What a fabulous symbiosis for me as a commentator on Costa Rica AND Cuba.... Almost 50 years after breaking diplomatic relations with Cuba (suspended in 1961), Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias – a long-time advocate of democracy and human rights -- announced this week that he will re-establish diplomatic relations between the two nations. El Salvador's newly elected president, Mauricio Funes, also said his nation will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba once he takes power.
Meanwhile, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with President Obama this week and called on the United States to end its economic embargo of Cuba.
The U.S. response? Well, Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, visited Central America this week and called Costa Rica's and El Salvador's moves to reestablish relations with Cuba "important."
These are good signs as Vice President Joe Biden prepares to visit Costa Rica for a meeting of Latin American leaders ahead of the Summit of the Americas, scheduled for April 17-19, in Trinidad. There is growing speculation that Obama may use the Summit to announce steps for a rapprochement with Cuba.
Trinidad's Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, says that Cuba (which is not currently a participant in the Summit) will be a focus of the Summit, whose members from Canada to Chile have urged President Obama to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba. According to Shannon, President Obama is indeed reevaluating U.S. policy towards Cuba. "We are intent on engaging all countries constructively," Shannon said, adding that the United States is interested in deeper engagement with countries in the region, including those in which the U.S. is at odds.
“It’s time for more than tough talk that never yields results,” Obama has said. Let's hope he means it.