Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Obama Eases Some Cuba Travel Restrictions

On February 7, 1962, way back when John F. Kennedy was the President, the United States imposed a commercial, economic, and financial embargo (described in Cuba as el bloqueo, Spanish for "the blockade") on the Castro government in retaliation for their open relationship with the now-defunct USSR (the Soviets). It has been advocated by the pro-embargo Cuban-American exiles, whose votes are crucial in southern Florida, and consequently most politicians have chosen to adopt Cuban-American views. The Cuban-American views have been opposed by business leaders, who claim that freer trade would be good for Cuba and the United States. The embargo was codified into law in 1992 with the stated purpose of to maintain sanctions on the Castro regime so long as it continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights.

A U.S. arms embargo had been in force since March 1958 when armed conflict broke out in Cuba between rebels and the Batista government. In July 1960, in response to the expropriations by the Cuban government, the United States reduced the Cuban import quota of brown sugar by 7,000,000 tons; the Soviet Union responded by agreeing to purchase the sugar instead, and Cuba took further actions to take over American businesses. In response to Cuba's alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy extended measures by Executive Order, first widening the scope of the trade restrictions on February 7 (announced on February 3 and again on March 23, 1962). According to former aide, Kennedy asked him to purchase 1,200 Cuban cigars for Kennedy's future use immediately before the extended embargo was to come into effect. Salinger succeeded, returning in the morning with 1,200 Petit H. Upmann cigars, Kennedy's favorite cigar size and brand. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy imposed travel restrictions on February 8, 1963, and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations were issued on July 8, 1963, under the Trading with the Enemy Act in response to Cubans hosting Soviet nuclear weapons, which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Under these restrictions, Cuban assets in the U.S. were frozen and the existing restrictions were consolidated. {Cuba embargo info from Wikipedia}

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On April 13, 2009, President Barack Obama lifted all restrictions on the ability for individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.

The move represents a significant shift in a U.S. policy that had remained largely unchanged for 45 years. It comes days before Obama leaves for a key meeting of hemispheric powers, the Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad and Tobago.

"President Obama has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights and to freely determine their country's future," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Obama also ordered new steps to promote the "freer flow of information among the Cuban people and between those in Cuba and the rest of the world, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian items directly to the Cuban people," Gibbs added.

Several key components of America's embargo on the island nation will be preserved, however. Among other things, Americans will still be barred from sending gifts or other items to high-ranking Cuban government officials and Communist Party members. Travel restrictions for Americans of non-Cuban descent will also remain in place.

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plez sez: it's about damn time! the wall in berlin has come down. the ussr no longer exists. the last olympic games were in beijing. ...and now some elements of the 45 year old trade embargo with cuba is finally being lifted.

the only people being punished by the trade embargo where the families who were torn apart by the revolution in cuba some 50 years ago. hell, president kennedy made sure he got a lifetime supply of cuban cigars before the door was shut on trade.

okay, there are a few republicans wringing their hands about families finally being able to get together after 45 years. to my way of thinking, if the republicans are against it, then plezWorld is ALL FOR IT along with 75 percent of respondents to a recent poll about opening relations with Cuba!

the russians haven't even tried planting any missiles on the banana republic in over 40 years... what the heck do we have to fear from cuba? fidel castro's biggest concern is crapping himself after a bowl of beans and rice.

i'm surprised that Obama didn't lift ALL trade restrictions with the island nation, thousands of americans visit the nation every year... don't tell anyone, but plezWorld almost took a short excursion to the island during my honeymoon in jamaica almost 20 years ago. they run flights to cuba from jamaica every damn day... i think it cost less than 100 bucks for the round trip flight. i would've gone, but the plezWife wouldn't let me go!

~ ~ Citations ~ ~

Read the CNN.com article about the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba.

Read the CNN.com article about GOP lawmakers blast Cuba visit by Black lawmakers.

Read the in depth New York Times article about Obama's easing of travel restrictions to Cuba.

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