To the editor: News of the U.S. government opening talks with Cuba on normalizing relations and ending the 54-year embargo is long past due; indeed, it recalls Ronald Reagan's "blue jeans and Coca-Cola" strategy in prying open the Iron Curtain that kept much of Europe under communism until the early 1990s. ("Obama's historic shift on Cuba," Editorial, Dec. 17)
My only fear might be a small one, but as an architect, urbanist and professor of architecture, a thought that unsettles me about this new stage of relations between the two countries is the potential destruction of Cuba's architectural and urban heritage. One need only look to the havoc caused by China's rush over the last few decades to "modernization" — the people displaced, the history plowed under — to foresee a future Cuba looking like just another Florida hotel and shopping mall "development."
The U.S. embargo of Cuba is a textbook-quality failure by any standard, right or left. Let us hope that in opening the diplomatic door, with all its potential benefits to the people of Cuba, we do not destroy a culture in the process
Chuck Crawford, San Diego
To the editor: I visited Cuba (legally) 11 years ago and came away with an appreciation of the vibrancy and friendliness of the Cuban people and a horror at our policy of blockade, an attempt to starve Cuba into submission.
Rather than becoming a lame duck after his party lost control of the both houses of Congress, President Obama obviously now considers himself free to do what he thinks is right regardless of what his conservative opponents believe. After 54 years, it is time to make peace with this island nation, whose politics are similar to China's and Vietnam's.
Obama is certainly building his legacy.
Erica Hahn, Monrovia
To the editor: This new olive branch to the Cuban government, along with the release of political prisoners there, is a sign of compassion and optimism. But beyond those actions, the Cuban government has continually failed to show a willingness to break from their deplorable human rights activities and oppressive political system.
Moving forward, if there's any policy that needs further change, it's Cuba's.
Manny Rodriguez, West Hollywood
To the editor: For decades, U.S. policy toward Cuba has been hijacked by a small cadre of politicos in Florida and their wealthy benefactors.
The U.S. embargo has been estimated to have cost the Cuban economy close to $1trillion over its 54-year span, not to mention the untold suffering inflicted on the Cuban people — and the countless individuals whose lives were lost at sea, induced to emigrate because of privations and embargo-related laws.
Obama's decision is courageous and long overdue.
Luis Suarez-Villa, Irvine
To the editor: In my 90 years on Earth, I have never been prouder of my president. As millions around the world celebrate the season of peace and goodwill toward men, Obama has given it real meaning by starting to restore relations with Cuba.
To those politicians who have built a career on our differences and would hang on to the past, you have my sympathy. To those who believe that what binds us together as a people is greater than what separates us, I salute you.
Hail to the chief.
Phil Wilt, Van Nuys
To the editor: I wish someone would explain why establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba is so outrageous compared to having relations with China.
Carlie Harris, Harbor City
Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion