Loneli­est day for the only su­per­power

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

There has been at least one day in each of the past 23 years when the United States has been the most iso­lated coun­try in the world. Those were the days when the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly voted to con­demn its decades-long eco­nomic em­bargo on Cuba.

On Tues­day, the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly again voted over­whelm­ingly, for the 23rd time, con­demn­ing US poli­cies and ac­tions vis-à-vis Cuba. In the 193-na­tion assem­bly, 188 coun­tries voted for the res­o­lu­tion. The two coun­tries that voted against were the same as in pre­vi­ous years, the US and Is­rael. Pa­cific is­land na­tions Palau, Mar­shall Is­lands andMi­crone­sia ab­stained.

It was a day when the US truly found it­self los­ing the moral high ground that it has so skill­fully claimed even when com­mit­ting colos­sal blun­ders. Most US al­lies, from Europe to Asia, have long cho­sen to op­pose it on the Cuba is­sue. Most Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries have vo­cif­er­ously protested against the US pol­icy of ex­clud­ing Cuba from re­gional meet­ings. Many US for­eign pol­icy ex­perts, too, have chided their coun­try’s Cuba pol­icy as be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ridicu­lous. Their hope that US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama would change the Cuba pol­icy has turned into frus­tra­tion.

The majority of Americans are not on the side of their gov­ern­ment ei­ther. A poll by the At­lantic Coun­cil in Fe­bru­ary showed that 56 per­cent of Americans, in­clud­ing those in the po­lit­i­cally crit­i­cal state of Florida, fa­vor a more di­rect US en­gage­ment with Cuba or even nor­mal­iza­tion of re­la­tions. This shows that the US pol­icy to­ward Cuba is against the bid­ding of not just the Cuban peo­ple and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, but also its own cit­i­zens.

Hav­ing vis­ited Cuba three times, I have seen how the coun­try has been grad­u­ally re­form­ing its econ­omy by al­low­ing more pri­vate busi­nesses, set­ting up a spe­cial eco­nomic zone and at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional tourists. While de­scrib­ing Cuba’s col­or­ful cul­ture, ar­chi­tec­ture and peo­ple to Americans, I have some­times seen jeal­ousy in their eyes. As Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, they don’t have the free­dom to travel to Cuba. Americans caught try­ing to visit Cuba could end up spend­ing 10 years in jail and pay­ing $250,000 in fine.

In fact, when I vis­ited KeyWest in Florida last week, I hoped to see Cuba from the shores of the US. For Americans, the dis­tance of 94 miles (151 kilo­me­ter) is like the op­po­site ends of the planet.

Be­foremy trips to the Caribbean na­tion, I was warned not to bring back any­thing, es­pe­cially rum and cigars, from Cuba to the US. So while mo­jito is wildly popular in restau­rants and bars across the US, the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment seems scared that its cit­i­zens, once they taste the real Cuban cock­tail, will put greater pres­sure on it to change its Cuba pol­icy, a left­over from the ColdWar.

The ColdWar­may have ended more than two decades ago, but Amer­i­can politi­cians still live by it. For ex­am­ple, with no ev­i­dence what­so­ever, the US State Depart­ment still has Cuba on the list of state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism. That Cuba played a ma­jor role in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the Colom­bian peace talks with the mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tion FARC is some­thing the US of­fi­cials are blind and deaf to.

At the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly on Tues­day, Cuba was saluted for its ex­em­plary role in as­sist­ingWest African na­tions to fight the deadly Ebola virus. The day was cer­tainly the loneli­est for the US, but no main­stream US me­dia out­let was in­ter­ested in re­port­ing the coun­try’s em­bar­rass­ment at the Gen­eral Assem­bly.

Many ob­servers say Obama is likely to be­come a lame-duck pres­i­dent dur­ing his re­main­ing two years, es­pe­cially with the up­com­ing midterm elec­tion look­ing to go in fa­vor of Repub­li­cans. If Obama wants to prove his crit­ics wrong, he should bring more changes to Amer­i­cas by be­com­ing the US pres­i­dent who ends the more than half cen­tury block­ade of Cuba. The au­thor, based in­Wash­ing­ton, is deputy ed­i­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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