Approximately two years ago, United States President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro proclaimed the official reestablishment of diplomatic relations between their nations. After decades of embittered disputes, economic sanctions, and general hostility, the two countries have come ever closer to bridging their differences. In the time since, Cuba and the United States reopened embassies on their respective mainlands and oversaw several other achievements: the expansion of aerial and naval transport between the two countries, the increase of agricultural sales to Cuba, and the augmentation of telecommunications services in Cuba. In addition, plenty of agreements involving business opportunities within the countries' private sectors are on the table, with the potential to take effect soon. Many of these efforts are taken up by the Cuba Working Group, a group of Congress lawmakers dedicated to legislating such advances. For the most part, the newfound ties between Cuba and the United States have been received positively on an international scale. The developments been praised domestically as well, as officials from both countries see the new diplomacy as a gradual establishment of democracy in Cuba. However, recent events have cast a shade of uncertainty, including the results of the United States presidential election and the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Now, citizens and leaders are pondering what comes next for the relationship between Cuba and the United States.
Reception for the United States' involvement in Cuba has not been universally enthusiastic. Several parts of the process have been cautious, leaving restrictive policies—such the infamous large-scale embargo on Cuba—mostly intact. There are U.S. government members, some of them Cuban-American, who oppose the easing of relations with Cuba, claiming that little has improved in the country since Raul Castro's brother, Fidel, stepped down from power in 2008. The elder Castro's lengthy regime was notorious for an oppressive ruling structure that led to mass poverty, caused several human rights violations, and galvanized severe tensions with the United States. Since Raul succeeded his brother, he has introduced market reforms that allow for expanded international trade. Still, the Cuban government remains a unitary one-party state, likely due to the continued influence of Fidel upon his brother's policies. This has sparked objections from pro-democracy and pro-capitalistic forces the world over.
However, Raul has stated that he plans on conceding power in February 2018. His likely successor would be Miguel Díaz-Canel, the current First Vice President of the Council of States in Cuba. Díaz-Canel is significantly younger than Raul Castro, a sign that he is likely to persist in gradually establishing democratic reforms. In this case, there would be probable pushback from communist leaders who still hold varying positions of power in Cuba's government. Many of these officials have been consistently suspicious of the U.S. government, and they may seek to resist any drastic changes. Undoubtedly, the adjustments of power in both Cuba and the U.S. are prone to be uneasy processes. If Raul Castro does step down in 2018, incoming President-elect Donald Trump will have only a brief official relationship with the Cuban president before another steps in. Plus, President-elect Trump has been inconsistent with regards to the strength of his stance on Cuba. However, during a campaign speech in Miami, Florida, he claimed that the Cuban government would acquiesce to the demands of the U.S. In addition, some of his cabinet appointees have been highly critical of current policy toward Cuba.
The United States and Cuba have made great strides together over the past few years. Yet, there will certainly be differences in their continued diplomacy. While much of the world clamors for continued progress, the definitive relationship for the two countries is yet to be determined.