It now seems imminent that a dialog between the governments of the United States and Cuba brings to the surface the thorniest of the difficult issues: that the Americans recognize the Cuban leaders as the legitimate rulers of the nation.
From January 1961, when the USA broke off relations, the treatment of Cuba by the different governments of the United States could be compared to the process a negotiator follows when speaking to a kidnapper holding hostages. It’s probably because of this that Raul Castro demanded so emphatically, at the ALBA Summit, that he might discuss everything with the Americans provided it would be on equal terms.
We must recognize that the Cuban side (except in highly ideological speeches), has never treated any American government as a usurper that took or held power against the will of the people. To make this abstraction concrete, Fidel Castro never denied that Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (the father), Clinton, Bush (the son), were not the legitimate presidents of the American people. Nonetheless, they’ve all considered him to be a dictator.
Now, Obama affirms that he’s ready to take relations between the two countries in a new direction and that his administration might discuss a wide range of issues, from human rights to freedom of expression, democratic reforms, drugs and economic issues. For his part, Raul Castro, while gesturing as if he was declaring war, announced a similar agenda when he said he was ready to talk about anything, including political prisoners, human rights, and a free press.
My personal impression is that Raul Castro has chosen Mr. Obama as a valid interlocutor to debate topics he would have to discuss with his opponents, those living in exile or on the Island. To take it further they are internal political issues that would have to be discussed in the bosom of the Communist Party at its next congress or among the deputies in the next session of parliament. I understand it’s necessary to talk to the United States on many issues, like those of migration, controlling drugs in the region, and other more complicated ones such as the confiscated properties or the indemnification claimed by the Cuban government for the damages caused by the blockade, but I don’t imagine the president of my country compromising with the head of a foreign power that he will release prisoners, that he will allow citizens to freely express their opinions, and that he will let them leave the Island whenever they please. I don’t understand it. That is the agenda of the kidnappers when they are going to ask the mediator to find them a fueled airplane at the nearest airport.