By Glynn Wilson –
In a historic announcement guaranteed to draw howls from conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama announced an agreement on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and called for an end to the Cold War economic embargo that has been in place since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961.
“We are separated by 90 miles of water, but are brought together through shared relationships and the desire to promote a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba,” the president said in his announcement (see video).
The president called the embargo a “failed approach” for building a democratic Cuba.
“Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country,” Mr. Obama said. “At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.”
He said it did not make sense to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.
“It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse,” the president said. “We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. We should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.”
Since the President took office in 2009, he has taken steps to support the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future. Now, the President is taking the next steps to renew U.S. leadership in the Americas, end our outdated approach on Cuba, and promote more effective change that supports the Cuban people and U.S. national security interests.
The president proposes to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, re-establish an embassy in Havana and to work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection and trafficking in persons illegally.
The new policy is designed to empower the Cuban people by adjusting regulations on travel and remittance policies that will further increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, and enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people. It will facilitate an expansion of travel to Cuba and help support the growth of civil society in the country, provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers.
General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in 12 existing categories:
1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity
4. Professional research and professional meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutions
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines
The new policy will also authorize expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba and authorize American citizens to import additional goods from the country known for its cigars and rum, including tobacco and alcohol.
It will initiate new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely. Cuba only has an Internet penetration of about five percent – one of the lowest rates in the world. The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited. The new policity will allow telecommunications providers to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services across the island nation.
I traveled to Cuba and wrote about this in the year 2000.
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.