Catch Up on Cuba

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry will be in Havana, Cuba this Friday, August 14th for the flag raising at the newly opened U.S. embassy. President Obama said he believed that Proclamation 3447, the embargo signed by President Kennedy in 1962, has served neither country positively and that it was time to go in a new direction. Last month, the U.S. and Cuba ended a 54-year stand off and resumed diplomatic ties.

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Following the announcement, the countries performed a prisoner swap after eighteen months of negotiation, which was encouraged and also brokered by Pope Francis.

Now, Congress has to pass legislation to formally end the embargo and Obama is using his executive power to ease travel and trade restrictions. Just some of the new allowances are: travelers to use U.S. credit and debit cards, banks to facilitate authorized transactions, U.S. companies to invest in some small businesses, shipment of building materials to private Cuban companies, and U.S. insurance companies to cover health, life and travel insurance for individuals living in or visiting Cuba.

Based on government numbers, Cuba ranks 48th in the world for poverty, making it one of the least impoverished countries in the developing world. Fifteen percent of the population lives in extreme poverty; meaning most of its citizens are poor. The Cuban peso hasn’t even been convertible since the revolution and has suffered from inflation. The average Cuban worker earns $17 to $30 a month.

Since the Castro family has been in power, Cuba has made itself isolated. Between the U.S. and Cuba alone, they have endured a nuclear crisis, a long U.S. economic embargo, and political hostilities. This is has led to the country’s lack of overall wealth. The fall of the Soviet Union made matters worse, cutting Cuba off from its financial support. Cuba persisted, attempting to be self-reliant, but making them poorer. However, Cuba has recently tried to reform its economic system to open up investment to other governments and private companies to help accelerate development.

Polls show that 63 percent of Americans support resuming diplomatic relations and 66 percent support ending the trade embargo. A 2015 poll by the U.S. firm, Bendixen & Amandi International revealed that an astonishing 97 percent of Cubans favored the restoration of ties.

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Normalization between the United States and Cuba presents great opportunity for both nations. The United States will expand trade markets to one of its closest countries and an increase of capital will raise Cuba’s standard of living.