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Obama begins to construct his legacy with Cuba move
Thursday December 18, 2014 7:50 PM, EFE

Without the pressure of having to contest another election and with two more years left of his term, US President Barack Obama has begun to construct his legacy with the historic turn towards Cuba.

The announcement came Wednesday of the re-establishment of relations between the US and Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility.

The move marks a new tempo in the Obama government, which has started acting on pending issues which the president championed during his election campaign but did not find support for in Congress.

Reconciliation with Cuba was one of the issues that was conceived at the beginning of his term, Dan Restrepo, Obama's advisor for Latin America between 2009 and 2012, told Efe news agency.

"What happened today (Dec 17) was historic and begins a new and important era, not only in relations between the US and Cuba but also between the US and the rest of the Americas, because it leaves behind characteristics of policies from the last century," Restrepo said.

In addition, the former advisor considered it to be a move by the US showing itself to be a good partner in the region to countries willing to work with it, and leaving behind Washington's ideological politics of past decades.

"When I came into office, I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy," Obama recalled Wednesday while announcing measures that include flexibility in bilateral trade and travel as well as remittances to Cuba from the US.

"Reconciliation with Cuba is obviously going to be a part of President Obama's legacy," said Restrepo, adding that he believed there would more activity on all fronts during the next two years that are left of the president's term.

The announcement comes with the release of US citizen Alan Gross, arrested in 2009 while working to bring internet access to the Jewish community in Cuba and accused by the country's authorities of crimes against the state, whose case was put forward during the reconciliation attempt.

"This has been one of the most important US foreign policy initiatives towards Latin America during Obama's term," Woodrow Wilson Center's Latin American programme director Cynthia Arnson told Efe.

Obama went into action after the Democratic Party defeat in the mid-term elections Nov 4, in which Republicans regained control of both houses of Congress, immediately after which he announced measures to stop the deportation of five million immigrants without documents.

The government took the measures a year and a half after the Senate, controlled by the Democrats, approved the move while the House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, blocked it.

Former Obama advisor David Axelrod said that he believed that before the end of his term, the president would take up difficult issues and do everything in his power to deal with them, according to The New York Times.

Another of his achievements, on which again the opposition disagrees, was reaching an accord with China to reduce emission of greenhouse gases during a bilateral meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing last month.

According to Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership, "Obama is a president in desperate search of a legacy."

Aguilar believes that Obama feels more free as this is his final term and can take decisions that would generate a lot of controversy in Congress, which will be totally controlled by the Republicans from January.




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