[Marxism] Bush-era additions to blockade lifted -- victory for Cuba, Latin American solidarity

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Apr 14 05:38:36 MDT 2009

Very good news, of course.

Obama lifts some Cuba restrictions

IRISH TIMES: Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 06:22

US president Barack Obama has lifted restrictions on family ties to Cuba
which had been imposed as part of the embargo against the country.

He will also allow US telecommunications firms to start providing service
for Cubans.

In a major shift from the Bush administration's more hard-line approach to
Havana, Mr Obama ended limits on family travel and money transfers by Cuban
Americans in the United States to Cuba.

The decisions unveiled by the White House do not eliminate Washington's
trade embargo against Cuba set up 47 years ago, but it does hold out the
prospect for improving relations between the two countries.

"The president has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to
the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights," White
House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "These are actions he has taken
to open up the flow of information."

Administration officials said Mr Obama hoped the new measures would
encourage Cuba's one-party state to implement democratic reforms long
demanded by Washington as a condition for removing sanctions imposed after
Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Shares of companies that stand to gain from a thaw in US ties with Cuba
soared on the news, led by Canadian mining and energy company Sherritt
International, a major player in Cuba's nickel and oil industry, whose stock
rose 24.5 per cent.

US telecommunications companies will now be allowed to set up fibre-optic
cable and satellite links with Cuba, start roaming service agreements and
permit US residents to pay for telecoms, satellite radio and satellite
television services provided to individuals in Cuba, the White House said.

Miami-based cruise operator Royal Caribbean also saw its shares rise on
hopes that it and rival firm Carnival could sail to Cuba just 150 kilometres
from the US.

Mr Obama also directed his government to look at starting regularly
scheduled commercial flights to Cuba. Air travel between the United States
and Cuba is limited to charter flights at present.

While they insistently call for an end to the US embargo, Cuba's leaders
have in the past reacted with caution and suspicion to initiatives presented
by Washington as seeking to "open up" Cuba's political system.

Havana rejects arguments that it needs Western-style democracy and has
resisted as "subversive" past US efforts to channel funds and communications
equipment to dissidents and independent journalists on the island.

Supporters of easing US sanctions against Cuba hailed the family-related
policy changes, which will affect an estimated 1.5 million Americans who
have relatives in Cuba.

They voiced hope it would lead to even bolder steps by Mr Obama to dismantle
the trade embargo, which critics argue is an obsolete policy that has failed
to foster change in Cuba despite being maintained by successive US

But conservative critics of Mr Obama's strategy said it would provide an
increased cash flow to help prop up Cuba's communist government.

Mr Obama had promised in the presidential campaign to allow Cuban Americans
to travel more freely to Cuba and increase financial help to family members,
but insisted he would not end the trade embargo until Cuba showed progress
toward democracy.

Mr Obama's gesture appeared intended to signal a new attitude toward both
Cuba and other Latin American countries that have pressed Washington to end
a trade embargo that has sought to isolate Havana for more than four

It also comes ahead of Mr Obama's attendance at a Summit of the Americas in
Trinidad later this week.


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