The islands comprising the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico respectively, not only have deep historical roots, dating to the colonial era, their paths to prosperity may very well be shared. Nowhere more so than in linking Cuba’s rapprochement with the U.S., which is driven by normalizing diplomatic relations combined with decade’s worth of pent up business and tourist interests, with the need to turn around Puerto Rico’s fortunes in a manner palatable to ‘bailout weary’ U.S. policymakers and beneficial to the Puerto Rican and Cuban people. The right policy strategy for the U.S. is not to treat Puerto Rico’s economic crisis, which is now in the hands of U.S. policymakers given the passage of the PROMESA act, and fully normalizing ties with Cuba, including lifting economic sanctions and closing Guantanamo, as two disparate challenges but rather as one opportunity.
Beginning in Cuba, where Havana is currently overwhelmed with a constant barrage of trade delegations from the U.S. mainland where English-speaking representatives from virtually every industry promise economic development in exchange for market access. When combined with managing the aspirations of 11 million Cuban people with the government’s desire to ease into a ‘new normal’ with the U.S. while maintaining their hard-fought independence, will be needlessly strained by the lack of cultural and linguistic similitudes between the counterparties.
Even with the best and most well-intentioned cultural and linguistic translators and the strongest business case, it will be difficult for the Cubans to accept an arrangement with anything less than lingering cold feelings after more than 50 years of mistrust of Yanquis. Despite this lingering suspicion, there is broad acknowledgement in Cuba, driven by the very real effects, including rolling blackouts, of the collapse of Venezuela’s oil-for-influence program, Petrocaribe, that it is time to drive real social and economic change on the island.