What Obama Plans Next for Cuba Relations

A further outreach is possible as the administration continues its major policy review.


Yesterday's White House announcement on new steps toward Cuba has been widely assumed to represent the essence of a completed review of policy regarding the Communist island nation that started shortly after President Obama took office.

But a State Department official tells U.S. News that broader review is not finished.

That raises at least the possibility of further steps to ease tensions with Cuba and encourage political dialogue that could lead, eventually, to a normalization of relations. "Since taking office, the administration has been and continues to review Cuba policy in the context of addressing the significant challenges we confront as a nation," said the official.

The leading actions announced yesterday to remove U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba by Cuban-Americans and their remittances to relatives on the island were particular ideas promoted by Obama during the campaign. He also expressed willingness to engage in a direct dialogue with the Cuban government, if it would advance U.S. interests.

Cuba experts who have consulted with senior U.S. officials have been advocating bolder steps to engage Havana and begin talks over regional issues like immigration, counternarcotics efforts, and the environment, and it is believed that the broader, ongoing policy review has been looking at those areas as well as others.

The signal by the State Department of a continuing policy reassessment appears to mean that the Obama administration wants to keep the door open to further changes, particularly if the response in Havana to this week's U.S. announcement has some positive elements.