Cuba and the United States took a huge step forward this week when the two nations signed a memorandum of understanding designed to foster closer collaboration on health care matters.

The occasion: a visit to the United States by Cuba’s minister of health, Dr. Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda. The Cuban official reviewed and inked the agreement with Sylvia Burwell, secretary of Health and Human Services.

It’s the latest official bond forged between the two countries as they attempt to set aside decades of stubborn opposition to one another. Normalization of relations can be spotted in acts large and small, from this week’s health care bonding to the sale by the United States of 15,200 metric tons of soy oil to Cuba earlier this month.

Burwell noted that Cuba’s record on health care has been impressive for a small nation. Not only does the government offer universal health care to all its citizens, but, she noted, it has achieved such medical successes as eliminating the passing of HIV from mother to child, and serving as a major player in the battle against Ebola in Africa.

“This new collaboration is a historic opportunity for two nations to build on each other’s knowledge and experience, and benefit biomedical research and public health at large,” Burwell said in announcing the agreement.

Specifically, the pact calls for the parties to coordinate health care efforts “across [a] abroad spectrum of public health issues, including global health security, communicable and non-communicable diseases, research and development, and information technology.”

Such agreements also signal the waning of political clout by the Cuban émigré community, largely based in South Florida, which has steadfastly opposed any rapprochement between the two countries.

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