Caribbean people will celebrate for years to come the emerging reality that their Cuban brothers and sisters are starting a new life as members of their regional family, fully engaging with the region and the world on an equal basis with citizens of all other countries.
From now on, Cuba’s future will depend more effectively on its ability to manage its own affairs, without being “restrained” by an embargo that severely limited its access to international trade and investment as well as its access to international financial transactions and to international financing systems managed by governmental and private sector agencies.
The recent announcement by the presidents of Cuba and the United States that they have agreed to move to the “normalization” of their relations represents a monumental development in Caribbean and hemispheric affairs that also has significant international implications.
What will this mean for the day-to-day lives of the Cuban people? Will their standard of living improve? Will their personal and professional future be brighter? Will the Cuban economy as a whole grow significantly, perhaps at an annual rate above 8% for the next decade? How will Cubans react to greater access to international goods and services, to easier international travel and to a more open two-way flow of news, information and opinions between Cuba and the international community?
As for the Cuban government authorities, their focus will be on the expansion of the tourism industry, attracting more foreign investment in a range of areas, and further diversifying the economy into energy, agriculture, agro-industry and pharmaceuticals.
Given their impressive successes in health, education, and medical science in spite of their very harsh circumstances, we can be sure they will manage quite well their transition to the more empowered economy they will soon experience.
And what will all of this mean for us here in Canada and in the Caribbean, both as Canadians and as persons of Caribbean ancestry? We are likely to be more exposed to Cuban talent in culture and the performing arts (music, dance and art), to Cuban immigrants, students and highly qualified personnel (especially in the health sector) and even to opportunities to work in Cuba.
Our business communities will do even better. Bearing in mind that both Canada and the independent countries of the Caribbean have maintained decades of political, economic and technical cooperation ties with Cuba, we are well positioned to engineer our share of the Cuban market for our goods and services.
It is also our hope and prayer that the government of Canada will be equally positive and supportive, beyond the obvious need to promote our business interests in Cuba. The ideological differences are a reality but need not be a stumbling block.
In fact, the attitudes of a large number of foreign governments will have a significant effect on Cuba’s development and its international relations in the economic and political fields. Foremost in this regard will be the U.S. where the conflict between the Democratic president and the Republican Congress is critically relevant. China can play a more positive role than Russia, though the wily Russian president may be more unsettling for American interests in Cuba.
Who will be Cuba’s most reliable new and not so new friends? The answer is: those countries that are most disposed to respecting Cuba’s political identity and its evolving “systems”. Those who recognize the disastrous results of supposing that their own Western concepts of democracy are equally appropriate for Cuba. We dare to suggest that such misguided suppositions are at the root of Western countries’ failed interventions in the Middle East.
Therefore, it is not by chance that there is a defining role here for the neighbouring countries of the Caribbean and for the major emerging powers known as BRICSA: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
For the first time in several decades, the Cuban people and the Cuban government will be “free” to take their destiny into their own hands. We, as fellow Caribbean people, must accompany and support them on their new and exciting journey!