Julia Sweig, the Council on Foreign Relations' Latin America expert, and also my special aquarium friend, just published a bracing op-ed about American paralysis re: a rapidly-changing Cuba:

No one can say for sure what kind of model is emerging in Cuba, and political reform remains distant. But a hybrid of market, state, local and foreign capital has the potential to unleash the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial energy of Cuba's talented and well-educated citizens.

The rest of the world has been laying the groundwork to participate in the new Cuba since well before Fidel Castro stepped down. China, Venezuela and Russia, along with American friends like Spain, Canada, Brazil and even Israel, are investing in Cuban oil, minerals, tourism, infrastructure, agriculture and biotech.

Even while lodging their objections over human rights, most member states of the European Union now have a toehold in the Cuban economy. Cuba has agreed to allow the European Union to open a business school in Havana and extend a small but politically significant first tranche of $2.5 million in microcredits to the emerging private economy.

As it was after the near-total release of Cuba's political prisoners this year, the Obama White House seems nearly immobilized in the face of these reforms -- the very steps this and previous administrations have demanded as preconditions for a new policy toward Cuba.


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