state that maintained hostile relations with the US for more than half a century.

The US and Cuba are close neighbors with 140 km waterway separating them. Bilateral relations have not experienced any major changes until Obama's second term.

At the end of 2013, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro had an historic handshake at Nelson Mandela's funeral. At the end of 2014, both sides expressed friendship and announced the resumption of bilateral relations.

At the Americas Summit of April 11, 2015, the two leaders held formal talks for the first time in over half a century, while diplomatic relations were formally restored last July. US-Cuba relations have grown closer together ever since.

The White House said a sitting US president's last visit to Cuba was in 1928. President Obama's trip will be historic. A question may arise, why is Obama so keen to visit Cuba, a rival for half a century?

The answer may go to Washington's objective demands and Obama's individual subjective to spark efforts to consolidate Washington's backyard.

Since Washington believes the American continent belongs to the Americans and they consider Latin America as their backyard.

However, La Habana and Caracas do not acknowledge that. There have been continuous conflicts in the backyard, which have caused a decline in Washington's influence over Latin America.

US-Cuba ties are the core issue of US-Latin American relations

Washington has taken a tough stance and implemented sanctions against Cuba for a long time, which has damaged the US image in Latin America  and hindered US' constructive cooperation with other countries in the region as well.

Obama has urged Washington to normalize relations with Havana to open a new chapter for the American States, and to increase US influence and improve its positive image in Latin America.

Adjusting US and Cuba policy
After victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959, Washington had adopted a hostile policy. The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba after a US mercenary invasion against Cuba failed.

In 1962, US President John F. Kennedy signed a decree that imposes an economic and financial blockade and trade embargo on Cuba.

However, the US 50-year policy of isolating Cuba did not achieve expected results, and did not get support from other countries. When Obama came to power, he gradually adjusted the policy towards Cuba.

On the other hand, after Raul Castro had become Cuba's supreme leader, he introduced economic and social reforms. Cuba's foreign policy has turned calm and pragmatic, creating favorable conditions to resume bilateral relations for both countries.

August 2015, the US reopened its embassy in Cuba, and several senior US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have visited Havana. CNN said the trade channels between the two countries have been restored, and travel restrictions have been relaxed.

Obama will continue to promote the normalization of bilateral relations during his visit to strengthen trade and cultural exchanges.

Obama's diplomatic legacy

Obama planned to make a historic visit before leaving his post to consolidate his diplomatic achievements.

Obama delivered his last state message on Jan.12, claiming that the ice-breaking relationship with Cuba, nuclear agreement with Iran, Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement had stood out as his diplomatic achievements.

However, critics said Obama has achieved few diplomatic achievements. It is hard to persuade others that the current world is better and safer than seven years ago.

Obama failed to confront threats from the "Islamic States", and to stop nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Meanwhile, two opposing forces continue to fight each other in Syria: the Al Bashar Assad regime supported by Russia and the opposition faction supported by the US. Obama has lost control over world affairs. Big and small countries can say "no" to Obama.

The Cuba visit will be a historic turning point for US-Cuba relations, highlighting Obama's diplomatic legacy.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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