President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years this week. He met with the country’s leader, Raúl Castro, and the two held a joint press conference.
Daily Tar Heel reporter Danielle Chemtob sat down with Lars Schoultz, a UNC political science professor and expert in U.S.-Cuba relations, to discuss the United States’ historical precedence in Cuba and the potential impact of the president’s visit.
Daily Tar Heel: The last president to visit was Coolidge in 1928. Why now?
Lars Schultz: If you ask why now, I think in large measure the answer is because there is so much else on the president’s plate. It really takes a big effort. He has gone to Panama to meet Raúl Castro, he has had to get all the legal advice that he possibly could because the embargo is codified as part of law. The question is what can he adjust without getting Congress to change its mind, and he will never get this current Congress to change its mind.DTH: How should the United States address human rights concerns in Cuba?
LS: We have been addressing them. We have been funding the Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy...Until 1991 when the Soviet Union disappeared, our complaint about Cuba was that it was communis...Then in 1991, the Soviet Union disappeared, so as a result, our reason for hostility disappeared. So in 1992 we came up with a new reason, which is that Cuba is not sufficiently Democratic ... First of all it’s very hard to change another country, but second it’s very hard to be friends with a government, the government of Raúl Castro, without somehow acknowledging its legitimacy..