President Barack Obama is planning to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba for Cuban-Americans, but is keeping in place the 47-year US economic embargo – a move that some Cuba experts say will do nothing but buttress the Communist dictatorship with a cash influx.
I think lifting the travel ban… would simply put simply put money into the pockets of the Castro brothers, who have ruled Cuba with a their own private company, like an organized crime entity, for 50 years,’’ former U.S. diplomat Otto Reich told Newsmax Monday.
“What the United States can do is utilize the enormous economic impact of such a move to try and wrest some kind of human rights conditions out of Castro: releasing political prisoners, allowing freedom of speech, allowing freedom of the press, allowing some freedom of association, of travel, some private enterprise, none of which are allowed in Cuba today to any extent that would be recognized by anybody living in a democracy,” Reich said.
Other embargo supporters agreed. They call it naïve to expect that greater contact with relatives bringing in much-needed cash – which the regime collects through a variety of means aimed at foreigners – will have any effect on the country’s embattled democracy movement.
If that were the case, they add, then liberalizations under the Clinton administration would have long ago toppled the regime.
``No diplomatic effort aimed at seeking concessions from an opponent can succeed if one of the parties elects to give up all its bargaining chips before the negotiations begin,’’ said José Azel at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.
``The concessions the U.S. seeks are not onerous,’’ Azel argued in a recently released brief on the subject of lifting travel bans and other measures. ``They are of the highest moral value, such as the release of Cuba’s political prisoners and respect for human rights.’’
But special envoy Jeffrey Davidow told reporters Monday that the administration planned to increase the maximum amount of money Cuban-Americans can send to relatives on the island.
"We can expect some relaxation or changes in terms of restrictions of family remittances and family travels. This does not include the lifting of the embargo," Davidow said at a State Department press briefing.
Asked if the Cuba policy changes could come ahead of the April 17-18 Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad and Tobago, he said: "I would not be surprised."
Davidow, however, refused to say how far reaching the changes might be.
The Wall Street Journal on Friday quoted unnamed administration officials saying Obama was planning to lift travel and remittance bans on Cuba that his predecessor George W. Bush tightened in 2004 to include a once-every-three-years limit on visits by Cuban-Americans to their relatives on the island.
"The President has said he wants to allow Cuban-Americans to have more contact ... They are the best possible ambassadors," Davidow said Monday, according to Agence French Presse.
Other sources also said Obama would announce an easing of Cuba sanctions before he visits Mexico, ahead of the Latin American summit.
The administration is opposed to a petition by Latin American governments that Cuba be allowed to take part in future Latin American summits Davidow said definitely not, AFP reported.
"For all the reports and speculation about changes in Cuba, the fact remains that the situation in that country, as it relates to the freedom of its own citizens, has not seen much change," the former US ambassador to Mexico said.
"Our relationship with Cuba is a complex one," he said, adding however that the issue of Cuba's summit participation could come up at the meeting.
"The structure of the summit offers plenty of opportunity for discussion," he said.
Cuba's revolutionary leader and former president Fidel Castro on Sunday called on Latin American countries to openly show their opposition to the US embargo on Cuba at the summit, which he called a "trial by fire."
Almost all governments in the region support ending the embargo, but most have shied from saying so out of fear of risking good relations with the United States.
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