I applaud President Barack Obama's historic step to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. He displayed courage and boldness in doing so.
There is no reason why we should not have formal ties with Cuba, 90 miles from the U.S., while we have ties with other countries with which we have disagreements over certain matters. I'm thinking of China; Vietnam, with whom we fought a war with that led to almost 60,000 American soldiers being killed; or Saudi Arabia, one of the most undemocratic countries in the world.
We have not fought a war with Cuba, and no American lives have been lost over a conflict with Cuba. Cuba is not a perfect society, although the disparity of wealth is much less there than in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Moreover, Cuba poses no military threat to the U.S.
The policy of isolating Cuba through the embargo imposed in 1961 has only served to isolate not Cuba, but the United States. Most countries in the world, including Canada, European Union nations, and all of Latin America, have relations with Cuba. As Obama correctly noted, the policy of isolation has clearly not worked to the extent that it was initially established not to encourage democracy in Cuba, but to overthrow it. Soon after President Dwight D. Eisenhower imposed the embargo, the U.S. under President John F. Kennedy supported a failed Cuban exile assault on the island. A new policy of engagement and political, economic, and cultural exchange with Cuba will do more to help the people of Cuba than the failed policy of the past.
Obama should be praised for his action. So too should Pope Francis for his role in encouraging this rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba.
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The pope did more than encourage; he hosted some of the secret meetings between American and Cuban officials to work out the deal.
I found it interesting to hear at least one conservative American Catholic commentator suggest that Obama was using the pope as a shield for his new policy. The pope is not a shield; he is very central to the rethinking of U.S. policy by his stress on peace and the coming together of countries who have shared animosities toward each other. Why is it OK for the Vatican to have diplomatic ties with Cuba and not the United States? Cuba should cease being a political football in the U.S., and we as Americans, including American Catholics, should understand that talking with our neighbors and having friendly relations with them is the right thing to do and the moral thing to do as well.
In this Christmas season, "goodwill to all" is the message that should guide us. Let's pray for more peace in the world and more love for one another.