President Obama eases Cuba visa restrictions
January 17, 2011 § 1 Comment
President Obama eased restrictions on visas, remittances and travel under the US embargo on Cuba, seeking to weaken the long grip on power of the communist government. The move will expand religious and educational travel between the US and Cuba and restore cultural initiatives suspended by the previous Bush administration. “These measures will increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities,” the White House said. “These steps build upon the president’s 2009 actions to help reunite divided Cuban families; to facilitate greater telecommunications with the Cuban people; and to increase humanitarian flows to Cuba.” The US embargo on Cuba was partially imposed in 1960, after Castro staged his revolution and it became law in 1962. The US bans trade with and most travel to Cuba. But Obama has the power, under legislation passed in 2000, to regulate 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba. He used his presidential authority in 2009 to reverse the Bush administration’s tightened restrictions on immediate family travel and allowed Cuban Americans to send remittances to relatives. But he cannot lift the embargo on Cuba unless the move is authorized by Congress, an unlikely prospect.
In a first reaction, Senator Marco Rubio, born in Miami to parents who fled Castro’s revolution, condemned the decision. “I strongly oppose any new changes that weaken US policy towards Cuba. I was opposed to the changes that have already been made by this administration and I oppose these new changes. I believe that what does need to change are the Cuban regime’s repressive policies towards the independent press and labor unions, its imprisonment of political prisoners and constant harassment of citizens with dissenting views, and its refusal to allow free multi-party elections. It is unthinkable that the administration would enable the enrichment of a Cuban regime that routinely violates the basic human rights and dignity of its people.” (AFP)