A new chapter in Cuban-US relations has begun after President Obama’s recent three day trip to Cuba. Upon landing, he spent his time meeting with Raul Castro, touring the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, talking with Cuba’s Cardinal, Jaime Ortega, a proponent of US-Cuban relations, and eating at informal residential restaurants called “paladares.” By all accounts, Obama made sure to do as the locals do in order to normalize relations that have been frozen since the 1960s. The last US diplomat before Secretary John Kerry and President Obama visited, was Calvin Coolidge in 1928.3
During this trip, Obama met only with Raul Castro, not Fidel, who is still an influential leader in the Cuban Communist Party. This trip was set up to temper hostilities between the two countries, officially burying the Cold War hatchet, and to encourage political and economic reform on the island. Ushering in these changes are fewer restrictions on individual travel to Cuba, the option for Cubans to open bank accounts in the US, and even fewer restrictions for Cubans to play in Major League Baseball.3 While relations between Raul Castro and Obama were seemingly well received on both ends, Fidel was not so pleased with Obama’s desire to forget about the impasses of past US-Cuban relations.
In a letter published by the communist newspaper, Granma, Fidel Castro outlined the many past US aggressions on Cuban soil, mentioning that the attack on the Bay of Pigs happened the same year that president Obama was born, alluding to the naivete of the American president when it comes to the history of the US and Cuba. While impressed with Obama’s intelligence, Fidel still strongly believes that the US and its allies are complicit in many socio-political atrocities around the world. Many of the restrictions that have been eased create an open flow between the US and Cuba, therefore reversing the past embargo. With this in mind, Fidel responds in his letter saying, “Obama made a speech in which he uses the most sweetened words to express: ‘It is time, now, to forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope. And it won’t be easy, there will be challenges and we must give it time; but my stay here gives me more hope in what we can do together as friends, as family, as neighbors, together.’I suppose all of us were at risk of a heart attack upon hearing these words from the President of the United States. After a ruthless blockade that has lasted almost 60 years, and what about those who have died in the mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airliner full of passengers blown up in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and coercion?” Later in the letter Fidel goes on to note that, “nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights, or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture,” Ending his letter with a biting statement saying, “We do not need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, as this is our commitment to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet.”2
While relations between the neighboring countries are still working out past problems, many Cuban-Americans, as well as politicians such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, still believe that the regime in Cuba is dangerous to its citizens. Senator Marco Rubio has been quoted as saying, “There has not been a single democratic opening; not a single change on the island in human rights,” at a recent presidential candidate debate.3 Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona, who traveled with Obama to Cuba, believes that both the trade embargo and travel blockade helped reinforce the regime's power and that, “It's given them a convenient excuse for the failure of socialism. So we ought to remove that crutch. We're doing so. And I think we'll move ahead more quickly now.”3 While Obama and his team created an idealized vision for the future of US and Cuba, it seems that many people have a hard time forgetting about the very violent and tempestuous past.
Ahmed, Azam. "Fidel Castro Criticizes Barack Obama’s Efforts to Change Cuba." The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/world/americas/fidel-castro-criticizes-barack-obamas-efforts-to-change-cuba.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FObama%2C%20Barack&action=click&contentCollection=politics®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=38&pgtype=collection
Castro Ruz, Fidel. "Brother Obama." Granma. Granma, 27 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. Available at: http://en.granma.cu/cuba/2016-03-28/brother-obama
Liptak, Kevin. "Obama Hopes Arrival in Cuba Will Bring Change." CNN. Cable News Network, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/20/politics/obama-cuba-arrival-change/