In the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the Kennedy administration, President Obama said this week that Cuban-Americans would now be able to visit and send money to their families without restriction. Under the Bush administration, Americans were allowed to visit Cuban relatives only once every three years, and could send back only $300 annually. The new policy also permits U.S. telephone and Internet companies to provide service in Cuba.
The announcement came on the eve of this week’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, during which Latin American presidents plan to press Obama to further normalize relations with Cuba. Though the administration stopped short of allowing all Americans to visit Cuba or lifting the decades-old trade embargo, the National Security Council’s Dan Restrepo said the new policy was not “frozen in time today.”
The Castros are celebrating, said James C. Cason in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, but this is a sad day for freedom. “Tourism and trade have never brought down a totalitarian regime anywhere.” Europeans and Canadians have spent tens of billions of dollars in Cuba, and it’s all gone straight into the pockets of the regime. If our goal is to transform Cuba, we should be doing everything possible to buck up indigenous dissident groups—and keep turning the screws on Raúl and Fidel Castro.
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That tactic obviously has not worked, said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial. Sanctions have only succeeded in giving Fidel Castro an American bogeyman to hide behind, and a ready excuse for his country’s miserable poverty and “failed socialist policies.” After this gesture by Obama, Havana has been put on notice that if it takes concrete “steps toward democracy,” it will be rewarded with further easing of sanctions.
Why not go all the way? said Andrés Martinez in TheDailybeast.com. In truth, the lifting of some travel restrictions “is a pitiful half-measure for a president otherwise known for bold policy shifts.” If exposing Cubans to American visitors, goods, and culture is the best way to foster freedom, then why not lift the trade embargo completely? That would anger the conservative Cuban community in Miami and the politicians who pander to it, but it happens to be “the same approach we use in engaging China and plenty of other undemocratic regimes.”
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