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  • Cuba's Relations with Latin America
  • Carlos Oliva Campos (bio) and Gary Prevost (bio)

in the summer of 2015, cuba reestablished full diplomatic relations with the United States after a hiatus of more than 50 years. That event, which included the reopening of the US embassy in Havana by US Secretary of State John Kerry, marked the full integration of Cuba into hemispheric affairs, as Cuba now has full diplomatic relations with each country in the hemisphere. This new situation is a far cry from the 1960s, when Cuba's relations, following the 1959 revolution and a US embargo, were limited to Mexico and Canada. The renewed diplomatic ties with Latin American countries began in the 1970s and culminated in full diplomatic relations with El Salvador in 2009.

The changing relations between the United States and Cuba must be understood in the context of how Cuba's relations with Latin America have evolved, especially over the course of the last 20 years. The election of leftist Mauricio Funes to the Salvadoran presidency in 2009 and the subsequent reestablishment of relations were simply the culmination of a long process of reintegration. This article will argue that it was Cuba's reintegration into Latin American diplomatic circles that played a part in convincing the Obama administration that its nonrecognition of Cuba was becoming a serious obstacle to good US-Latin American relations.

The US isolation on its Cuba policy was painfully evident to US President Barack Obama at the Summits of the Americas in Trinidad and Colombia in 2009 and 2012. As the scheduled 2015 summit [End Page 487] in Panama approached, Latin American presidents made clear to the Obama administration that they would not attend the conference if Cuba's president, Raúl Castro, were not invited. The joint US-Cuban statements on December 17, 2014, and the subsequent presence of President Castro at the Summit, underscored that Cuba was now fully engaged in Latin American affairs and was emblematic of a new reality for Cuba in the hemisphere. That reality also includes a vibrant Cuban presence in multilateral forums such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples' of Our America (ALBA).

Another important marker of Cuba's renewed role in the region has been its role for more than four years as the activist host of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolution Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which culminated in a peace accord that, following its approval by the Colombian congress in December 2016, appears to have brought an end to Latin America's longest-running civil war.

Cuba's process of reintegration began as early as the 1970s, when the Organization of American States (OAS) voted to lift the mandatory multilateral sanctions it had imposed on Cuba in 1964. But clearly, the final chapter of the long process of reinstating Cuba in the regional community started with the beginning of the so-called post–Cold War period. It was a great paradox for Cuba that this period was initiated when its economy collapsed as a result of its very close and longstanding relations with the USSR and the Eastern European bloc. Cuba's isolation would likely have ended at some point but the end of the Cold War clearly hastened the process. This is why it is important to review some of the events that directly influenced the redesigning of the new hemispheric scenario and, consequently, contributed to the radical changes that paved the way to the present sociopolitical realignment of Latin America. The full reinstatement of Cuba into the regional community took place in this new context. [End Page 488]


First in this sequence of events were the changes in the global foreign policy agenda of the United States with regard to Latin America and the Caribbean. It is generally acknowledged that as part of the transformations of the new international context, Latin America and the Caribbean took a back seat in US priorities because other regions, like the Middle East and Asia, had precedence. This did not mean, as some wrongly believed, that the region...