Earlier this week, President Obama made a strong but cautious diplomatic gesture to Cuba. As reported by the New York Times:

In abandoning longstanding restrictions on the ability of Cuban-Americans to visit and send money to family members on the island, President Obama demonstrated Monday that he was willing to open the door toward greater engagement with Cuba — but at this point, only a crack.

The announcement represents the most significant shift in United States policy toward Cuba in decades, and it is a reversal of the hard line taken by President George W. Bush. It comes as Mr. Obama is preparing to meet later this week in Trinidad and Tobago with Latin American leaders, who want him to normalize relations with Cuba and its leader, Raúl Castro.

The White House made clear on Monday that Mr. Obama, who campaigned on improving relations with Cuba, was not willing to go that far, at least not yet. Rather, the steps he took were modest, reflecting the complicated domestic politics around Cuba and the unpredictability of the Cuban response.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll showed strong public support for  even bolder steps:

According to the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted April 3 to 5, 64 percent of the 1,023 Americans surveyed by telephone thought the U.S. government should allow citizens to travel to Cuba.

And 71 percent of those polled said that the U.S. should reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, while 27 percent opposed such a move.

Well, Cuba has responded, and Secretary of State Clinton is indicating that this may be the beginning of a real thaw. According to the Associated Press:

Within hours, Castro responded with Cuba's most open offer for talks since the Eisenhower administration, saying he's ready to discuss "human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners -- everything." Cuban officials have historically bristled at discussing human rights or political prisoners, of whom they hold about 200.

The United States fired back Friday, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offering: "We welcome his comments, the overture they represent and we are taking a very serious look at how we intend to respond."

And OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said he would ask the 34 member nations to invite Cuba back into the fold. Analysts doubted Insulza -- known for his political caution -- would have done so without a nod from Washington.

Behind the careful choreography, it appears that real change may be in the works. Shattering a half century of failed American policy towards Cuba. Thus far, everyone is doing what they need to be doing. And the move by Insulza suggests that much more is taking place behind the scenes.

Originally posted to Laurence Lewis on Fri Apr 17, 2009 at 02:45 PM PDT.

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