Friday, January 14, 2011

White House announces new Cuba policies. Anti-Castro forces react

Pack your bags. After weeks of rumors, the White House is loosening travel restrictions to Cuba.
Cuba Central reported these details on the changes:
The White House announced today a long-awaited decision by President Obama to expand travel to Cuba – and increase support for the Cuban people – in fundamental and important ways.

* The President expands travel opportunities for academic research, educational travel, cultural travel, and religious travel;
* Return of people-to-people programs to essentially where the rules were at the end of the Clinton administration;
* The President allows all Americans to send financial support to the Cuban people, which will allow them to expand private sector activity at a time of restructuring in the Cuban economy and the Cuban system;
* The President expands the number of airports that can serve the Cuban market;
* The rules explaining each of these changes will be issued in a matter of weeks.

Cuban Colada says:
The key change will be an expansion of religious, educational and cultural travel to Cuba. And President Barack Obama will restore the broader "people-to-people" category of travel, which allows "purposeful" visits to increase contacts between U.S. and Cuban citizens.
The changes are part of the administration's "effort to support the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their own future," a senior administration official said in a background briefing.
Tourist travel to Cuba will still be illegal, the administration official said. And the official dismissed speculation that the administration delayed the changes until after the November election because Democrats in Florida feared it would hurt them among Cuban-American voters.
"There were a number of false rumors, the largest that this was imminent on a number of occassions," the senior administration official said. "This package of changes was the result of an interagency process that has concluded only in the last couple of days. They are rolling out now that they are ready to be rolled out.''
The Latin America Working Group thanked Obama, writing:
Thank you, Mr. President. After this summer’s buzzing rumors regarding some kind of White House action, the Obama Administration has today announced new regulations governing U.S. citizen travel to Cuba. It is a large step forward, and comes in the wake of a disappointing missed opportunity by the Congress to change the law. We congratulate the White House on their forward-looking decision. And we congratulate all of you for the hard and dedicated work you contributed to this achievement. Thank you, Cuba Advocates!
Here’s what we understand new travel regulations will do (check out our blog next week for specifics and/or revisions):
* Expand purposeful travel by providing general licenses for religious, educational/academic, and cultural travel to Cuba;
* Provide specific licenses for people-to-people travel similar to the licenses that were provided from 1999-2003;
* Allow for non-family remittances of $500/quarter for private entrepreneurial activities, cultural activities, etc. – such remittances may not be provided to senior members of the Cuban government or members of the Communist Party; and
* Expand charter flights from the United States to include all U.S. international airports (i.e. all U.S. international airports may apply to have charter flights depart from their site).
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized President Obama's decision to loosen travel restrictions. She said:
Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them.
These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime.


Tony Martinez said...

We stand by our sources that the announcement was in fact delayed and that pro-embargo politicians personally intervened with the White House before and after the elections to delay this announcement. Our sources were correct in that the announcement was indeed imminent from our blog posting on January 3, 2011. Regardless, this announcement is a step in the right direction, so thanks to all the officials who have been working on this.

alongthemalecon said...

Thanks for your comment, Tony.