We don't hear much about what Latin America thinks of U.S.-Cuban relations normalizing beyond just being relieved that such a ridiculous saga may actually end. Panama, though, is looking closely at it.
Restoring diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba will bring some new tourists and shoppers to Panama, though it won’t be enough to make up for the Brazilians and Colombians staying home, Varela said. He said Copa Airlines has cut flights to Brazil and now has seven daily flights to Havana.
“How the U.S. handles this relationship is going to impact a lot,” Varela said. “We expect this new private sector that is emerging in Cuba to become an important customer for the free zone in Panama. We expect them to travel to our country.”
Panama is in a bind right now because currency slides in Brazil and Colombia have reduced the number of tourists going to Panama.
Fidel Castro famously would send people to shop in Panama and bring him stuff, but it seems premature to talk about a private sector in Cuba that produces a new middle class ready to travel anytime soon. But the basic point is that Latin American leaders are thinking about how they could potentially benefit.