This article analyses the significance of the March 2016 visit to Cuba by President Barack Obama, assesses changes in the bilateral relationship since December 17, 2014 (when Presidents Castro and Obama announced the resumption of diplomatic relations after 53 years of hostility), and considers the challenges ahead.
For three days in March, the world media lens was focused on Barack Obama, the first sitting US president in 88 years to set foot in Cuba. It was an extremely successful visit. His press conference with Cuban President Raúl Castro and his nationwide address were both broadcast live to the Cuban people. He met with dissidents and fledgling Cuban entrepreneurs, watched a baseball game with Castro, and even participated in a TV skit with one of Cuba’s top comedians.
But Obama’s trip was about more than show and show biz, or even cementing his foreign policy legacy. It was about charting a new and “respectful” future for relations between the world’s “closest of enemies” – and attempting to make irreversible his initiative.
John M. Kirk is Professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University in Canada, and the author/editor of 16 books on Cuba.
Stephen Kimber, a professor of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Canada, is the author of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five.
1. Source: Personal communication from José Luis Perelló, Faculty of Tourism Studies, University of Havana, January 19, 2016 and his article, “US Tourism to Cuba in the New Scenario of Bilateral Relations”, From the Island, no. 26 (March 11, 2015)
2. Source: U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc., “Economic Eye on Cuba: December 2015”