Time to start new foreign relations based on solidarity between nations.

18 December 2014

Nino Pagliccia

the Five free
The Cuban Five free in Cuba

I feel an overwhelming joy for the families of the three remaining prisoners of the Cuban Five, Gerardo, Ramon and Tony. They are finally reunited after 16 long years of painful separation. I think of Adriana who has not seen her husband since he was imprisoned. I try to imagine a Cuba free of the inhuman 53 year long blockade. I try to imagine what this new Cuba-US relationship will look like. What I read from the agreement just disclosed is encouraging but then there is the reality of foreign policy. It is too soon to do an analysis of the events of today. Today I rejoice and celebrate. Allan Gross’ family also needs time to celebrate.

I like to believe that none of this would have been possible without the steady and consistent solidarity work of so many around the world. But first, thanks to the Cubans from Fidel to Raul to Alarcon. Fidel Castro had promised that the Five would come back. And he has been good to his word. Raul Castro has been the catalyst that made it happen. But Ricardo Alarcon, in my view, gets the deserved credit for having been the “organizer” of the world movement for the Cuban Five. The solidarity movement for the Five has grown exponentially over the years as the legal recourse was getting exhausted.

We will never know how much the different players have contributed. But I like to think that solidarity has had a major role. It must have. Governments are forever watchful of public opinion and often they reluctantly have to listen. I like to thank the Cuba solidarity movement in the world.

We have now also learned that Canada surprisingly has played a role as a host country to the US-Cuba negotiations, and Pope Francis also wisely intervened.

And yes, I would also like to thank Mr. Obama for having taken this long overdue step. The action has been late in coming but it is welcome nonetheless. The real motivation behind the action only time will tell.

If there was any hope of restarting foreign relations between the U.S. and Cuba it had to involve the Cuban Five and Allan Gross. It was necessary to free them even if there are different opinions about the two cases and the fairness of the “swap” considering what the men were up to.

However, it is not too soon to reflect (and hope) on the potential of the agreement reached by two neighbour countries after almost 55 years of diplomatic and political animosity. What will a U.S.-Cuba relation without a blockade look like? Will the U.S. want to go back to the pre-revolution years?

I believe that it is rare for a nation to have the opportunity to start a relationship with another nation afresh. The U.S. has this opportunity today. And I say the U.S. because Cuba has been ready for quite sometime and has laid out the basic rule of this relationship: Mutual respect.

Cuba is no threat to the U.S. Cuba has showed willingness to cooperate on all actions leading to peace, equality and wellbeing. Cuba has been an effective and trusted political mediator. Cuba has proven to be effective in relief of hardship caused by devastations, be it natural disasters or epidemics.

The U.S. must take advantage now to show the world that it is willing to change its foreign policy. This is a unique opportunity to establish a model relationship based on mutual respect and not on military might. The U.S. must take the example of people-to-people international relations based on solidarity as well as Cuba’s practice of solidarity with many countries in the world. For a lasting world peace the U.S. must embrace solidarity as a tool of its foreign relations.
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Nino Pagliccia

NINO PAGLICCIA has two Master’s Degrees from Stanford University and is a retired researcher on Canada-Cuba collaborative projects at the University of British Columbia. He has published many peer-reviewed journal articles and has contributed chapters to books on topics about Cuba, the Cuban healthcare system and solidarity. He has been a long-time activist and has organized groups to do voluntary work in Cuba for almost 15 years.

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