President Barack Obama recently sat down with Cuban President Raul Castro, marking the first time leaders from the two nations have talked in over 50 years. While the meeting was an effort to improve diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, there remains important rifts that have yet to be bridged between the two countries.
"This is obviously an historic meeting," Obama explained at the outset of the meeting with Castro. "It was time for us to try something new. We are now in a position to move on a path toward the future."
For his part, Castro commented: "We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient. We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow."
While Cuba remains on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, Obama believes that opening up communications will result in a change in Cuban policy. "I think there is a strong majority both in the United States and in Cuba that says our ability to engage, to open up commerce and travel and people to people exchanges is ultimately going to be good for Cuban people."
Castro went on to say that, "In my opinion, President Obama is an honest man. I admire him, and I think his behavior has a lot do with his humble background."
However, critics remain skeptical of the new approach and strategy for Cuban relations. Senator Bob Menendez is among those against the open talks. "A recommendation to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism would represent another significant misstep in a misguided policy," the democrat senator explained, referencing the recent discussions and guidelines the United States is making with Iran.
Interestingly, if the 50 year embargo over Cuba is reversed - which is something only Congress has the power to do - then a number of products may be on their way to the U.S. Obviously, cigars are the top item that comes to mind when one thinks of Cuban products, but less apparent things such as pots and pans, vaccines, vegetables, sugar, and rum might also start pouring in from Cuba. Cuba has one of the world's biggest deposits of nickel, a robust biotechnology industry, plenty of land for new farming, a great amount of sugarcane which contributes to the country's massive rum production.
Photo Credit: tgraham