by Mohammad Nazir Tabassum
A prophet of socialism, Fedel Castro, former President of Cuba, prophesied sometimes in 1973:
“The US will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American Pope.”
On Sunday afternoon, 20th March this prophesy turned out to be true when the Black American President Mr Barack Hussein Obama along with the first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, landed at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. And the incumbent pope is Pope Francis, a Latin American who was born in Flores, Argentina.
This was one of the most difficult tasks Obama may have kept on his secret agenda as he would have ascended the stairs of the White House on 20th January 2009 as the first Black American President. He has accomplished that task if not adequately then at least to the extent of breaking the ground. Embargo has always been the most hurting aspect of estranged relations which directly affect the common man. Although Obama expressed optimism that this will go, but he was unable to give a timeframe for that. This is because trade relations and free travelling cannot be restored and sanctions can’t be lifted until the Congress allows that. Now the Congress has a majority of Republicans who are opposed to Obama’s pilgrimage to Havana, there it requires patience till that time when the coming Democratic government could take up that step too.
The world has witnessed that the performance of a Black American President has in no way been less, if not above, than that of the Presidents of other ethnic groups. Just nine months after his inauguration on 20th January 2009, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2009 for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.
During his first two years in the office, he took steps to legislate in response to the Great Recession in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, unemployment insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. His first term will always be remembered for his bold steps to get legislated and implemented the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This was opposed tooth and nail by the big and powerful insurance racket in America who nicknamed this Act as “Obamacare”.
He took landmark steps in the field of foreign policy as well. He ended US military involvement in the Iraq war and increased US troop levels in Afghanistan. Another bold step that he took was to sign NEW START arms control treaty with Russia. His military involvement in Libya opposing and then killing Col. Qadafi is a controversial step opposed by those who are against the interventionism. However, the military operation undertaken by the American Navy Seals on his orders that resulted in killing of Osama bin Laden was hailed by and large.
He has been mostly at odds with the Republicans. It became worse in 2011 when they regained control of the House of Representatives because his Democratic Party lost 63 seats. Thus, there had been a lengthy debate over federal spending and also over whether or not to raise nation’s debt limit. As a result Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Tax payer Relief Act of 2012.
In November 2012, he defeated the Republican nominee Mitt Romney and was thus re-elected and then sworn in for a second term on 20th January 2013. He has been actively engaged in domestic politics during his second term. Thus, he took bold steps in gun control prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He called for greater inclusion of LGBT Americans and his administration filed a case urging the Supreme Court to strike down part of the federal Defence of Marriage Act and State same-sex marriage laws as unconstitutional.
After withdrawal of forces from Iraq in 2011, once again, during his second term, Obama had to order his troops to go to Iraq and fight against the ISIS militancy because this terrorist organization had occupied large areas of both Iraq and Syria. He continued the process of ending US combat operations in Afghanistan. He took initiative to start discussions that ultimately led to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change. The way he brokered a nuclear deal with Iran will always be remembered as an excellent gain by peaceful means. And lastly, his whirlwind visit that aimed to lock in key aspects of his historic overtures to the socialist-run country that will deepen the US-Cuba economic relations was an attempt to send the message that President Raul Castro’s government will sooner or later embrace democratic reforms. That is another thing that Josfine Vidal, director of US affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry remarked: “Cuba will not move one millimetre to try to respond”.