It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. One could argue that this describes the long-standing American approach toward Cuba. For 50 years the policy remained the same, expecting the embargo imposed by President John F. Kennedy to disrupt and ultimately dethrone the ruling Castro regime. Simply put, it just didn’t work.
On December 17, everything changed. American President Barack Obama announced to the world that he was embarking on a road to resume normal relations with Cuba. He announced that there would soon be an American embassy on Cuban soil—the first in more than five decades—more American money would flow to Cuban citizens, U.S. banks could begin funding deals in Cuba and U.S. credit and debit cards would be permitted on the island. On January 16, the changes became official and went into effect.
“In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date,” President Obama said in his State of the Union Address on January 20. “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new. Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere, removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba, stands up for democratic values and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.”
This is change we at Cigar Aficionado have been championing for years. (See our February 2009 cover.) All politics aside, the embargo has had little effect on its intended target. The Castro government remains in power today, just as when those papers were signed by President Kennedy. The only difference is that Raúl Castro, rather than his brother Fidel, is the country’s president. The embargo has hurt the people of Cuba without forcing those in power to change their ways. It’s high time to try something new. We welcome these changes.
While this was the most dramatic shift in U.S.-Cuba policy in more than 50 years, it’s only the beginning. The embargo still exists. It takes a move by Congress, not the President, to remove the embargo. While it will be easier to travel to Cuba, the average American still cannot go. And while authorized travelers to the island can now return to the United States with a meager amount of Cuban goods, the day when we will see Cuban cigars selling in American shops remains in the future. (We look at these changes in depth, and explain what they mean to you, in our Crack In The Embargo story.)
Changes, small as they are, have come to the relationship between our two countries. It’s a day many thought they would never live to see. We look forward to what the future has in store.