Monday, March 9, 2009
The White House has moved to ease travel and trade restrictions as a cautious first step towards better ties with Havana, raising hopes of an eventual lifting of the four-decade-old economic embargo. Several Bush-era controls are expected to be relaxed in the run-up to next month’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago to gild the president’s regional debut and signal a new era of “Yankee” cooperation.
The administration has moved to ease draconian travel controls and lift limits on cash remittances that Cuban-Americans can send to the island, a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of families.
“The effect on ordinary Cubans will be fairly significant. It will improve things and be very welcome,” said a western diplomat in Havana. The changes would reverse hardline Bush policies but not fundamentally alter relations between the superpower and the island, he added. “It just takes us back to the 1990s.”
Young Cuban exiles in Florida, much less radical than their parents, have advocated ending the policy of isolation. As a senator, Obama opposed the embargo, but as a presidential candidate he supported it and simultaneously promised engagement with Havana.