November 26, 2018
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Cuban poet, literary critic, translator and journalist Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor of Spanish, divides his time between Gambier, Ohio, and Havana, Cuba, where nearly all of his family members reside. Here, Rodríguez Núñez responds to President Barack Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, after the U.S. ended formal ties in 1961.
I was not expecting it. I’ve lived my entire life with the hostility between the U.S. and Cuba and I just assumed that I would spend the rest of my life with it. I think it’s a very brave decision by Presidents Obama and Castro. It’s an absolutely necessary measure. It’s the real end of the Cold War.
It will be positive in many ways. Honestly, the Cuban people were the ones who suffered most from this policy, and now they have the possibility of leading a better life. I say this taking into account that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations must be accompanied by the end of the economic embargo. This is the first important step, but not the last. It’s obvious that President Obama has the political will to do it, but we have to see how the new Congress will act. It also will depend on the will of the Cuban government to develop a constructive relationship with the U.S.
That’s a difficult question. But, as Americans, we must understand that this is a Cuban issue. As we discuss in my course “Literature and Film from the Cuban Revolution,” the Cuban people have proven throughout history that they have the ability to bring about the political changes that are necessary for their country. Personally, I would like to see a more democratic society and the absolute respect of human rights.
I don’t think the U.S. is making a concession to anyone with this new measure. The U.S. has diplomatic relations with countries whose governments are not exactly characterized for being democratic. The attempt to isolate Cuba ultimately isolated the U.S. Now, with this opening up, the U.S. can take its relations with Latin America to a higher level.
This is a huge step in the right direction, one of dialogue. Only through dialogue can differences be discussed and understood, and ultimately overcome.