Hopkins Cuba Expert Weighs In on New Policies

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President Obama announced this week that we can look forward to new, normalized (or at least normalizing) relations between the U.S. and Cuba. It’s a pretty big deal. (It’s also all thanks to the Orioles. Well, sort of.)

Hopkins foreign policy professor Piero Gleijeses thinks this is a good thing. He should know, too–he’s been traveling to Cuba for more than 30 years, and he’s also the only foreign scholar who’s been allowed to conduct research in that country’s archives.

He gave a long, meaty interview on US-Cuba relations to the Hopkins Hub; if it’s a topic that interests you, head over there and check out the whole thing. Here are a few highlights:

+Gleijeses talks about how the two countries have had animosity since way before Fidel Castro was even born, in part due to Thomas Jefferson’s desire to annex the island and make it part of the United States.

+The U.S. didn’t always hate Castro. An early state department memo described him thusly: “”He is clearly a strong personality and a born leader of great personal courage and conviction.”

+Cuba played a crucial role in defending Angola against a threat from the apartheid South African government in the 1990s. This made Ronald Reagan really, really mad.

+”The most important example of the failure of U.S. efforts [against Cuba] is in Africa,” Gleijeses asserts.

+The fact that the embargo continued even after the end of the Cold War is largely due to the influence of Cuban Americans, who, Gleijeses says, were largely motivated by a sense of revenge.

+The good news is, lifting the embargo will make a lot of people happy: It serves the material interests of the United States and it will enhance the prestige of the United States, whose Cuban policy has been repeatedly condemned at the General Assembly of the United Nations; it will ease relations with the Latin American countries, which were beginning to challenge openly the constraints that the embargo imposed on their own dealings with Cuba. But, above all, Obama’s decision marks the beginning of the end of a sordid chapter in U.S. foreign policy,” Gleijeses says.

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