We are now over a year out from when President Obama first announced the U.S. would be “normalizing” relationships with Cuba, which I blogged about a few months ago.
The new hot topic regarding #CubaPolicy is not so much about policy, but more about whether or not President Obama will visit Cuba before his historic time as President comes to an end. He recently went on record stating the conditions of Cuba “must be right” before he visits, seemingly a backtrack of progress from his words only a few months ago.
But what does President Obama mean by the conditions being right? What’s right for the United States may not always be right for Cuba. And vice versa. Cuba’s views may not fully align with those of the United States. Nonetheless, as we think of what’s next on #CubaPolicy, there are a few critical issues we must address.
Indeed, Cuba has its share of human rights violations, and we certainly should address those as our governments develop a better relationship. However, we must do so by being a role model, not setting conditions that we ourselves cannot follow. In 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Committee reported its concerns with ongoing racial discrimination in the United States, underlining the U.S. government’s treatment of Black Americans. The United States is in no position to hold its morality over Cuba. Instead, these two countries should hold one another and the rest of the world accountable for all and any human rights violations. A human rights violation is a human rights violation. The self-righteous moralizing of our country needs to come to an end if we are to build stronger relations with Cuba.
One area where the U.S. has undeniably excelled in is technology. If California’s Silicon Valley has showcased anything it’s that the ‘tech boom’ has generated significant benefits to the millennial generation–particularly in the domains of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) and transportation (such as Lyft and Uber).
During my trip to Cuba in August 2014, I discovered Cubans’ lack of access to 21st century technology resulted in a disconnect to their families who lived in the U.S. and around the globe. Nearly 97% of Cubans lack web access in their households. While self-serving, it also has limited my ability to stay connected to Cuban friends of mine. Young Cubans have long yearned for connection into the cyber world. If we’ve learned anything from #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveWins, or #IStandWithAhmed, technology has been used as a tool for social change. Cubans deserve entry into the international solidarity amongst miillennials. The U.S. should provide the Cuban government with resources to equip Cubans with 21st century technology.
The top 20% of Americans owns over 80% of our nation’s wealth. It is clear that our economy is not functioning for the working class and certainly not for communities of color. While Cuba has not been able to see economic development through the eyes of the United States, it has certainly set its budgetary priorities on track: health care, education, and housing are assured for all Cuban citizens. We, as a self-proclaimed developed nation, cannot provide these basic necessities to our population. Moreover, the ongoing economic embargo the United States holds over Cuba must come to an end; the U.S.’ recent vote on a related United Nations resolution does not give much hope for progress.
If we are serious about normalizing relations with Cuba, we need to spell it out. This new, diplomatic relationship with Cuba provides an opportunity for both governments to learn from one another about how to best serve its people. Young people in Cuba and the U.S. have been vocal about what we want next. But what is next? We cannot be sure, but if either nation actually cares about the future, they will ensure that young Americans and young Cubans are at the center of the conversation.