Cuban cigar

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THE raising of the Stars and Stripes at the newly reopened United States embassy in Havana (International, 15 August) has a significance that goes beyond Cuban-American relations. It contributes in no small way to a legacy that President Barack Obama may leave in foreign ­affairs.

Many people would expect the last two years of an eight-year presidential term to be for reflection, even inaction, at the White House. But the recent achievements in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, climate-change talks, and now the Cuban rapprochement, should give Mr Obama some cause for satisfaction.

There remain almost intractable problems in the Middle East, still a challenge for his remaining 17 months in office.

Much of his terms of office has been spent trying to balance the influence of vested interests and the Houses of Congress, which will always constrain any US administration.

At times Mr Obama has simply appeared to be soldiering on in a difficult situation, disillusioning many who had such high expectations when he was elected in 2008. The health reforms he has introduced have been attacked in the most vigorous way imaginable but remain largely intact.

He may well have seen it as his primary duty to keep the United States genuinely united but it was often at the expense of a real dent to his radical image. It will take a long time for the suspicions and tensions aroused over more than half century between Havana and Washington to ease.

But the immediate, if small, economic benefits to both nations will be welcome. And we should not delude ourselves that they will in themselves create the liberties may Cubans have yearned for for years.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes, Fife