Miguel Fraga, the first secretary of the embassy of the Republic of Cuba, analyzed the dramatic evolution of U.S. and Cuba relations at a lecture Tuesday. Earlier in Fraga’s trip to Ithaca, he received a key to the city from Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, which the secretary said he was “honored to receive on behalf of the Cuban people.”
In his lecture, Fraga focused on how the two countries could mutually benefit from improving their relationship. Just yesterday, President Barack Obama made the contentious decision to appoint an ambassador to Cuba, hoping to improve interactions between the two nations.
“[The United States and Cuba] have a lot of history together, and for that reason we believe that good relations are good for all sides,” Fraga said.
Fraga emphasized that prospects for the two countries have grown increasingly auspicious after last year’s restoration of diplomatic relations.
“[Cuba and the U.S.] are in the best moment in the last 50 years,” he said.
Fraga also said Cuba could provide medical help to the United States and prove an advantageous agricultural market if relations continue to grow friendlier.
The lecturer also listed lifting trade embargoes, removing travel restrictions and returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuba as some key actions that the United States must take to further enhance the U.S.-Cuban bond.
“[Cuba believes] we can’t have normal relations unless we have Guantanamo back because it’s part of our territory,” he said. “This is not about a concession to Cuba. This is about your freedom [to travel to Cuba].”
However, Fraga also stressed that Cuba is not willing to sacrifice its ideology to become more akin to the United States.
“We started this process because we believe that it is an opportunity to have relations with respect,” he said. “But we are not going to change our ideas or principles. […] That is something that is only going to change if the people want it to change.”
When questioned on what role Cuba should play in enhancing relationships between the two countries, Fraga underscored the importance of mutual opportunity.
“I don’t come here to say that we are perfect,” he said. “I don’t come here to say that we are the best country in the world. I come here to say that we have so many things to be proud of and we are ready to work together for the best of both peoples.”
Fraga ended on a hopeful note, expressing a belief that U.S.-Cuban relations will continue to progress.
“For those who want to bring a better future together, we can start today,” he said.
This lecture entitled “A look to U.S.-Cuban Relations, Past, Present and Future” was hosted by the Cornell Law School.