President Obama’s announcement on December 17 that the U.S. will work with Cuba to restore normal diplomatic relations between the two countries after more than 50 years should be good news to the majority of Americans who support better relations with Cuba. It is particularly exciting for an old-timer like me, whose father regularly traveled to Cuba on business in the 1950s. I remember how much my father loved Cuba and how excited he and his Cuban colleagues were when a young Fidel Castro overthrew the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Unfortunately, Castro was not the democratic liberator those middleclass Cuban businessmen had expected, and soon they all fled Cuba. My father always hoped to visit Cuba again, but he died without doing so.
According to The New York Times, President Obama will take executive actions that will reduce restrictions on banking and remittances of Cuban Americans to family members in Cuba. Actions should also permit telecom and Internet connections between the two countries and travelers will be allowed to bring back $400 in goods, including $100 in Cuban rum and cigars. The President has asked Secretary of State John Kerry to work on re-establishing diplomatic relationships with Cuba and re-opening a U.S. Embassy in Havana. Secretary Kerry will also investigate whether Cuba can be removed from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, a list it has been on since 1982. High-level delegations will begin talks on issues such as Cuban-American migration, narcotics, the environment, human rights and human trafficking. Travel restrictions will be eased for the 12 categories of visitors currently allowed to visit Cuba, but not for the ordinary American tourist looking for an inexpensive vacation on a sunny beach in Cuba. Continue reading