A series of editorials published by The New York Times late last year offered a powerful critique of U.S. policy toward Cuba. By shining a critical light on Washington’s decades of missteps, the Times helped influence public perceptions of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.
The first editorial, simply titled “Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba,” urged the administration to remove Cuba from the U.S. State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorist organizations, push Congress to end economic sanctions, and cut a deal to free a USAID worker imprisoned by the Cubans. (So far, only the last of those three tasks has been accomplished.) Timing is everything, the editorial argued. Cuba has already begun a program of economic liberalization. Demographic shifts within the Cuban American community have made it far less costly for U.S. politicians to take a softer stance on Cuba. Publics around the world, particularly in the Western Hemisphere, steadfastly oppose the U.S. embargo. Interestingly, the Times editorial was immediately endorsed by both Fidel Castro, who republished most of it in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, and the well-known Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez.
Subsequent editorials delved more deeply into these arguments and explored other areas, including Washington’s failure to support Cuban doctors serving on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis. One editorial launched a blistering attack on the U.S. policy of regime change, which was codified in the Helms-Burton Act, passed by Congress in 1996. The Times argued that the policy has been counterproductive, stigmatizing dissidents, legitimizing the Cuban government, and jeopardizing the safety and credibility of aid workers and social activists.