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After dramatic 2011 in Cuba, will US-Cuban policy shift in 2012?

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In April, the Cuban Communist Party held their Sixth Party Congress and reviewed the terms of a great number of economic reforms whose implementation has proceeded during the course of the year. Yet in the fall, the US stood nearly solo at the United Nations as the world voted against the US embargo on Cuba. Washington put Cuba again on its list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” though the evidence to support the designation has withered.

This week, President Castro pardoned 2,900 prisoners in advance of the Pope’s visit to the island in 2012, noting that many of the pardoned were first-time offenders, youths, or inmates over 60 or suffering from illness. Yet here we are at the close of the year, and the Obama administration is still apparently convinced that the release of political prisoners in Cuba and the drastic economic changes underway are not enough to qualify as the “change” that would merit a significant bilateral discussion.

Asi es la vida for Cuba-watchers. The most unexpected event of this year was not a “happening” at all: it is the lack of movement forward in Washington on Cuba issues, and the continuing age-old tendency to cater to the conservative Miami Cuban-American base — a demographic that is changing and adapting its views to new developments in Cuba more so than Congress and the current administration, it seems. We expected more this year, despite the myriad of other global challenges faced by the US. Washington has found time recently to take a fresh look at Myanmar, but still not at our close neighbor Cuba.

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