CARBONDALE - The relationship between the United States and Cuba is a web of foreign policy issues, restrictive legislation and potentially profitable markets. Yet some experts feel it is a matter of time before the web begins to untangle.
The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute hosted a symposium Monday at Southern Illinois University's Student Center discussing the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Fulton Armstrong, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's western hemisphere expert and former adviser to President Clinton, was the featured speaker. Armstrong is one of the U.S. government's most knowledgeable and experienced experts on Cuba and has served as an intelligence collector, CIA analyst and in the State Department.
Armstrong said issues with Cuba should be met with action and not just addressed in think tanks.
"Cuba is an issue crying out for bipartisan solutions," Armstrong said. "I've never seen an issue as challenging analytically as the Cuban issue because it's what we call a denied area."
Armstrong believes that the U.S. is tied historically to Cuba, and whether we like it or not, we've had a significant impact on Cuba. He said he believes the relationship is slowly improving, but old ideas need to evolve in order for a normal relationship to emerge and a policy change to take effect.
"It's not just a great issue to work, but I think the rewards of fixing this policy are potentially rich," Armstrong said.
Doug Farquhar, a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures, participated in the symposium and represented state's issues within the U.S.-Cuban relationship. Farquhar said in his experience working with states, he has observed that they are comfortable with a warming of the policy and working to remove some of the barriers that prohibit trade with Cuba.
"They don't care what your party is, they don't care where you're coming from, they really want to be able to get the opportunity to open up this trading route," Farquhar said. "They have people who need to increase their markets."
Cindy Buys, an associate professor at the SIU School of Law, said she believes from a business perspective that the trade embargo and resulting relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is hurting America.
"The economic sanctions against Cuba are some of the most inefficient economic sanctions or programs that I've seen," Buys said. "It has harmed our relations with Europe and it has harmed our relations with Canada because they believe we are inhibiting their ability to do business with Cuba."
Although normalization of the U.S.-Cuba relationship may require too much of a shift in policy, Armstrong believes that some of the changes that have taken place are a step in the right direction.
"We've changed the focus of the policy away from the old man, Fidel, to the people; away from the past, the grudges, to the future; away from political interests to national interests."