CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In a move that could have Cuban exiles in Miami rioting fairly soon, the Obama administration is considering easing travel restrictions to Cuba. The move would keep intact a 50 year old embargo against the communist regime but would allow opportunities for students, professors, and researchers to visit Cuba.
President Barack Obama has said he wants to reach out to Cuba to promote democracy by easing travel and financial restrictions. A decision would be announced before the end of next week; however the Miami Herald reports that political considerations could hold up the decision until midterm elections.
There are close to 2 million Cuban exiles living in the United States, most of which call Miami home. What would this legislation mean to a group of people who many times sacrificed their own lives to flee from a communist regime?
This is an issue close to my heart as my family fled Cuba in the 1960s. When the Cuban Revolution took hold they lost everything and trying to get out of the island to start a new life in America was an odyssey. I had family members put in prison for speaking out against the government and friends who have risked their lives for a better life in America. My grandparents died without ever having gone back and my parents refuse to set foot in their birthplace until there is freedom for all of its citizens. So I, along with many other Cuban Americans, find ourselves asking if the Obama administration’s approach is the best one.
There seem to be two ways to look at this issue. The first approach is that of the Obama administration: by easing restrictions the Cuban community can see that democracy is the only way to run a country. This would be the approach deeming the title wishful thinking. Sure, it would be great if a non-military American presence in Cuba would help speed things up on the road to a Cuban democracy, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Let us remember that Europeans have been visiting Cuba for years and while they enjoy the wonderful beaches of Varadero and the time capsule that is Havana, the Cuban government still oppresses its people. Political prisoners have still died even when non-communist visitors are enjoying the beauty of the island. Cuban-Americans have also visited the island, granted with some restrictions in part by the government, and while they drop American dollars visiting their families Cuban citizens are allowed nothing. For this reason it may be naïve on the part of the Obama administration to think that a few Americans can change the situation in a country that has shown little interest in reform.
The second approach is that easing travel and financial restrictions to Cuba for some Americans will only financially support a communist regime. Is this approach bleak? Perhaps. However it is closer to the reality of the situation in Cuba. Fifty years of dictatorship is not going to change just because the American government decides to lift some travel restrictions. It is also rather contradictory to an embargo the Obama administration is claiming to keep intact. This is the approach of many of the Cuban exiles living in Miami.The Miami Herald also reports that several Republican and Democratic politicians oppose the measure as it weakens the attempts to promote fundamental change in Cuba.
Does Cuba need change? Absolutely. But financially supporting a regime that has no interest in reform is not the way to go about bringing any hope or change for its people.
CNN Political Ticker: Obama Administration Preparing to Loosen Rules on Cuba Travel Restrictions
The Miami Herald: US Weighs Easing of Cuba Travel Restrictions