Cuba-US Talks to End 50-Year Standoff

© AFP 2023 / YAMIL LageA Cuban gives the thumbs up from his balcony decorated with the US and Cuban flags in Havana
A Cuban gives the thumbs up from his balcony decorated with the US and Cuban flags in Havana - Sputnik International
The continued normalization of bilateral relations between Cuba and the US will culminate this coming Wednesday with historic negotiations in Havana, expected to tackle such acute issues like immigration, trade and investment.

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MOSCOW, January 19 (Sputnik), Kristian Rouz – The United States and Cuba are headed for a reconciliation at an accelerated pace, as evidenced by the recent developments of a Congressional (mostly Democrat though) delegation having paid a visit to the Pearl of the Antilles just the other day, along with the new US travel rules to Cuba, facilitating tourist exchange, and now there are reports of scheduled full-scale bilateral negotiations starting Wednesday.

The upcoming talks between the US and Cuba are expected to open a new chapter in bilateral relations, with an anticipated return to political normality, ending more than half-century of mutual hostility and mistrust. At least this is what the Obama administration has green-lit, having received multiple signs of Cuba’s eagerness for rapprochement.

High-ranking American and Cuban officials will participate in a Havana-hosted two-day event. Among the issues to be discussed are immigration and plans to reopen embassies and exchanging ambassadors, as reported by AFP. Cuban immigration has been the most acute issue in bilateral relations ever since the Communist uprising seized power in 1959, with countless Cuban refugees fleeing the Socialist paradise in boats and rafts for the southern US, chiefly Florida, spawning such famed moments of the Cubans’ nationwide drama like Mariel boatlift of 1980.

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The normalization discourse has become dominant in bilateral relations after mutual efforts of President Barack Obama and his Cuban colleague Raul Castro. The respective public announcements were made simultaneously five weeks ago.

A recent visit of top Congress Democrats, commenced Saturday, is largely seen as a preparation measure for the upcoming talks. There is a huge commercial potential for Cuban-American cooperation, as Cuba is starved for tech and consumer products, while being a potentially attractive tourist destination for Americans, just like during the period of 1920s-1950s, when Havana had become home to multiple gambling and recreational facilities and Al Capone himself frequented the island.

"We are going this time to discuss our expectations, and the Cubans' expectations, for the normalization of relations," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said on the National Public Radio. "We want to explore opportunities for greater cooperation, and to encourage Cuban officials to address issues of real concern to the American people and to their representatives in Congress."

The Obama administration has recently eased travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. Now any US company can offer tourist trips to Cuba, American businesses will also be allowed to export telephones, computers and tech to the island, along with some other directions of commercial activity like supplying resources to Cuban enterprises. Aviation and aerial services are one of the prospect areas of cooperation between Cuba and the US.

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Cuba is anticipating a large influx of American money, primarily off the tourist influx via renting accommodation and, of course, the island’s extensive hospitality industry. However, there are some challenges here.

“American tourists are really demanding,” Maikel Gonzalez, a 34-year-old hotel receptionist in Havana, said as quoted by the Associated Press. “How do I explain to one that the taxi didn’t come because it doesn’t have tires or that there’s no water in the rooms?”

The ongoing rapprochement between Cuba and the US bears multiple economic and political benefits for both sides. Cuba will finally find its place among nations enjoying the free market and transparent borders, while the US will once and for all eliminate the threat coming from the annoying ‘unsinkable Soviet missile cruiser’ in its backyard pool that put the entire world on the brink of extinction back in 1962.

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