By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
President Obama officially loosened Cuba travel and money remittance policies today, allowing Cuban-Americans to send money to family on the island and to visit them. He is also apparently going to allow telecommunications companies to provide cell and television service to people on the island.
A couple of points come to mind with this news. First, as I write in my column in our current weekly edition, even with Obama's move, the U.S. government has a travel ban in place against Cuba that is so un-American, it's practically something that one of the Castro brothers could love. Cuba is the only country in the world to which Americans are legally forbidden from traveling. The last time I checked, we prided ourselves on not restricting our citizens' freedom of movement. We usually leave that up to dictatorial regimes—like Cuba's—and then condemn those countries for their repressive policies.
Did I say that the Castros could love our travel policy? I'm sure they do. I was watching an MSNBC segment on Obama's Cuba policy a little while ago, and Andrea Mitchell asked the Center for Democracy in America's Sarah Stephens about the charge that by loosening our travel policies or eventually even the embargo itself, wouldn't we simply be rewarding the Castros. Why make changes without first extracting concessions from that regime? Because keeping the travel restrictions and embargo in place already rewards the Castro brothers—it gives them an excuse for whatever privations the Cuban people suffer. What can we do? The Yanks' embargo prevents any improvement in conditions.
More broadly, as I argued last week, the current Cuba policy elevates the Castro regime. Cuba is simply not a significant enough geo-political entity to merit such a policy fixation. Is the government there repressive and despicable? Yes. But what is so different about it that separates it from China, Vietnam, Egypt, etc., etc.? The answer is that it is a significant domestic political entity. It's time to move past that and let wiser considerations inform our Cuban policy.
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