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President Obama Meets With Raul Castro In Historic Meeting

In a historic meeting over the weekend president Obama met with Cuban president Raul Castro in Panama at the Summit of the Americas. This is the first time that an American president and a Cuban leader have met since Dwight Eisenhower met with dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1957. The two discussed the thaw in relations between the two nations that began in December when they announced that they would seek to normalize relations between the two countries. Cuba and the United States have been bitter foes since Raul Castro and his brother Fidel overthrew the American-backed Batista in 1959. Castro and Obama met for over an hour and reportedly had a fruitful meeting. Castro said,

“Our governments will continue to have differences. At the same time, we agreed that we can continue to take steps forward that advance our mutual interests.”

Of primary interest for Castro is the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The U.S. State Department sent a report to Obama on Thursday announcing their findings that Cuba no longer sponsors terrorist groups. Obama has intimated that he intends to remove Cuba from the list in exchange for some changes on the island as far as freedom of speech and human rights. The other major issue is the trade embargo that the United States has imposed on Cuba since 1961. Obama has said that he would like to lift the trade embargo but ultimately only congress can do that. It’s going to be a tough sell for the Republican controlled congress. Though many Republicans like Rand Paul have said that they would support lifting the embargo. The truth is that there is still a long way to go until things are normal but this is definitely a positive step. This is going to be Obama’s “Nixon goes to China” moment.

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