Saturday, 4 April 2009

Obamania: rebuilding regional relations!

April 2009
US to Lift some curbs on travel to Cuba.

President Barack Obama plans to lift longstanding U.S. restrictions on Cuba, allowing Cuban-Americans to visit families there as often as they like and to send them unlimited funds.

The gesture, which could herald more openness with the Castro regime, will fulfill a campaign promise and follows more modest action in Congress this year to loosen travel rules.

The president has authority to loosen the restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba on his own. The new rules will affect an estimated 1.5 million Americans who have family members in Cuba. Other Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba but only if they qualify through certain cultural, educational and other programs.

It will come amid a series of international gestures by President Obama recently.
  • Obama moved to improve relations with Russia...
  • Told an audience in France recently that he was there to listen them.
  • Previously, he made an outreach to the people of Iran, sending a video message calling for a "new day" of relations between Washington and Tehran.
Last May in a campaign speech in Miami, Mr. Obama said, "It's time to let Cuban-Americans see their mothers and their fathers, their sisters and their brothers. It's time to let Cuban-American money make their families less dependent on the Castro regime."

The travel and remittance restrictions stem from the embargo, put in place in 1962 after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. President Jimmy Carter allowed the travel ban to lapse.
But President Ronald Reagan reinstituted the travel ban with some exceptions. Under President Bill Clinton, Cuban-Americans could visit family once a year. President George W. Bush's policy was at one point even looser, but in 2004, he tightened the rules, allowing family trips once every three years, and narrowing the definition of who qualified as family. Sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and grandparents qualified, but uncles, aunts and cousins did not.

Some Cuban-American circles have pressed to maintain U.S. restrictions because of their antipathy for Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, who replaced him as leader after Fidel became ill. "How do you help people speak out about human rights violations if you're basically extending the dictatorship abroad?" said Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC.

Source: WSJ

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