As far as I’m concerned, one of the year’s most important Latin American stories happened last week in China, when the government’s Internet watchdragon, known as the Great Firewall, pulled the plug on Gmail because it’s a subversive instrument of free speech and dissent.
In the process, Beijing affirmed President Obama’s historic decision to pursue a policy of engagement with communist Cuba.
How? By reminding us how hypocritical it was — not to mention a failure — to isolate the Cuban regime for more than half a century while at the same time having backyard barbecues with a Chinese command that’s even more repressive than Havana’s.
Cuban-American hardliners like Florida Senator Marco Rubio will rail against Obama’s move and do everything in 2015 to block it. But for all practical purposes, their time and their strategy — which was built on justified exile anger but not on judicious foreign policy — are over.
That seems especially true after Rubio’s aides last year took a lovely junket to China on Beijing’s tab. It’s unlikely the senator will call for a trade embargo against the People’s Republic after it put the hammer on Gmail last week. And that may be all you need to know about why the United States is finally taking a different approach to Cuba.
Speaking of China, I sat down with Ariel Armony — director of the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies and an expert on the region’s increasingly important relations with Beijing — to assess the seismic Cuba policy shift and the other important stories from Latin America in 2014. It was also a chance to say farewell: Ariel is leaving UM soon to head international studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
To read the rest of this story, go to http://wlrn.org/post/china-proves-obama-right-cuba-and-other-top-latin-america-stories-2014
Tim Padgett is WLRN’s Americas editor.