Contributing factors in the resumption of the diplomatic relations between United States and Cuba during Obama’s administration (2009-2017)

Term Paper, 2019

21 Pages, Grade: 1,3


List of contents

1. Introduction.

2. Resumption of the diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba
2.1 Relationship and diplomatic relations USA-Cuba between 1989 and 2009.
2.2 Political rapprochement of the Obama’s government (2009-2017)

3. Theories (Hypothesis development).
3.1 Liberalism
3.2 Constructivism

4. Analysis (Hypothesis testing).
4.1 Liberalism.
4.1.1 Role of soft power in the enhancement of cooperation and multilateralism
4.1.2 Commercial liberalism – economic opening and democracy promotion
4.1.3 Impact of economic cooperation and international organizations in the regional integration
4.2 Constructivism
4.2.1 Role of national identity and political ideology in international cooperation
4.2.2 Incompatibility of values, principles and norms as obstacle for the strengthening of civil society and the respect of human rights

5. Conclusion.

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba have been deeply shaped by several political and especially ideological tensions since the 20th century. The U.S foreign policy to- wards Cuba in the last decades has been characterized by hard-power measures such as sanctions and restrictions. However, a milestone in the history of the continent has been placed by Obama's government, which achieved a historical rapprochement with the Cuban government of Castro. Both U.S and Cuba don't know the ultimate outcome of the normalization process that started during the Obama's administration; nevertheless, they expect to move even more toward a friend- ly relationship despite the changes in the Cuba-foreign policy in the current times. This paper at- tempts to analyze which factors played a significant role in the resumption of the diplomatic rela- tions between the United States and Cuba during Obama's administration (2009-2017).

In order to determine which aspects were crucial for the attainment of this historical event, the most important arguments from the commercial liberalism and the constructivist theory should be examined. On one side it should be analyzed whether some of the structural changes and eco- nomic developments brought with the end of the Fidel Castro era had a significant impact on the shift in the U.S foreign policy toward Cuba and favored the resumption of the diplomatic rela- tions with Cuba. On the other hand, it should be discussed which disparities and similarities in the national identities, and values of both countries, which root in very diverse historical events; may have contributed to a political rapprochement.

Quantitative data that supports or refutes the hypothesis of the investigation was obtained from primary data sources such as reports and surveys carried out by international organizations and institutions. These statistics may serve as proof of particular developments and tendencies ob- served in regard to the resumption of the diplomatic relations of both countries in the last few years. After determining which particular factors were the most influential in the resumption of the diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, it should be concluded if either the commercial liberalism or the constructivism is more appropriate to analyze this particular case in the international politics.

The development of the diplomatic relations between Cuba and the USA has been widely re- searched in the field of political science. Hoffmann (2015) focuses on the Obama policy toward Cuba, emphasizing on the challenges that Cuba is facing at that time and relates basic concepts of the liberal theory, such as the role of international organizations and integration. Gonzales (2004) points out the perspectives of Cuban politics after the Castro era and highlights the aspects that may play in favor or against of a democratic transition in the island. The liberalist and construc- tivist theories of international relations have also been subjects of a broad investigation. Williams (2012) presents the most important assumptions of the liberalism and relates them with some as- pects of the Cuban-American relations. While Schimmelfennig (2017) introduces the most im- portant arguments of both theories, Moravcsik (1997) provides more information about the branch of commercial liberalism, and Wendt (1995) lays out constructivism as an alternative the- ory for analyzing the behavior of actors in the international system, based on their preferences and identities. The main premises of constructivism help to analyze the research question, how- ever, the state of research evidences a major focus on the economic field and emphasizes mostly on the liberal assumptions.

2. Resumption of the diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba

2.1 Relationship and diplomatic relations USA-Cuba between 1989 and 2009

Since the end of the Cuban revolution, one of the most important historical events that have taken place in the American continent, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been shaped by several ideological differences and political tensions. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost its most important partner, while the United States strengthened its power posi- tion. The victory of America over the communist block doubtless changed the international order and the political environment, favoring the spread of the western democratic values. As a result of this ideological victory, the USA had to rethink its foreign policy toward Cuba in order to promote a democratic transition in the socialist country.

During the George H.W Bush administration, the Cuban Democracy Act was introduced in 1992. This political measure led to the intensification of the embargo that was originally imposed a few decades before. As a result of that, the political tension between both countries increased and in- tensified an internal political debate regarding the foreign policy toward the Latin-American country (vgl. Schwob 2009: 48). In 1996 the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act was signed as one further attempt to put an end to the Castro’s mandate and support a democratic transition in the country. The hardliners of the interest group played an important role in this pro- cess (vgl. Dominguez 2008: 65). As it states on the Report of an Independent Task Force Spon- sored by the Council on Foreign Relations, promoted by Clinton's administration in 1999; Cuba received several recommendations regarding the strengthening of the civil society and the respect for human rights as vital steps for the promotion of democracy in Cuba. The Independent Task Force on US-Cuban relations pretended to improve the relationship between both countries and move towards a possible resumption of the diplomatic relations.

According to Dominguez (2008), a crucial step in the Cuban foreign policy was made during the Bush administration, as Raul Castro took over the presidency of Cuba in 2006. In his first speech, he stressed the willingness of the Cuban government to resolve the longstanding dispute between both states. In the context of this political shift, the U.S government recognized the importance of the economic openness by the Cuban regime as an important factor for a democratic transition in the island. With some adjustments in the Cuban foreign policy, the USA attempted to play a more participative role in the Cuban transformation process.

2.2 Political rapprochement of Obama's government (2009-2017)

Obama’s position regarding the diplomatic relations with Cuba in the last decades opposed the adoption of hard-power measures and aggressive interventionism. The rapprochement attempted by the Obama administration was highly motivated by the symbolic and strategic significance of the island in the Latin-American continent. Cuba was seen as a key factor in the process of re- building the diplomatic ties to some countries of the region and expanding the U.S-leadership in the hemisphere. A resumption of the economic and diplomatic relations would also improve the chances of establishing new partnerships for both Cubans and Americans (vgl. Hoffman 2015: 1- 3).

The shifts in the foreign policy toward Cuba made under the Obama doctrine rooted in the prin- ciple of involvement and seek of agreement, as far as they did not bring risk to the USA. Moreo- ver, there was a greater emphasis on multilateralism, cooperation, support of international organi- zations and the use of “soft power” (vgl. Laciński 2015: 5). This policy demonstrates that the United States have continued to play an important role in the promotion of democracy and the market economy. “Obama repeatedly stressed its essence as forging new global relationships on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect” (Singh 2012: 47).

Additionally, the Obama administration attached high importance to the concept of “public de- mocracy”. “It could be defined, following Joseph Nye, as an instrument of soft power, which in turn implies ‘the exchange of people and ideas to build lasting relationships and receptivity to a nation’s culture, values, and policies” (Badella 2015: 17). Not only did the reformations regard- ing the remittances and family travel serve as forms of public democracy, but also the financial support of more academic and cultural exchanges helped to reduce the information blockade on the island. These factors also strove to support the civil society in Cuba and expand its political engagement and communication with the outside world.

Hoffman (2015) affirms that this process was also accompanied by an increasing interaction be- tween political, economic and social actors in both countries. Through the “policy of relaxation” of Obama, which includes an improvement in the communications, Internet and travel in Cuba; the United States pretended to increase the scope of action for social groups that contribute to a democratic transition in the island. This would help to make significant steps in the direction of a broad political, economic and social transformation. This also may reflect how the USA gradual- ly changed their strategy of legitimizing the foreign policy toward the island in order to increase its acceptance among the Cuban government and society. Through the support of internal opposi- tional structures and social groups, the Obama administration sought to include broader parts of the Cuban society in the reconciliation process (vgl. Pérez 2017: 570). In this way, the transfor- mation would go beyond the political sphere and gain greater support among the Cuban commu- nity.

According to Laciński (2015), both countries made an additional step in the diplomatic matter and agreed to establish a bilateral commission in 2015, in which human rights, security issues, and economic claims would be addressed and discussed. The cooperation between both admin- istrations attempted to bring solutions to common challenges such as terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, cyber-attacks, and other cross-border crimes.

Obama’s “policy of relaxation” helped to increase international involvement and led to signifi- cant advances in regard to trade, communication, internet and travel. The reforms on travel, trade and remittance regulations carried out on January 2015 brought an increase of 36% within the first five months on the number of U.S travelers to the island (vgl. Sweig 2016: 299).

Badella (2015) concludes that the most significant steps towards the resumption of the bilateral relations were the reformations on the family travel policy on December 2014, Cuba’s participa- tion in the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 2015; Cuba’s removal from the list of countries sponsoring international terrorism on May 2015; and finally the opening of the Embas- sies in each country one month later.

3. Theories (Hypothesis development)

3.1 Liberalism

Some of the liberal theory’s main assumptions could be appropriate to explain why the United States resumed the diplomatic relations with Cuba. Especially the fact that economic incentives may reinforce cooperation and promote peace could be one important argument in the case of study. Other important premises will be examined in more detail in the following chapters.

As mentioned in previous chapters, the political relations between both countries have been shaped by a pregnant ideological confrontation. This has considerably influenced in the estab- lishment of contrary economic and political systems that due to diverse historical circumstances continued to be very antagonistic for decades. Considering that since the end of the Cold War there was no longer any ideological rival like the Soviet Union, the United States have succeeded in legitimizing and expanding their concepts of market economy and democracy.

Both countries clearly differ in their political and economic beliefs, however, several changes and challenges brought by the globalization and the expansion of the telecommunications have forced Cuba to rethink its economic policy in order to adapt to the changing conditions. Cuba lost its most important partner after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has failed since then to estab- lish strong economic and political ties to western countries. This isolation policy has clearly hin- dered its development in nearly every aspect. The necessity of adopting a different system that suits the upcoming challenges seemed to be recognized and accepted after the end of Fidel Cas- tro’s presidency. The end of the Cuba era was expected to put an end to an entire chain of institu- tional problems and make some room for political reform. With the presidency of Raul Castro since 2008, Cuba and the world hoped for a slow transformation process in the political and eco- nomic matter; making new partnerships possible and enhancing the cooperation with other inter- national actors.

The United States would be also benefited from economic reforms in Cuba. On the one hand, the resumption of economic and diplomatic relations with the communist country may strengthen their economic ties with other countries of the region, and also reinforce their leadership in the democracy promotion. Additionally, the U.S industry and some particular interest groups that in- fluence the foreign policy toward Cuba may also obtain significant benefits. The willingness of Cuba of reopening their economic system has increased the chances for partnership and coopera- tion with the USA. With the first reform package in 2011 and other reforms being in considera- tion; but most importantly, with a shift in the rhetoric from the Cuban government; the USA may have recognized the advantages of taking a new approach in the relations with the island. The Obama doctrine in regard to Latin America, with an emphasis on cooperation, multilateralism and partnership may also be an indirect result of the reforms and changes carried out during the last few years in the socialist country.

In this transition process, the role of international institutions and organizations may play a role as an intermediary between the United States and Cuba and favor cooperation and dialogue. Moreover, diverse social groups are expected to find more participation opportunities in order to advocate their ideas and uphold their interests. These social structures may also exert extra pres- sure on the Cuban government and help to materialize the willingness for openness and reform. Cuba has recognized the importance of reintegrating in world politics and in the economic sys- tem. This may be one vital step toward the democratic transition that the United States and the western hemisphere have been trying to promote since the end of the Cold War.

3.2 Constructivism

The constructivist theory represents a very different perspective in international politics as liber- alism, as it stresses the role of national identity and shared values and norms in the strengthening of cooperation. Regarding the resumption of the diplomatic relations with Cuba from a construc- tivist reasoning, there may be fewer arguments that support this hypothesis.

Cuba and the United States have had a very different historical development, which has lead to the establishment of different political systems and the constitution of very divergent national identities. Particular historical events, like the Cuban Revolution, have played an enormous role in the identity formation process of the Cuban society. Fidel Castro’s political affiliation helped to increase the political tensions between both countries for decades. Additionally, the ideological differences also contributed to extending the already existing confrontation during the times of the Cold War. As Cuba formed part of the rival block and shared interests, values and principles with the "enemy", the chance of political reconciliation with the island declined dramatically.


Excerpt out of 21 pages


Contributing factors in the resumption of the diplomatic relations between United States and Cuba during Obama’s administration (2009-2017)
University of Regensburg  (Lehrstuhl für Internationale Politik)
Grundkurs: Einführung in die Internationale Politik
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
International Politics, diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba, Liberalism, Constructivsm
Quote paper
Daniela Forero Nuñez (Author), 2019, Contributing factors in the resumption of the diplomatic relations between United States and Cuba during Obama’s administration (2009-2017), Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Contributing factors in the resumption of the diplomatic relations between United States and Cuba during Obama’s administration (2009-2017)

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free