Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ANALYSIS ; Much Uncertainty Ahead in US-Cuba Relationship

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ANALYSIS ; Much Uncertainty Ahead in US-Cuba Relationship

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Fidel Castro's passing removes what was long the single greatest psychological barrier to a warmer U.S.-Cuba relationship. But it also adds to the uncertainty ahead with the transition from an Obama to a Trump administration. "A brutal dictator" of a "totalitarian island," declared President-elect Donald Trump, underscoring the historical trauma still separating the countries.

A more restrained President Barack Obama, carefully promoting and working to preserve his own attempt to rebuild those ties, said history would assess Castro's impact and that the Cuban people could reflect "with powerful emotions" about how their longtime leader influenced their country.

In death as in life, Castro has divided opinion: a revolutionary who stood up to American aggression or a ruthless dictator whose movement trampled human rights and democratic aspirations.

President Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, is 85. Their Communist Party shows no signs of opening up greater political space despite agreeing with the United States to re-establish embassies and facilitate greater trade and investment.

As Obama leaves office in January, his decision to engage rather than pressure Havana in the hopes of forging new bonds could quickly unravel. Trump has hardly championed the effort and Republican leaders in Congress fiercely opposed Obama's calls to end the 55- year-old U.S. trade embargo of the island.

"We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families and of the Cuban nation, Obama said. …

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