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EDITORIAL: Cuba’s product no threat to tourism yet

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Cuba’s product  no threat  to tourism yet

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MUCH HAS BEEN SAID of last week’s historic decision by the United States to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. The isolationist policy that the world superpower had promoted for the last 53 years had long outlived its usefulness.

The policy against Cuba had succeeded only in satisfying the egos of some ageing Cuban dissidents resident in Florida and hardening anti-American sentiment in Havana. On the other hand, Canada and the European Union decided to work with Cuba to effect change.

So the announcement by President Barack Obama to take that bold step of rapprochement towards Cuba in many ways showed that the decision in December 1972 by Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to establish relations with Havana was both the logical and morally right thing to have done.

Over the years, America’s position towards Cuba highlighted many inconsistencies by Washington on issues ranging from the lack of free speech to human rights abuses.

Glaring violations took place in many other countries which did not attract sanctions. The United States reached out also to communist China, apartheid South Africa and military dictatorships across Latin America and normalised relations with Vietnam after a bitter war.

The reality is that just as the anti-Castroites in Florida are a dying group, those who have ruled Cuba since the revolution are also on their way out. Cuba, despite its imperfections, should not be punished anymore.

This is why President Obama is right when he asserts that “we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement”. And Cuba, whatever its leadership says, must embrace change.

Barbados and the wider Caribbean Community need to understand that the inevitable is here – the opening up of Cuba. We should not be bogged down by the imagined threats this development may pose in certain areas, tourism in particular.

Things are not going to happen in Cuba overnight. The country will have lower costs but it will take some time to improve its infrastructure such as roads, transportation and modern hotels. Not even the ability of cruise ships to soon dock there should pose a significant threat to this country’s product at this time.

Our business people should now be looking to make their mark in Cuba. We have skills and talent the Cubans will need in their efforts to transform their economy as it responds to new opportunities. The fifth CARICOM-Cuba summit held in Havana earlier this month pointed to new areas of broad economic and trade benefits and cooperation.

The Cubans need partnerships and we should get on board.