The Obama Administration’s Cuban quid pro quo of democratic reforms in the island nation in exchange for increased access to trade and mobility seems to have hit a roadblock:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged from talks with the foreign ministers of nine North and South American countries after an unsuccessful struggle to hash out a compromise that would have granted Cuba membership, provided its regime accepted democratic principles. […]
One after another, the leaders stepped forward to demand that the 47-year-old suspension of Cuba’s membership be lifted immediately. Several condemned it as a relic of the cold war.
On theoretical grounds the White House’s new approach to Cuba still doesn’t really make sense; we have relations with tons of countries with authoritarian leaders and economic structures we don’t approve of, so why not have relations with Cuba? On more pragmatic grounds though I do think this approach has an upside. Cuba-US relations would be a positive sum development for both nations and if we could somehow use the promise of these relations to give more political freedom to Cubans, well that would be pretty great.
However, Latin American leaders seem averse to this trade off and just want the US to stop treating Cuba differently than every other country. Without Latin American support, it’s more likely that Cuba will call the Administration’s bluff and if that happens, we should probably just take a step back, admit that the status quo is idiotic, and agree to start trading with the Cubans, whether or not Havana wants to be nicer to their people.