July 20th, 2015 – Cuba opened its first embassy in the United States soil after almost five and a half decades. The move is seen by many, as a step in the right direction in thawing the frosty U.S. – Cuba relationship that started during the Cold War.
The thawing of the U.S. – Cuba relationship has mainly been attributed to the President Obama administration. By doing so, Obama ventured into diplomatic territory where U.S.’s last ten presidents simply refused to go.
March Hanson, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), said: “In addition to serving as an important symbolic step in the process of normalizing relations, the exchange of embassies will provide an important platform for both countries to engage in serious discussions, including direct talks on human rights.”
As Cuba was reopening its embassy after about 54 years, a U.S. delegation led by Republicans pushed for a bipartisan bill. That will see U.S. telecommunications and Internet company set up shop inside Cuba and install a 21st-century digital infrastructure.
Dubbed the Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act (Cuba DATA Act or H.R. 3055) was first tabled by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT). The bill seeks to help people living in Cuba get internet services. The legislation will fast-track the process of normalization and help Cubans and businesses in Cuba access the digital infrastructure needed for today’s digital world.
Geoff Thale, a director at WOLA program, said, “Just as exchanging embassies will help the US revise its outdated approach towards Cuba for today’s diplomatic realities, expanding internet and telecommunications services will give Cuban citizens more access to information and more economic opportunities. Internet access has become a pillar of the 21st-century global economy, and this bill brings new possibilities for trade and people-to-people engagement.”
The sponsors of the Cuba DATA Act are also rooting for U.S. companies to do business in the Cuban domestic market. As well as partnering with the emerging private sector in the country.
“Not only would our telecommunications companies have the opportunity to upgrade Cuba’s infrastructure, but our farmers and entrepreneurs would be able to conduct business in Cuba utilizing 21st century communication methods,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer.
Both the Republican and Democratic lawmakers show support for the opening of the U.S. – Cuba embassies and they also seem to support the Cuba Data Act. Both sides of the lawmaker see this move as critical in the thawing of the U.S. – Cuba relationship. Hanson had the following to say about the lawmakers from both side of the political divide:
“Increasingly, politicians in both parties are aligning themselves with the American people and their desire for improved U.S. – Cuba relations. The DATA Act repeals outdated policies that restrict American investment in Cuba and is another example that support for updating US policy towards Cuba is growing in Congress. The momentum to lift the embargo on Cuba is picking up steam as Congress heads into the August recess.”
The general public in the U.S. mostly seems to support the establishment of diplomatic ties with Cuba if the poll numbers are anything to go by. The polls revealed two-thirds of Americans were in favor of the U.S. – Cuba diplomatic relationship. In July 9th 2015, a diverse set of organization including WOLA, US Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, the Church World Service, the United States Chamber of Commerce among other 28 human rights groups, faith groups, trade association, and business groups issued a joint statement calling upon Congress to support the establishment of a U.S. embassy in Cuba.