Right Hooks

Cuba Wields the Soft Power in Dealings With U.S.

By meeting with dissidents in private, he's cowing to the Castros' wishes.

Dan Gilmore · Aug. 14, 2015
The U.S. embassy in Havana, back in the day

The American flag will fly above Havana for the first time in 54 years, as the United States opens its Cuban embassy today and resumes diplomatic relationships with the communist country. Relationship with the Castro regime is still tense. Despite never cashing the decades of rent checks for the use of Guantanamo Bay, Fidel Castro said Thursday the U.S. owes Cuba millions of dollars to compensate for what the Cuban economy lost because of the U.S. embargo. Nevertheless, Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cuba for the flag-raising ceremony. As the Washington Post editorial board says, the Obama administration took a heat gun to the frozen diplomatic relationship in hopes of building a relationship with the country, to exert America’s soft power on the oppressive government. So far, it seems the Castros have exerted more influence on the U.S. than the other way around. The U.S. government did not invite any of the Cuban dissidents struggling against communism and for freedom to the event. Kerry said on the Telemundo network, “That is a government-to-government moment, with very limited space, by the way, which is why we’re having the reception later in the day at which we can have a cross-section of civil society including some dissidents.” By meeting with dissidents in private, he’s cowing to the Castros’ wishes. “Maybe Mr. Kerry can at least leave an empty chair at the ceremony to symbolize the people, and the values, that will be kept outside the fence,” the Post’s editors wrote.

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