We are the Americas. Cuba is Jamaica’s closest neighbor, and the United States’ closest neighbor too. The U.S.A. is, I dare say, Jamaica’s most influential neighbor. Today is another historic day for our hemisphere, although there are some tricky obstacles on the horizon (Guantánamo Bay, for example, and the lifting of the trade embargo).
Today the U.S. Department of State released the text of letters between President Raúl Castro and President Barack Obama, re-establishing diplomatic relations after decades of separation. Diplomatic ties were severed in the year of President Obama’s birth – 1961. But the right time has finally arrived. And for those sour Florida Republicans whose noses are now out of joint, I would like to say: There is nothing wrong with creating a legacy. Or would you rather be remembered for doing nothing?
You can read more on the White House blog, but I like President Obama’s comments: “We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can and will change.” Perhaps our own politicians in Jamaica could reflect on this remark.
Here’s the text of the formal letters dated June 30, 2015:
The White House, Washington
His Excellency Raúl Castro Ruz
President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers
Dear Mr. President:
I am pleased to confirm, following high-level discussions between our two governments, and in accordance with international law and practice, that the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba have decided to re-establish diplomatic relations and permanent diplomatic missions in our respective countries on July 20, 2015. This is an important step forward in the process of normalizing relations between our two countries and peoples that we initiated last December.
In making this decision, the United States is encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between our two peoples and governments consistent with the Purposes and Principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, including those related to sovereign equality of states, settlement of international disputes by peaceful means, respect for the territorial integrity and political independence of States, respect for equal rights and self-determination of peoples, non-interference in the internal affairs of States, and promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
The United States and Cuba are each parties to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, signed at Vienna on April 18, 1961, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, signed at Vienna on April 24, 1963. I am pleased to confirm the understanding of the United States that these agreements will apply to diplomatic and consular relations between our two countries.
Consistent with the announcements made on December 17, 2014, and the high-level discussions between our two governments, I am pleased to address this letter to you in order to confirm that the Republic of Cuba has agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations with the United States of America and open permanent diplomatic missions in our respective countries on July 20, 2015.
In making this decision, Cuba is encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between our two peoples and governments.
Cuba is likewise inspired by the principles and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter and International Law, namely, sovereign equality, the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means, to refrain from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or the political independence of any State, non-interference in matters which are within the domestic jurisdiction of States, the development of friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and cooperation in solving international problems and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all.
All of this is consistent with the spirit and the norms established in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of April 24, 1963, which both the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America are Parties to, and will govern diplomatic and consular relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States.
I avail myself of this opportunity to express to you, Mr. President, the assurances of my consideration.
Raúl Castro Ruz
President of the Council of State and of Ministers, Republic of Cuba