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Thread: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

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    Default Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Obama will use spring summit to bring Cuba in from the cold

    US companies are queuing up as the president moves to ease restrictions on travel and trade, raising hopes of warmer relations and an end to the embargo.


    President Barack Obama is poised to offer an olive branch to Cuba in an effort to repair the US's tattered reputation in Latin America.

    The White House has moved to ease some travel and trade restrictions as a cautious first step towards better ties with Havana, raising hopes of an eventual lifting of the four-decade-old economic embargo. Several Bush-era controls are expected to be relaxed in the run-up to next month's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago to gild the president's regional debut and signal a new era of "Yankee" cooperation.

    The administration has moved to ease draconian travel controls and lift limits on cash remittances that Cuban-Americans can send to the island, a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of families.

    "The effect on ordinary Cubans will be fairly significant. It will improve things and be very welcome," said a western diplomat in Havana. The changes would reverse hardline Bush policies but not fundamentally alter relations between the superpower and the island, he added. "It just takes us back to the 1990s."

    The provisions are contained in a $410bn (Ł290bn) spending bill due to be voted on this week. The legislation would allow Americans with immediate family in Cuba to visit annually, instead of once every three years, and broaden the definition of immediate family. It would also drop a requirement that Havana pay cash in advance for US food imports.

    "There is a strong likelihood that Obama will announce policy changes prior to the summit," said Daniel Erikson, director of Caribbean programmes at the Inter-American Dialogue and author of The Cuba Wars. "Loosening travel restrictions would be the easy thing to do and defuse tensions at the summit."

    Latin America, once considered Washington's "backyard", has become newly assertive and ended the Castro government's pariah status. The presidents of Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guatemala have recently visited Havana to deepen economic and political ties. Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is expected to tell Obama on a White House visit this week that the region views the US embargo as anachronistic and vindictive. Easing it would help mend Washington's strained relations with the "pink tide" of leftist governments.

    Obama's proposed Cuba measures would only partly thaw a policy frozen since John F Kennedy tried to isolate the communist state across the Florida Straits. "It would signal new pragmatism, but you would still have the embargo, which is the centrepiece of US policy," said Erikson.

    Wayne Smith at the Centre for International Policy, Washington DC, said: "I think that the Obama administration will go ahead and lift restrictions on travel of Cuban Americans and remittance to their families. He may also lift restrictions on academic travel.

    "There are some things that could be done very easily - for example it's about time we took Cuba off the terrorist list. It's the beginning of the end of the policies we have had towards Cuba for 50 years. It's achieved nothing, it's an embarrassment."

    Wayne Smith, a former head of the US Interest Section in Havana, famously said Cuba had the same effect on American administrations as the full moon had on werewolves.

    Cuban exiles in Florida, a crucial voting bloc in a swing state, sustained a hardline US policy towards Havana even as the cold war ended and the US traded with other undemocratic nations with much worse human rights records.

    To Washington's chagrin, the economic stranglehold did not topple Fidel Castro. When Soviet Union subsidies evaporated, the "maximum leader" implemented savage austerity, opened the island to tourism and found a new sponsor in Venezuela's petrol-rich president, Hugo Chávez.

    When Fidel fell ill in 2006, power transferred seamlessly to his brother Raúl. He cemented his authority last week with a cabinet reshuffle that replaced "Fidelistas" with "Raúlistas" from the military.

    Recognising Castro continuity, and aghast at European and Asian competitors getting a free hand, US corporate interests are impatient to do business with Cuba. Oil companies want to drill offshore, farmers to export more rice, vegetables and meat, construction firms to build infrastructure projects.

    Young Cuban exiles in Florida, less radical than their parents, have advocated ending the policy of isolation. As a senator, Obama opposed the embargo, but as a presidential candidate he supported it - and simultaneously promised engagement with Havana.

    A handful of hardline anti-Castro Republican and Democrat members of Congress have threatened to derail the $410bn spending bill unless the Cuba provisions are removed, but most analysts think the legislation will survive.

    Compared to intractable challenges in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, the opportunity for quick progress on Cuba has been called the "low-hanging fruit" of US foreign policy.

    That Obama has moved so cautiously has frustrated many reformers. But after decades of freeze, even a slight thaw is welcome, and there is speculation that more will follow.

    Old enemies
    President Kennedy imposed an economic and trade embargo on Cuba on 7 February 1962 after Fidel Castro's government expropriated US property on the island. Known by Cubans as el bloqueo, the blockade, elements have been toughened and relaxed under succeeding US presidents. Exceptions have been made for food and medicine exports. George Bush added restrictions on travel and remittances.

    The sanctions regime
    • No Cuban products or raw materials may enter the US
    • US companies and foreign subsidiaries banned from trade with Cuba
    • Cuba must pay cash up front when importing US food
    • Ships which dock in Cuba may not dock in the US for six months
    • US citizens banned from spending money or receiving gifts in Cuba without special permission, in effect a travel ban
    • Americans with family on the island limited to one visit every three years.


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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    I just wish they'd let Cuban Cohibas into the US legally.

    I buy one every time I'm in Honduras. Fantastic cigars.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Castro Meets With 6 Visiting Members of Congressional Black Caucus

    Monday, April 06, 2009



    HAVANA — President Raul Castro met Monday with six visiting members of the Congressional Black Caucus, his first face-to-face discussions with U.S. leaders since he became Cuba's president last year.

    State television showed images of Castro, who holds the rank of four-star army general, wearing a business suit instead of his trademark olive-green fatigues and sitting down with Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, and other members of the American delegation behind closed doors.

    Seven Democratic representatives traveled to Havana but an official communique read on the air said only six attended the meeting with Castro.

    The statement provided no details of what was discussed or how long the meeting lasted. It added that the group also spoke in recent days with the head of parliament and the country's foreign minister.

    The lawmakers came to talk about improving U.S.-Cuba relations amid speculation that Washington is ready to loosen some facets of its 47-year-old trade embargo against the island.

    The meeting came as Fidel Castro said Cuba is not afraid to talk directly to the United States and that the communist government does not thrive on confrontation as its detractors have long claimed.

    In a column published in state-controlled newspapers earlier Monday, the 82-year-old former president also praised U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, saying the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee "is walking on solid ground" with a proposal to appoint a special envoy to reshape U.S.-Cuba relations.

    Fidel Castro wrote that "those capable of serenely analyzing the events, as is the case of the senator from Indiana, use an irrefutable argument: The measures of the United States against Cuba, over almost half a century, are a total failure."

    Though they share a strong and mutual distrust of Washington, both Castro brothers have said for decades that they would be willing to talk personally with U.S. leaders. Fidel repeated Cuba's desire for dialogue in the column, saying direct negotiation "is the only way to secure friendship and peace among peoples." Currently, the countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.

    "There is no need to emphasize what Cuba has always said: We do not fear dialogue with the United States," he wrote. "Nor do we need confrontation to exist, as some foolish people think. We exist precisely because we believe in our ideas and we have never feared dialogue with the adversary."
    Suffering from an undisclosed illness in a secret location, Fidel Castro was succeeded by the 77-year-old Raul as president last February.

    Lawmakers in both houses of the U.S. Congress have proposed a measure that would prohibit the president from barring Americans from traveling to Cuba except in extreme cases, effectively lifting a travel ban that is a key component of the embargo.

    Lee has said that many of the representatives, who arrived in Cuba on Friday and are scheduled to leave Tuesday, support the travel legislation.
    Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina said Monday that Fidel Castro's column made it "clear that both countries can exist without either dialogue or adversity to each other."

    "But wouldn't it be so wonderful," he added, "if we struck a dialogue and found the things that were mutually advantageous and mutually of interest to our two countries and stopped the historical divisions that have separated us (though we are) so close geographically?"

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Why is the congressional black caucus interested in Cuba?

    The percentage of blacks on the Island is around 10%. Could it be more about an Ism other than Racism? Perhaps an ism not from Groucho and Harpo?
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Castro: Let me help Obama

    Veteran Cuban leader offers hand of friendship to US after new President's bid to end half a century of hostility

    By David Usborne, US editor

    Thursday, 9 April 2009



    GETTY IMAGES
    President Raul Castro (right) and his brother, the former president Fidel Castro. On their return to Washington they suggested that both men had displayed unexpected warmth and curiosity about President Obama and his intentions.


    The White House is hinting that President Barack Obama will soon announce new steps significantly relaxing relations with Cuba in what would be the biggest thaw in US relations with the island in decades.

    The proposed changes, signalled ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago later this month, would soften regulations limiting travel by US citizens to Cuba and the remittances of money by Cuban-Americans to the island.

    The move comes as members of the US Congressional Black Caucus held meetings this week with both President Raul Castro and his brother, the former president Fidel Castro. On their return to Washington they suggested that both men had displayed unexpected warmth and curiosity about President Obama and his intentions.

    Related articles




    "He really wants President Obama to succeed," Congresswoman Laura Richardson, a Democrat from California, said of Fidel Castro. "He sincerely wants an opportunity, I think, in his lifetime to see a change in America." She added that he had "looked directly into our eyes" and asked, "How can we help President Obama?"

    While the ice that encases relations between Cuba and the US may finally be showing signs of breaking up, no one is betting that Mr Obama will go so far as to order any change to the trade embargo that the US has imposed on Cuba for nearly 50 years. There remain powerful forces on Capitol Hill and in the Cuban-American community who remain firmly opposed to it.

    Changes in the rules on travel and money remittances alone would nevertheless be seen as a vital first step in a longer strategy to relieve the isolation of the Cuban people from the United States. A bi-partisan bill calling for precisely such a relaxation, which would allow virtually any American to visit the island, was introduced to both the Senate and the House of Representatives last month.

    Noting the visit to the island by the Black Caucus members, Jeffrey Davidow, White House adviser to the President on the Summit of the Americas, said he "would not be surprised" if Mr Obama announces changes in US policy before the meeting. Six members of Congress, all Democrats, met President Castro on Monday, the first meeting he has held with American politicians since taking over from his brother who was struck by illness 14 months ago. Three of the group then met Fidel Castro on Tuesday. Likewise, it was his first such meeting since his illness struck.

    The US representatives reported that the elder Castro was "very healthy, very energetic, very clear thinking" – remarks that should lay to rest, at least for a while, the rumours that the former president is on the brink of death.

    Though his brother now runs the country and this year seems to have taken a more independent stance, replacing several senior members of the government, Fidel still wields influence.

    Fidel Castro hailed this week's meeting with the members of Congress. "Cuba did not have any alternative but to take the initiative," to arrange the meetings, he wrote in a column, saying Cuban leaders "weren't aggressors, nor did we threaten the United States". He also praised members of the US delegation for the "the quality of their simple and profound words".

    Raul Castro had made it clear that "everything was on the table" regarding the future of US-Cuba relations, said Barbara Lee, one of the three members of the group who also saw Fidel.

    Representative Bobby Rush remarked that Raul Castro is "just the opposite" of how he is portrayed in the media. "I think what really surprised me but also endeared me to him was his keen sense of humour, his sense of history and his basic human qualities."

    Pressure for change in America's ties with Cuba continues to simmer on Capitol Hill, particularly from President Obama's party.

    Additionally, the powerful agricultural lobby in the US, with Democratic and Republican supporters, is asking for an end to restrictions that have hampered exports of farm products to Cuba such as beef and cereals.

    "For the past 50 years, the United States has been swimming in the Caribbean sea of delusion" with its belief that by isolating Cuba it would somehow bring down the Castro regime, argued Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, who was also on the visit. Yet, 50 years after the socialist revolution that put Fidel Castro in power, "we are the only nation that is isolated," he said.

    Talk of reversing years of US policy towards the Communist regime in Cuba will not wash with many Republicans or those of either party with large Cuban-American constituencies. Among those is the Democrat New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, who has vowed to fight any changes to the rules.

    "Our great nation should stand for human freedom and democracy and against underwriting regimes that oppress, suppress and murder," he said after fellow senators introduced legislation to end the travel ban.

    From deep-freeze to thaw: A brief history of US-Cuban relations
    1960 After US businesses in Havana are nationalised, US imposes partial trade embargo.
    1961 Congress formalises the embargo with the Foreign Assistance Act.
    1963 Kennedy seeks to end trade embargo but is killed a month later.
    1975 US ends sanctions against foreign countries that trade with Cuba.
    1979 Cuban Americans allowed to visit home; 100,000 make the trip in 1980.
    1981 President Reagan elected and immediately tightens the embargo.
    1992 Cuban Democracy Act stops Cubans in US sending money home.
    1996 After Cuba shoots down two US aircraft, embargo is strengthened.
    2000 Congressional vote allows food and medicine to be sold to Cuba.
    2002 Jimmy Carter makes first visit by former or current president since 1959.
    2003 President Bush acts to tighten travel restrictions.
    2006 10 US legislators visit Cuba but do not meet Raul or Fidel Castro.

    April 2009

    The Obama administration announces remittance and travel restrictions on Cuban Americans will be lifted.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
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    “You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you won’t accept
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    outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of
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    until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Ban On Travel To Cuba May Be Lifted
    A bipartisan group of senators says Congress is ready to pass legislation to allow all Americans to visit Cuba. Supporters say the move would create thousands of jobs.

    Reporting from Washington -- A bipartisan group of senators predicted Tuesday that Congress was ready to pass legislation to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba.

    Removing the travel ban would produce a burst of tourism, create thousands of jobs and generate as much as $1.6 billion in business a year, an independent research group said.

    A Senate news conference Tuesday and one in the House set for Thursday reflect new attempts to lift the travel ban, a key part of the U.S. trade embargo imposed after Fidel Castro took power in Havana in 1959. The broader trade embargo would remain in place.

    Sponsors said the bill would free Americans to travel to the one place in the world they can't go and encourage Cubans to push for democratic reforms by exposing them to new people and information.

    "Punishing the American people in our effort to somehow deal a blow to the Castro government has not made any sense at all," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.). "At long last, this policy, which has been in place for 50 years and has not worked, will finally be removed."

    Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) strongly opposes the measure. He warned that flooding Cuba with tourists and dollars would only sustain the Castro regime.

    "Having tourists on Cuban beaches is not going to change the equation of how to create the opportunity for democratic institutions in Cuba," Martinez said. "It's only going to enrich those who are oppressing the Cuban people and provide them with more economic means with which to do that."

    Dorgan and fellow sponsors sense an opportunity to change U.S. policy now that President Obama has replaced George W. Bush in the White House and Castro has turned power over to his brother, Raul Castro.

    Obama has ordered a review of U.S. policy on Cuba and last month loosened restrictions to let Cuban Americans visit relatives. Journalists can travel to Cuba, as can people on humanitarian missions.

    On one side of the debate in Congress are liberal Democrats, Republican free-traders and farm-state members of both parties who seek a wider market for food sales.

    Unfettered travel would make it easier to sell more products, they contend. They are backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

    Senate sponsors include Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.). House sponsors include Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

    On the other side are Cuban Americans and conservatives, who remain alarmed by a communist island 90 miles from the Florida Keys.

    If travel limits were lifted, about 3 million Americans would visit Cuba each year, according to a 2002 study by the Brattle Group, economic consultants in Washington.

    The increase in air travel, cruises and a ripple effect through the travel industry would produce $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion a year, the group estimated, creating as many as 23,000 jobs.

    Martinez accused the Chamber of Commerce and business interests of seeking profits at the expense of freedom and democracy.

    "They are not acting from a moral standpoint," he said. "They are simply acting from an economic advantage standpoint."

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Who is going to pissed off the most by these actions? The Cuban Americans living in the United States. The very same Cuban Americans that have advocated a dramatic overthrow of the Communist government in Cuba.

    Canada has enjoyed, if you will, open relations with Cuba for years. Trade has not necessarily filled the Castro family's coffers with gold; nor has trade necessarily funded Cuban interventions in South America. I believe we can trace that money and military "gifts" to other governments, such as Russia.

    In one aspect, Walter Ulbricht, the East German leader, made a huge mistake in walling off East Germany from the West. Reasons for building the wall included eliminating the "brain drain" and allowing Western ideology from infecting the Warsaw Pact. But it cut off millions of Western dollars from entering the country, money that could have been used in nefarious ways but also to help build East Germany economically (even though the Soviets made sure that it would be primarily an agrarian state that proved to be ineffectual given the Cold War climate).

    For 50 years or so, the United States has operated on a policy that building a similar wall around Cuba would finally force the Communists to admit that they could not succeed. It did not factor in the one factor that has kept the Cuban government alive: the people's willingness and united struggle in the face of an "oppressor." The Soviet Union thought it could use Cuba as a puppet in the Cold War, and Castro (for all the negative things written and said about him) was even too shrewd for the Soviets to handle. Kruschev even regretted "getting into bed" with Castro.

    Neighbors cannot hope to build walls "to the sky" in order to change attitudes or even foster understanding. I welcome this change in American policy because of the long-term effects it could effect. Yes, there will be repercussions in South and Central America that will have to be monitored, offset, and dealt with. But in 50 years from now, Cuba may well have returned to the American hemisphere as a contributing nation. And all because hands devoid of weaponry will have reached out and touched, and understanding will have taken place.

    Nations who decide their own governments, regardless of which form of government is chosen, wherein the citizens protected by that government thrive and are allowed to pursue their dreams, goals, and prosperity: they should be respected and not forced to change, as long as they give respect in return and not attempt to foist their ideology on the world as the "right" ideology.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    And I still won't be able get a Cuban Cohiba at my local smoke shop.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    OAS, US warm up to Cuba after Raul Castro overture






    AP – Cuba's President Raul Castro gestures during the closure ceremony of the Bolivarian Alternative trade …



    By VIVIAN SEQUERA, Associated Press Writer Vivian Sequera, Associated Press Writer 20 mins ago

    PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – The head of the Organization of American States said Friday that he will ask its members to readmit Cuba 47 years after they ousted the communist nation. And in another step toward improving relations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Cuban President Raul Castro's latest comments a "very welcome gesture."

    After a series of overtures by U.S. President Barack Obama, Castro said Thursday that he is ready to talk with the U.S. and put "everything" on the table, even questions of human rights and political prisoners.

    That prompted a warm response from Clinton: "We welcome his comments, the overture they represent and we are taking a very serious look at how we intend to respond."

    As leaders of 34 nations converged on Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas — an OAS-sponsored gathering that includes every nation in the region but communist Cuba — expectations were soaring for a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations that have been largely frozen since the Cold War.

    Things seemed to be moving quickly. Obama and Clinton had earlier said that Havana needs to reciprocate after Obama's "good faith" gesture of removing restrictions on some American money and travel to Cuba. But Raul Castro's conciliatory response seemed to be enough to move things forward even without a more concrete move on U.S. sticking points.

    OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza announced his intention to back Cuba's readmission to his group as Western Hemisphere leaders began arriving for 34-nation summit that excludes Cuba. "We're going step by step," Insulza said, explaining that he will ask the OAS general assembly in May to annul the 1962 resolution that suspended Cuba.

    Other leaders arriving in Trinidad also offered to help. Jamaica's prime minister, Bruce Golding, said the 15-member Caribbean Community is willing to mediate any Cuba-U.S. talks on easing tensions and lifting the decades-old American trade embargo against Cuba.

    Golding told The Associated Press that Caricom leaders agreed to not push Obama too hard on the issue during the summit. "I'm hoping that nothing is done that will make the process more difficult and that we seek to encourage further progress rather than cause the situation once again to become polarized and intractable."

    Washington provides more than 70 percent of the OAS budget, which affords it certain privileges. And for 47 years, the Washington-based organization has officially considered Cuba's communist system to be incompatible with its principles.

    But most countries in the hemisphere have long since restored diplomatic ties, and there is a growing clamor for an end to efforts to isolate Cuba, not just from Raul and Fidel Castro's close friends, but also from conservative U.S. allies like Mexico.

    Raul Castro spoke Thursday at a meeting of leftist leaders in Venezuela who vowed to represent Cuba's interests in Trinidad. Vehemently defending the Cuban government's decades-long resistance to the U.S., he said "the OAS should disappear" and that Cuba would never want to join the organization, which he said the U.S. has used as its diplomatic tool.

    "The North Sea will unite with the South Seas, a serpent will be born from an eagle's egg before Cuba joins the OAS," Castro said.

    Inzulza said Castro's feelings are only natural: "If my country were suspended from an organization for nearly 50 years I'd be very upset."

    Castro's other comments about negotiating with the U.S. represented the most conciliatory language that either Castro brother used with any U.S. administration since that of Dwight D. Eisenhower in early 1961, when the nations broke off relations. It appeared to be a transcendent development, the best opportunity for talks in a half-century.

    Raul Castro has previously said he would be willing to discuss all issues with Obama. But Cuban officials have historically bristled at the suggestion that they might discuss human rights or political prisoners with the Americans, saying such matters are none of the Yankees' business.

    Now, he even suggested that "many other things" could be up for discussion. "We could be wrong, we admit it. We're human beings," Castro said. "We're willing to sit down to talk as it should be done, whenever."

    Castro said his only conditions for talks now are that Washington treat them as a conversation between equals and respect "the Cuban people's right to self-determination."

    Most Cubans, however, likely heard little about these overtures.
    The Communist Party newspaper Granma on Friday did not carry Castro's comments about the U.S., focusing instead on his talks on regional matters with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leaders. Granma's coverage of Obama's visit to Mexico ignored his statements about Cuba, and dealt instead with Mexican President Felipe Calderon's call on Obama to drop the embargo.

    And Fidel Castro, who still pens enormously influential columns from the sidelines of power, was silent on Friday.

    Obama said a relationship frozen for 50 years "won't thaw overnight." But their words seemed as historic as any that leaders of the two nations have made to one another.

    Relations warmed briefly during Jimmy Carter's administration, which featured short-lived direct flights between Miami and Havana and the opening of interests sections that provide some contact in lieu of embassies. But that honeymoon soon ended with a refugee crisis when 125,000 Cubans fled to the United States from the Mariel port west of Havana in 1980.

    Warming relations under Bill Clinton also were put in the freezer after Cuban fighter jets shot down two civilian planes off the island's coast in 1996, killing the four exiles aboard.

    Obama lifted restrictions on visits and money sent to Cuba by Americans with families there — steps he called "extraordinarily significant" for the families. But he ruled out a unilateral end to the embargo, even though the policy is widely seen as a failure. Stopping in Mexico City on his way to the summit, Obama said the Cuban government needs to reciprocate with actions "grounded in respect for human rights," possibly including lifting its own restrictions on Cubans' ability to travel and to voice their opinions.

    Obama spoke at a news conference after meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who called the U.S. embargo a failed strategy. Asked what the U.S. should do on Cuba to improve its image across Latin America, Calderon said "we do not believe that the embargo or the isolation of Cuba is a good measure for things to change."
    ___
    Associated Press writers Christopher Toothaker in Cumana, Venezuela, Frank Bajak and Bert Wilkinson in Trinidad; and Anita Snow in Havana contributed to this report.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Obama calls for 'new beginning' with Cuba


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    Alfonso Ocando / EPA
    President Obama talks with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

    The president signals hope for an end to Cold War acrimony, welcoming Havana's unprecedented gesture a day earlier.
    By Paul Richter and Peter Nicholas
    April 18, 2009

    Reporting from Tobago, Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad, and Washington — The U.S. and Cuba built sudden momentum Friday toward easing half a century of hostility as President Obama met Havana's willingness to discuss sensitive topics, including human rights, with a declaration that he was ready for a "new beginning" in relations.

    One official acknowledged that the Obama administration was caught off guard by Cuban President Raul Castro's willingness to discuss issues long considered off-limits by the communist leadership. Obama wants Cuba to make the next move, possibly by releasing political prisoners or removing restrictions on the press, the official said.

    Cuba's willingness to talk does not mean it is willing to change policies. But the rhetorical exchange was the most hopeful sign in years of a thawing in relations between the two countries. The possibility of change was emphasized by a friendly greeting between Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a longtime U.S. critic and supporter of Cuba.

    Obama and Chavez were among the leaders attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, a gathering of 34 democratically elected leaders from the Western Hemisphere. The two presidents shook hands and smiled broadly at each other.

    The flurry of overtures represented the latest in the diplomatic choreography since the election of Obama. The U.S. president has called for a new openness with Cuba and has begun easing restrictions on contacts with the island.

    Castro responded Thursday at a meeting of leftist leaders in Venezuela.

    "We are willing to discuss everything -- human rights, freedom of press, political prisoners, everything, everything, everything they want to talk about," Castro said. "We could be wrong, we admit it. We're human."

    Obama, in opening remarks at the summit Friday, spoke of the relationship between the two countries.

    "The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba," Obama said. "Over the past two years, I have indicated -- and I repeat today -- that I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues -- from human rights, free speech, and democratic reform to drugs, migration and economic issues."

    Analysts and lawmakers who favor expanded U.S. contact with Cuba cautioned that at least three attempts in the last 35 years to relax tensions collapsed in acrimony.

    But Castro's explicit offer to discuss issues such as political prisoners and human rights with U.S. officials was apparently a first for a top Cuban official, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama administration officials were "particularly struck" by that concession.

    Arriving at the Summit of the Americas, Obama approached Chavez as leaders waited in line to enter a reception. The two spoke about changing their countries' relationship, Chavez's office said in a statement, which a senior Obama administration official did not dispute.

    During his opening remarks, Obama did not say he would seek to end the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. But he indicated an openness to shift U.S. policies, pointing to his decision this week to ease travel and financial restrictions on Cuban Americans.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking earlier, addressed Castro's remarks more directly.

    "We welcome this overture," she said at a news conference. "We're taking a serious look at how we intend to respond."

    The comments point at least to the likelihood of new talks. But the two countries remain stalemated on major issues: Cuba wants the U.S. to lift the embargo and remove remaining travel restrictions, but the Obama administration wants Havana to free political prisoners, improve human rights and adopt economic reforms before the U.S. takes more significant steps.

    Nonetheless, experts said that even in the absence of progress on such major issues, U.S. and Cuban officials could take first steps in other areas, such as migration or counter-narcotics efforts.

    Cuba was not invited to the Summit of the Americas because Castro is not democratically elected.

    But the country's inclusion in the economic and diplomatic affairs of the hemisphere emerged as a top subject of the three-day summit. Many leaders called for a repeal of the U.S. embargo and greater inclusion of Cuba.

    "I don't feel comfortable attending this summit," said Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a onetime leftist rebel leader. "I feel ashamed of the fact that I'm participating in the summit with the absence of Cuba."

    The secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, said he would push for Cuba's inclusion in the organization.

    The Cuban government has repeatedly hinted that it is ready for a thaw in relations with the United States, only to clamp down, possibly fearful that improved relations would threaten its hold on power.

    Cuba experts and lawmakers cautioned that the latest warming signs could be short-lived as well.

    "I think they get spooked whenever we get closer, and they want to push it back," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a longtime advocate of expanded U.S. contact with Cuba. "I've never been convinced they want us to fully lift the travel ban."

    Nonetheless, experts were astonished by Castro's comments.

    His willingness to discuss human rights issues and political prisoners represented a major break, experts said.

    "That's the news," said Daniel P. Erikson, a longtime Cuba watcher at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank. "That's been such a deal breaker."

    Michael Landweber, a former State Department official now at the Partnership for a Secure America, said the Cuba opening posed a "great opportunity to test Obama's strategy of sitting down to talk" with longtime foes.

    Obama had planned to use the summit to assert his commitment to reengage with Latin America and emphasize his intent to listen to other leaders.

    Recognizing a sore point among Latin Americans, Obama said the United States no longer wanted to interfere in the affairs of other countries. But at the same time, he asked that other countries not reflexively demonize the U.S.

    "I think it's important to recognize, given historic suspicions, that the United States policy should not be interference in other countries. But that also means we can't blame the United States for every problem that arises in the hemisphere," he said. "That's part of the bargain. That's part of the change that has to take place."

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Obama reaches out to Cuba and Venezuela

    > Posted by William Gibson on April 20, 2009 11:34 AM



    Chavez and Obama make nice at summit (Getty images)


    President Obama concluded an historic Summit of the Americas on Sunday determined to try a whole new approach to dealing with Cuba and Venezuela.

    So far, all concerned seem determined to make nice. Everyone, that is, except for Newt Gingrich and other critics in this country who fear that Obama is naively playing with adversaries.

    ``How do you mend relationships with someone who actively hates your country?’’ Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, said this morning on NBC’s Today Show. ``Cuba releases zero prisoners, yet we make nice with Cuba.’’

    Obama sounded encouraged about his new approach at a press conference on Sunday. He defended his cordial exchange with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his overtures to Cuban President Raul Castro, who was excluded from the summit.


    Raul Castro

    ``It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States,’’ Obama said.

    He pointedly branded the strict embargo of Cuba a failure. He even suggested that U.S. officials have a thing or two to learn from Cuba’s outreach to Latin America. He noted that Cuba has made many friends by exporting thousands of doctors to countries in need.

    ``It's a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence,’’ he said.

    Obama added, however, that he was not overlooking Cuba’s absence of political rights.

    ``The Cuban people are not free,’’ he said. ``And that's our lodestone, our North Star, when it comes to our policy in Cuba.’’

    Clearly, under Obama we will see a new strategy of engagement with Latin America. Will it help?

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Posted on Fri, Jan. 14, 2011
    Obama to ease travel restrictions to Cuba, allow more U.S. cash to island

    BY LESLEY CLARK
    lclark@MiamiHerald.com



    Alan Diaz / AP
    Passengers wait in line to check in as they prepare to travel to Cuba at Miami International Airport in Miami, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010.

    The Obama administration Friday said it will allow for more U.S. travel to Cuba, making it easier for schools, churches and cultural groups to visit the island.A senior Obama official told The Miami Herald the much-expected move to expand cultural, religious and educational travel to Cuba is part of the administration's continuing ``effort to support the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their own future.

    President Barack Obama is also restoring the amount of money ($2,000) that can be sent to nonfamily members to the level they were at during part of the Clinton and Bush administrations. There will be a quarterly limit on the amount that any American can send: $500 per quarter to ``support private economic activity.''

    The administration also will restore the broader ``people-to-people'' category of travel, which allows ``purposeful'' visits to increase contacts between U.S. and Cuban citizens.

    Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, assailed the revision, saying they ``will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba.

    ``These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights,'' Ros-Lehtinen said. ``And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them. These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime.''

    But Tampa Democrat Rep. Kathy Castor hailed the news, and suggested Cuban Americans in her community would soon be able to travel directly from Tampa to Cuba if the airport secures authorization.

    ``The Tampa Bay region has one of the highest Cuban-American populations in this country, but for too long, families have had to travel to Miami in order to get to Cuba,'' said Castor, who sent a letter to Obama before he took office, ``requesting a fresh look at U.S.-Cuban relations and lifting travel restrictions for families.''

    The changes could expand the number of U.S. airports from which charter flights to the island depart.

    ``We see these changes, in combination with the continuation of the embargo, as a way to enhance civil society in Cuba,'' said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that increased contact between Cubans and Americans could ``support the independence of the Cuban people, making them less dependent on the Cuban state and on Cuban authorities.''

    The official dismissed speculation that the administration delayed the changes until after the November election because Democrats in Florida feared it would hurt them among Cuban-American voters -- many of whom back tough sanctions against the Cuban regime.

    ``This package of changes was the result of an interagency process that has concluded only in the last couple of days,'' the administration official said. ``They are rolling out now that they are ready to be rolled out.''

    The official underscored that the changes do not lift the economic embargo and that tourist travel to Cuba remains illegal, as does sending remittances to senior government or Communist party officials.

    The White House said the changes do not require congressional approval and the changes will be published in the Federal Register.

    Under the changes, religious institutions in the U.S. will be able to sponsor trips to Cuba by their members with a general license.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Barack Obama eases rules on US travel to Cuba



    There has been an easing of tension between the US and Cuba since Mr Obama came to power.

    Related stories


    US President Barack Obama has said he will ease restrictions on US citizens travelling to Cuba.

    The president said he had instructed the relevant government departments to allow religious groups and students to travel to the communist-run island.

    President Obama said he believed the new, more relaxed, rules which also make it easier to send remittances to Cuba will support civil society there.

    The changes will not end the decades-old US trade embargo.

    The rules will be modified to, among other things:

    • Allow religious organisation to sponsor religious travel to Cuba under a general licence
    • Allow accredited institutions of higher education to sponsor travel to Cuba
    • Allow any US person to send remittances (up to $500 per quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity
    • Allow remittances to be sent to religious institutions in Cuba in support of religious activities
    • Allow US airports to apply to provide services to licensed charters

    'Improved contact'
    In a statement, President Obama said the changes were aimed at developing "people-to-people" contacts through more academic, cultural and religious exchanges.

    The moves follows an easing of the trade embargo in April 2009, when the president ordered curbs on remittances and travel by Cuban-Americans visiting family members on the island to be relaxed.

    But Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the changes would not help improve the situation in Cuba.

    "They will not make the Castro regime show respect for human rights, and they certainly won't help the Cuban people free themselves from the despotic tyranny which oppresses them," she said.

    The changes are expected to come into force in approximately three weeks.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    BREAKING: Obama To Visit Cuba Next Month…



    Second honeymoon.

    Via CNN:
    President Barack Obama will visit Cuba next month, multiple U.S. and diplomatic sources told CNN on Wednesday.

    The trip, long expected, comes after the Obama administration formally reopened ties with Havana in late 2014, ending a half-decade of enmity.

    Since then, travel restrictions have been loosened and economic channels reopened. Obama shook Cuban leader Raul Castro’s hand during an historic face-to-face meeting last spring.

    The formal announcement could come as soon as Thursday.

    Keep reading…

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold


    Castro Demands U.S. Give Back Guantanamo, Lift Embargo

    March 21, 2016

    Cuban President Raul Castro told President Obama Monday that the U.S. must return the Guantanamo Bay naval base and lift the embargo against Havana for the countries to fully normalize relations.

    “The blockade stands as the most important obstacle to our economic development,” Mr. Castro said as the two leaders emerged from a meeting on Mr. Obama’s historic trip to the island.

    He also said in order for the countries to move forward, “it will also be necessary” for the U.S. to return Guantanamo, which is based on the eastern end of Cuba.

    Gitmo is where the U.S. is operating a detention center for terrorism suspects, as well as the navy base.

    Mr. Castro referred to Gitmo as “illegally occupied” territory.

    Mr. Castro said in defiance of U.S. criticism that Cuba “defends” human rights for all.

    Mr. Obama, who didn’t mention Gitmo in his opening statement, agreed with Mr. Castro that “the road ahead will not be easy.”

    Mr. Obama, who opposes the embargo, said he will continue to call on Congress to lift the restrictions. He told Mr. Castro that the U.S. will keep speaking up about the need for democratic reforms and improvement of human rights in Cuba.

    “The relationship between our governments will not be transformed overnight,” Mr. Obama said.

    During a short news conference, Mr. Obama appeared irritated when Mr. Castro interrupted Mr. Obama’s answer to a reporter’s question to confer with an aide nearby.

    “Excuse me?” Mr. Obama said to Mr. Castro as they stood side by side at podiums.

    The Cuban leader explained to Mr. Obama that he was trying to discern whether the American reporter’s question about Cuba holding political prisoners was intended for him.

    Then Mr. Castro addressed the reporter for CNN. “Give me a list of these political prisoners,” he demanded. “Give me a name or names. What political prisoners?”

    He said if he received a list of names, those people would be released by the end of the day.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold




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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    And Obama giving a demonstration of being the good little puppet he is!


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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Fantasy Island
    That would also explain his smooth maracas.

    In honor (and complete misunderstanding) of Palm Sunday, Barack Obama went in search of palm trees yesterday and ended up in the island paradise of Cuba. Assuming that your definition of "paradise" is "someplace you'll be thrown in jail for life if you don't say it's paradise."

    In his never-ending quest to build a legacy, the president is
    normalizing relations with the oppressive communist dictatorship in hopes of increasing the number of investment opportunities for his wealthy donors, while decreasing the number of Cuban immigrants whose children might grow up to become conservative GOP presidential candidates.

    While in Cuba, Mr. Obama will be staying at The Only Nice Hotel and have full use of The Only Running Car, and will attend a baseball game, give a speech to the locals, and no doubt visit one of Cuba's famous cigar factories where tobacco leaves are hand-rolled on the supple thighs of local virgins.

    He will also visit a fully-socialized Cuban hospital which specializes in the treatment of supple thigh cancer.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    Good move by Trump! Good to see another one of Obama's "legacies" go in the trash bin of history. Going to have to do a LOT more though...


    Trump Unveils New Restrictions On Travel, Business With Cuba

    June 16, 2017

    President Donald Trump slammed former President Barack Obama's dealings with the communist regime in Cuba on Friday in Miami, charting his own course of more confrontational relations with the Castro-led government.

    The speech, which came as the President signed a directive outlining his posture toward Cuba, is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to chip away at Obama's legacy. Obama spent the last two years of his presidency looking to warm relations with Cuba, including a trip to the island in 2016.

    "I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba," Trump said.

    Casting the Obama administration as people who looked the other way on the Castro regime's human rights violations, Trump said that he, as President, will "expose the crimes of the Castro regime."

    "They made a deal with a government that spread violence and instability in the region and nothing they got, think about it, nothing they got, they fought for everything and we just didn't fight hard enough, but now, those days are over," Trump said. "We now hold the cards. The previous administration's easing of restrictions of travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime."

    Trump listed some of the Castro regime's anti-United States actions, ranging back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and added, "We will never, ever be blind to it. We know what is going on and we remember what happened."

    Although Trump said he was "completely" canceling Obama's Cuba policy, the change is posture is only a partial shift from Obama's policy.

    Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba will remain open, as will the newly opened embassies in Washington and Havana. And there will be no further restrictions on the types of goods that Americans can take out of Cuba, including the country's popular rum and cigars.

    Trump said he is keeping the embassy open "in the hope that our countries can forge a much stronger and better path."

    The changes do, however, tighten restrictions on Cuba and ratchet up rhetoric on the Castro regime in hopes that it will lead to a transition of power on the island. Many presidents, though, have predicted the end of the Castros and, to date, none have been correct.

    The Trump administration will begin strictly enforcing the authorized exemptions that allow travel between the US and Cuba and prohibit commerce with Cuban businesses owned by the military and intelligence services. The President also directed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to convene a task force on expanding Internet access on the island and reiterate the United States' opposition to efforts in the United Nations to lift the Cuban embargo until more is done to honor human rights.

    "To the Cuban government, I say, put an end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard," Trump said, referencing the former Black Panther who was convicted of murder in 1977.

    Trump responded well to the adoring crowd, even at one point kissing a Cuban dissident on the cheek and pronouncing "Little Havana" with a mimic Cuban accent.

    He challenged the Castro regime "to come to the table with a new agreement that is in the best interest of both their people and our people."

    And in possibly his toughest rhetoric directed at Castro, Trump flatly said, "the harboring of criminals and fugitives will end. You have no choice. It will end."

    Ahead of Friday's remarks, the Cuban government -- including Cuban President Raul Castro -- is signaling a willingness to negotiate with Trump.

    "We know they have a different view of the world," a Cuban official told CNN. "We understand that."

    None of these new regulations take effect immediately, a White House official said, adding that government agencies are expected to officially issue the regulatory amendments in the coming months.

    Trump was knocked Friday, though, from both sides. Some Republicans said the policy did not go far enough, while Democrats charged the roll back as reactionary.

    "The policy isn't going to do anything new," a source from the office of one Cuban American lawmaker complained. "It's pretty weak."

    Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said Friday the "decision by the Trump Administration to reverse progress in US-Cuba relations sends the wrong message to the world about American leadership."

    "We must never stop pressing the Cuban government on democracy and human rights, but further restricting economic and cultural engagement between our two nations betrays the spirit of cooperation that will ultimately help empower the Cuban people to choose their own destiny," he said.

    Changes in policy

    Obama, after years of clandestine work with the Castro regime, announced in 2014 that the United States would re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen the American embassy in Havana, which was closed in 1961 following the Cuban revolution. The announcement led Obama to visit Cuba in 2016, making him the first sitting president to visit the island in more than 50 years.

    The moved allowed for more Americans to travel to Cuba, with US air carriers marketing commercial flights direct to the island and cruise ships to port in the nation. The thaw also allowed Americans to bring more goods back from the island nation.

    Trump was personally invested in drafting the plans on Cuba, multiple aides told CNN, with one adding that the President deeply believes that the changes Obama announced in 2014 were a "bad deal for the United States and a bad deal for the Cuban people."

    "It has not led to greater freedom in Cuba," the official said. "I don't think you would see him go back to the embargo wholesale, look for ways to leverage America's influence over Cuba in a way that will encourage greater freedom for the Cuban people and economic interaction."

    Limits on business

    Trump's new policy will directly limit commerce with GAESA, the Cuban military's business and commerce wing. The company is run by Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, Raul Castro's son-in-law.

    That action could adversely impact hotel brands that directly compete with Trump's business empire, making it more difficult for them expand their foothold in Cuba. Gaviota, GAESA's tourism arm, currently operates the Four Points by Sheraton Havana, a hotel that, when it opened, was the first US hotel to open in Cuba in nearly 60 years.

    Although officials said Trump's plans were not meant to "disrupt existing transactions that have (already) occurred," the new policy would make it difficult for any American company to expand their footprint in Cuba.

    White House officials said the effort was meant to direct American business to private companies and AirBnB, the vacation rental company that began allowing Cubans rent out their homes in 2016.

    And on non-Cuban American travel, a change would make Americans who travel under the Obama administration categories of permitted travel subject to a Treasury Department audit, a move that could have a cooling effect on travel as it adds a potential layer of inconvenience to travelers.

    Rubio's influence

    Marco Rubio, who joined Trump on Air Force One on Friday, spent months working to push Trump toward more strict rules and though Trump and Rubio sparred -- at times personally -- during the 2016 campaign, the President heralded the Rubio's views on Cuban relations after a February dinner.

    "We had dinner with Sen. Rubio and his wife, who was, by the way, lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba because we have very similar views on Cuba," Trump said, adding that "Cuban people" were "very good" to him in the 2016 election.

    Rubio, in particular, made Friday's policy announcement about Obama, charging the former president with looking the other way on Cuba's human rights abuses.

    "A year and a half ago, an American president landed in Havana and outstretched his hand to a regime," Rubio said. "Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba."

    Trump said throughout the 2016 campaign that he was willing to rollback diplomatic relations with the communist regime in Cuba. Especially in Southern Florida, where Cubans make up a key voting bloc for Republicans, Trump railed on Obama for building relations with the Castros.

    Trump has long hanged his understanding of the deal between the United States and Cuba on his "Cuban friends" in Florida, whom he said throughout the campaign supported him over Democrat Hillary Clinton. To a degree, he was right: Trump did beat the former secretary of state in Florida, providing the effective knock out blow to Clinton on Election Night.

    But Republicans were not unified behind Trump's action.

    Sen. Jeff Flake, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, panned Trump on Friday.

    "Any policy change that diminishes the ability of Americans to travel freely to Cuba is not in the best interests of the United States or the Cuban people," Flake said. "It is time Senate leadership finally allowed a vote on my bipartisan bill to fully lift these archaic restrictions which do not exist for travel by Americans to any other country in the world."



    Donald Trump Announces New Cuba Restrictions: 'We Will Not Be Silenced In The Face Of Communist Oppression'

    The President calls Barack Obama's policy toward Cuba 'completely one sided', but will keep commercial flights and diplomatic relations open

    June 16, 2017

    President Donald Trump has announced that his administration will be tightening regulations on Cuba in order to help the Cuban people, calling former President Barack Obama's deal to thaw relations with the country's government "terrible".

    "We will not be silenced in the face of communist oppression any longer", Mr Trump said in front of an excited crowd in the Little Havana neighbourhood of Miami, Florida.

    The President pledged to help the people of Cuba, and to ensure that American money spent in Cuba will go to the Cuban people instead of the Cuban government. He characterised the administration of Raul Castro as a "brutal, brutal regime", and spoke with a flourish describing the brutal crackdown and imprisonment of religious worshippers in the island country.

    "Effective immediately, I am cancelling the last Administration's completely one sided deal with Cuba", Mr Trump said.

    Mr Trump also described Cuba as a major security threat to the United States, saying that the country had shipped weapons to North Korea while allowing "cop killers" to seek refuge within its borders.

    The “cop killer” Mr Trump was referring to is Joanne Chesimard, a former Black Panther who fled to Cuba in 1984 after escaping from a New Jersey prison, where she was serving a life sentence for murdering a state trooper.

    Before signing the Cuba policy rollback, Mr Trump brought several Cuban dissidents onto the stage and allowed some of them to speak. One played the Star Spangled Banner on a violin as the president and crowd saluted or placed their hands over their hearts.

    Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a one-time political foe who engaged in a heated primary run against the President last year for the Republican nomination, praised the President’s efforts to reform policy toward Cuba before he took the stage. Mr Rubio flew down to Miami with the President on Air Force One, and is said to have played a leading role in advising the White House on the new policies. Mr Rubio, a Cuban American, riled up the crowd with anti-communist rhetoric in both English and Spanish.

    But, in a sense Mr Trump's policy changes are more rhetoric than action few immediate changes, and they are not intended to completely end the diplomatic relationship that former President Barack Obama established. That thaw was aimed at bringing to a close five decades of hostility.

    Instead, Mr Trump has instructed his government to begin reviewing how they might change policy in order to meet the administration’s goals. Those policy reviews will focus on how to best eliminate individual travel to Cuba that the White House says is being abused (technically tourism to Cuba is not currently legal for Americans), and on how to ensure that American money spent in Cuba or on Cuban goods gets into the hands of the Cuban people and not the government. American investment in Cuba is likely to see more restrictions than what is already in place.

    The new policies won’t change family travel allowances, and will leave other forms of travel to Cuba open, including trips for journalistic purposes. The new policies won’t affect the current wet foot dry foot policy that seeks to shelter Cubans who land on American soil seeking refuge.

    Commercial flights will not be stopped from servicing Havana, nor will cruise lines. The administration, according to one White House official, has no intention of "disrupting"€ť existing business ventures such as one struck under Mr Obama by Starwood Hotels Inc, which is owned by Marriott International Inc, to manage a historic Havana hotel.

    Nor does Trump plan to reinstate limits that Mr Obama lifted on the amount of the island's coveted rum and cigars that Americans can bring home for personal use.

    But, Mr Trump has long promised to pull back on his predecessor’s landmark Cuba policy changes, and secured the first endorsement in decades from the Bay of Pigs Veteran Association in Miami thanks to that policy. Senior White House officials said during a conference call before the President’s announcement that his promise to the group to hold the Cuban government accountable was a major factor in his decision in February to instruct his staff to begin reviewing the policy.

    Critics of the President's decision, however, note that the US has a relatively friendly relationship with other countries with poor civil rights records, including Saudi Arabia, where Mr Trump travelled to during his first foreign trip in office in May.

    Mr Obama’s 2015 announcement that travel restrictions to Cuba would be loosened resulted in a flash of excitement from Americans who were eager to travel to Havana to get a glimpse of a country that sits just 100 miles off the coast of Florida, but has been behind a veil for American tourists. Since then, however, interest in travelling to the country has waned somewhat in the US, with roughly 76 per cent of Americans saying they aren’t planning on a trip there this year compared to 70 per cent last year.

    Trump aides say Mr Obama'€™s efforts amounted to “appeasement” and have done nothing to advance political freedoms in Cuba, while benefiting the Cuban government financially.

    “It's hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration's terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime,” Mr Trump said in Miami, citing the lack of human rights concessions from Cuba in the detente negotiated by Mr Obama.

    Critics say that Mr Trump’s plans won’t actually push the Cuban government to strive for better human rights record, and will likely hurt the Cuban people. That’s because many Cubans are self employed in retail and other services that serve tourists.

    Sarah Stephens, an expert on US-Cuba policy who works to secure diplomatic changes like the ones made by the Obama administration, told The Independent that the lack of substance in Mr Trump’s changes doesn’t amount to substantial policy, and is instead a political ploy to secure conservative Cuban votes in Florida.

    “This is not a serious policy. This is a policy that has no achievable goal, it imagines no process, and it offers no end game”, she said. “By choosing to make the announcement before the diehards in Miami, the White House isn’t even looking for window dressing, but admitting that this is simply about their game of politics.”

    Still, it will be the latest attempt by Mr Trump to overturn parts of Mr Obama's presidential legacy. He has already pulled the United States out of a major international climate treaty and is trying to scrap his predecessor's landmark healthcare program.

    International human rights groups say that renewed US efforts to isolate the island could worsen the situation by empowering Cuban hard-liners. The Cuban government has made clear it will not be pressured into reforms in exchange for engagement.

    The Cuban government had no immediate comment, but ordinary Cubans said they were crestfallen to be returning to an era of frostier relations with the United States with potential economic fallout for them.

    “It's going to really hurt me because the majority of my clients are from the United States,” Enrique Montoto, 61, who rents rooms on US online home-rental marketplace Airbnb, told Reuters. Airbnb expanded into Cuba in 2015.

    "€śI have trust in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to Cuba, Jorge Saurez, 66, a retired physician, said in Little Havana. “That's why I voted for him.”

    Mexico has urged the governments of the United States and Cuba to find points of agreement and resolve their differences “via dialogue.”

    Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, whose government is a close ally to Cuba, tweeted that his country has "undeniable solidarity with our sister republic Cuba against the aggressions of @realDonaldTrump".

    At least one of Mr Trump's fellow Republicans has pushed back against isolating Cuba. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, one of the most vocal advocates for easing rules for American companies looking to make deals in Cuba, called for a vote on legislation to lift restrictions on American travel to the island nation. It is unlikely that other Republicans in the Senate will allow that vote to happen, and has repeatedly blocked that move.

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    Default Re: Obama will bring Cuba in from the Cold

    The whole recent history of Cuba and America has been a mess, a real mess. It would have been better if Cuba had been made a State in the 19th century, IMO

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