The surprise announcement made by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro on December 17th set in motion a number of key changes in relations between Washington and Havana. There have been high-level talks between officials from both countries and of course Cuba’s historic participation earlier this month in the Summit of the Americas in Panama. Most recently, president Obama decided to remove Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, opening the way towards establishing diplomatic relations. In such a changed context, the session focused on the dynamics in Cuba itself, especially in light of Pope Francis’s announced visit to Cuba before he comes to the US in September. Roberto Veiga and Lenier Gonzalez, who founded and direct Cuba Posible, a research organization and online forum based on Havana, shared some opening remarks, which were followed by a wide-ranging exchange.
2009 has not been a good year for U.S.-Latin America relations. Despite their warm welcome at the April Summit, Latin America’s governments made life more difficult than anticipated for President Obama.
Inter-American relations have taken a disappointing course for the Obama Administration. The US has suffered several political setbacks in the region and little progress has been made on most of the “legacy” issues that Obama inherited.