Will Obama’s overtures change Cuba?

President Barack Obama has paved the way for change in Cuba by normalising relations.

President Barack Obama has "reset" relations with Cuba, with the US re-establishing diplomatic relations and easing restrictions on engaging with the island after more than 50 years. It's the "right course, done for the right reasons", says The Times.

"The communist venture has failed", but so too has the US response to it. Ostracism is "largely ineffective" against a regime "unmoved by the sufferings of its people". Much of South America has "escaped autocracy".

But decades of mismanagement have left Cuba facing "collapse". Western policy now offers it a chance to avoid becoming a "corrupt and penurious failed state". Cuba's people should embrace it.

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Obama acted unilaterally to re-open diplomatic ties. But to make a real difference, the economic embargo must end too and he can't lift that by himself, says Andrew Dewson in The Independent.

It would have to be passed by Congress and given that we'll have a Republican House and Senate by February, that could prove impossible. What he can do though is to legalise certain smaller functions of the embargo, such as private investment in Cuban businesses.

He should do this immediately over time the embargo "will become increasingly meaningless". For the US, lifting the embargo is "chicken feed" in economic terms but for Cuba, where GDP per head is around $6,000 per year, it's "no minor matter".

Ending Cuba's isolation doesn't end the regime which has "bankrupted the country and oppressed its citizens", says Melanie Phillips in The Times. Fidel Castro's younger brother Raul, 83, succeeded him in 2008.

Cuban expatriates are "apoplectic" that Obama is normalising relations without any undertaking from Raul to end his dictatorship. Not to mention any human rights reforms or economic liberalism, adds Janet Daley in The Daily Telegraph.

Cuba's "retro-Stalinist regime" will now be allowed to engage in the "sort of global marketplace which corrupt dictatorships adore" and thrive on. Still, "it's not like the embargo has been a success in snuffing out totalitarianism", says Konrad Yakabuski in Canada's Globe and Mail.

The reality is that the US deals with plenty of countries with worse human-rights records. "There is no longer a good reason to single out Cuba, beyond sheer obstinacy."

Instead, the US needs to prepare for a post-Castro regime. "Obama has just gotten some of the preliminaries out the way."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.