From Frank Calzon, of the Center for a Free Cuba:
The Treasury Department decision expected to be released after 5:00 pm today in which Treasury facilitates the travel to Cuba and the expending of dollars on the island by American college students, by religious groups, and the sending of a couple of thousand dollars a month by Americans to anyone in Cuba regardless of family ties, is being presented as a way to help the people on the island. Unfortunately, every economic transaction in Cuba of any significance is government-controlled, and almost all of those funds will be spent in Cuban government hard currency stores that sell items at very high prices.
President Obama early in his administration, when he announced the relaxation of restrictions of travel and remittances by Cuban Americans to the island, asked the Cuban government to institute economic and political reforms. No substantive reforms have taken place to date. There is an American citizen unjustly detained in Cuba for over a year for giving a laptop and a telephone to Cubans. How many of the Americans who will be now traveling to Cuba to spend dollars there will encounter similar difficulties if they dare to provide a laptop, or a book, or a telephone to Cubans on the island?
The continuing approval of concessions that bring additional funds to the repressive Cuban government is a disservice to the Cuban people and to the desire of the American people to see democracy established in Cuba. It might sound counter-productive, but sending dollars to the island helps the Cuban government maintain in place its repressive economic and political policies. To the extent that Havana receives more dollars, it does not need to make the economic reforms, which are very much needed, and which President Obama asked Raul Castro to put in place a long time ago.