Our Opinion: Engaging Cuba is best route

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fifty years of Cold War tactics in dealing with the island nation of Cuba have not solved a thing. President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the United States is going to thaw relations with Cuba is good news.

What’s more, politicians denouncing the move merely are playing politics for votes and not seeing the benefits to foreign relations in the Western Hemisphere. Laurels go to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for breaking with other Republicans and seeing Obama’s move as wise.

Cuban-Americans in South Florida might not see it and their protests merely remind everyone how acrimony prevents finding solutions. Engaging the country diplomatically and economically will be the best route to bring about change for the Cubans on the island. Steps toward modernization in society can produce better results for human rights as the government’s need to keep trade and tourism open and smooth becomes a national priority.

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Cuba has one of the lowest rates of Internet access in the world. Widening use of the Internet has resulted in regime changes in many countries, as people are better able to communicate and organize.

The 50-year hard-line approach has only fed additional spite. It’s only resulted in an isolated country that, with the collapse of economic crutch Venezuela, seemed on its way to being a failed state and a handy base for terrorists.

Paul said it well when he said: “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for the hardship.”

Tony Oliva, three-time batting champion for the Minnesota Twins and native of Cuba, told ESPN that the move is “the best thing that can happen for the United States and Cuba and will help both countries.”

There are no guarantees at this point, of course. Wednesday was just a beginning. Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro, made no commitment on human rights. Work still needs to be done.

But this bold policy change to normalize relations is a softening of the bitterness and correcting a long-misguided policy set in 1961. After all, how is it that America has normalized relations with communist China and Vietnam but not communist Cuba, even though Cuba is merely a weak country. It’s hypocritical to favor relations with China and Vietnam and not Cuba.

The Cold War is over. Its vestiges ought to be over, too. Let’s see what openness and capitalism can do in Cuba.