Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Time to press on with our plan in Havana

by Christopher Sabatini

Financial Times
August 31, 2010

Rumblings in Cuba and Washington this summer have raised expectations that change is on its way for the hemisphere’s most repressive regime, and one of the US’s most anachronistic policies. Behind them lie the potential to foster greater personal and economic freedom within Cuba – although only if President Barack Obama is willing to continue pushing.

This week reports suggested that oil exploration may soon begin off Cuba’s coast, potentially testing the current US trade embargo. Earlier in August President Raúl Castro’s announcement of economic reforms was followed by rumours from the US of plans to allow greater cultural and educational exchanges. In July the Catholic church also brokered the release of 52 political prisoners from Cuban jails.

On the surface these changes seem marginal. Within Cuba, the drip-drip release of political prisoners is rightly seen as a typical authoritarian ploy to curry international favour. More than 100 are likely still to be locked up, although hazy laws both cloud the true count and provide ample room for the government to round up activists at will.