By Madalena Araujo, CNN
It is time for the Obama Administration to improve the long-strained relations with Cuba, Ernesto Londoño, a member of the New York Times' editorial board, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Thursday.
“I think we've entered a new era and I think the months ahead represent an opportunity for the Obama Administration to take a pretty bold move and to move this relationship in a direction that I think the president himself has long wanted to take it.”
The New York Times, arguably America's most important newspaper, has taken a very public stand calling for the end of the decades-old economic blockade of Cuba.
“I think reforms in Cuba and the political landscape in the United States offer the right conditions for this relationship to move on a healthier trajectory, for the two countries, for instance, to think about resuming formal diplomatic relations.”
Londoño joined Amanpour from the Cuban capital Havana, following a series of editorials Cuba-focussed editorial in the paper. The more than 50-year embargo was a Cold War measure implemented by the U.S. in 1960 when Fidel Castro, a friend of the then-Soviet Union, came to power.
Londoño said the paper had always seen the policy, which restricts travel and bans trade, “as a failed policy.”
“The purpose of the policy we've pursued for 50 years, the purpose has been to try to undermine and bring about democratic change in Cuba through punitive measures. We have five decades of evidence that that policy does not work.”
So how would the U.S. benefit from changing its attitude towards Cuba apart from, if ultimately successful, bringing about democratic change?
“There's a number of things,” Londoño said. “Perhaps most importantly the United States has found itself diplomatically very isolated in the hemisphere. Cuba keeps coming up in any number of issues that they want to engage on with countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Central America.”
“Every time there's a diplomatic forum, every time there's a regional effort underway, a lot of these - a lot of these countries are telling the United States we disagree vehemently with your policy in Cuba and Cuba becomes the thorn that stymies many things the U.S. would like to try to do.”
The journalist told Amanpour that “the Cuban government has undertaken a number of really significant economic reforms. There is a small and limited private sector that is cropping up.”
“And for the first time in a very long time, it's given Cubans an opportunity to start building livelihoods that are somewhat separate from the state, where the state does not have absolute control over their livelihoods.”
Londoño, who is in Cuba for the first time in ten years writing and researching the editorials, said he also notices a “far less vitriolic rhetoric from the Cuban government, from the Cuban state media toward the United States.”
“We've stopped seeing the kind of demonstrations in front of the U.S. diplomatic mission here. So I think they've sent an unmistakable signal that they want to turn a new page.”