As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This Would Be A Legacy

A bill was introduced last week in Congress that would end the travel ban to Cuba and restrict the ability to reimpose the ban in the future. This type of legislation has been offered in the past but went nowhere. However, the new President has been supportive of lifting the ban (and possibly the embargo), and Cuba's new President has returned the love:

The Obama administration has taken note of remarks both by Cuban President Raul Castro and by his brother, former President Fidel Castro, expressing, in part, positive sentiments about Barack Obama and the significance of his presidency, according to a senior State Department official. Both Castros, using somewhat different language, have said they view Obama as intelligent and sincere in wanting to change U.S. foreign policy and see his presidency as historic.

The Castros' remarks have come since the U.S. election and have continued occasionally in interviews, comments to the media, and, in the case of Fidel Castro, his frequent articles in the Cuban press. "I think the statements are important. They've registered," said the State Department official.

U.S. policy toward Cuba, including the various restrictions that flow from a 47-year-old economic embargo, will be reviewed by Obama administration agencies. During the campaign, Obama said that he intended to remove restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba by Cuban-Americans and that he favored well-prepared "direct diplomacy" with the island's communist government.

Cuba is moving forward, albeit gradually, with some economic reforms, and there are signs that the Cuban people are pushing for additional political and social reform from the bottom up. There's nobody better positioned to capitalize on this than President Obama. Robert Farley notes:

Nothing says EPIC FAIL more than the 47-year policy of disengagement and embargo that the United States has pursued toward Cuba -- even strong Castro foes would be well advised to seek an alternative approach. As Doherty notes, Obama doesn't appear to be afraid of the Cuban-American vote in Florida. The community is becoming more politically diverse, and in any case is losing its demographic grip over the state's electoral votes. Cuba has real "legacy" potential for Obama; 10 presidents have failed to dislodge either Castro or his opponents in the United States.

Absolutely. And while the economic benefit during this downturn would be small, certainly there would be increased regional stability in South Florida to come with a more vibrant system of trade and rapport with Cuba. I think it would be an excellent thing to focus on diplomatically in the first term.

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