Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Obama Should Open Travel

Reasons for initially focusing on the power of the Executive to revitalize travel

1) President Obama has to deliver quickly on family travel given his many statements, the Party Platform and the pent up pressure for visits, some urgent due to hurricane damage and illness.

2) The 84% of his supporters that want more are not likely to be happy if he stops their travel. Cuba offers an easier accommodation to the base than Iraq, Afghanistan or the economy.

3) It is anomalous for a post racial administration to accept a right to travel based on ethnicity or national origin.

4) Brazilian President Lula and virtually the whole membership of the UN are making it clear that the end of US hostility to Cuba is an important factor in improving our reputation.

5) The reelection to Congress of the three Cuban American Republican hardliners may hamper us on the House floor, but not with the Obama loyalists they fought so bitterly.

6) Growing numbers of Americans, largely Obama voters, will ignore restrictions and just go, perhaps as soon as the 50th anniversary observances at the end of 2008. If Bush's OFAC had no moral authority or legal ability to enforce travel restrictions , Obama's will be even less able to.

The primary focus is to enable the wide range of non-tourist travel that could begin this winter with Cuba by directing the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to issue general licenses for twelve categories of "non-tourist" travel that were codified by Congress in 2000.

Publicly the Obama campaign addressed only the question of Cuban American travel, but nothing was said that precluded non-discriminatory support for visits by other Americans.

President Obama has a lot of room to go further. A Zogby poll commissioned by the Miami Herald released October 16th confirmed results of earlier Gallup and AP/Ipsos surveys, that 68% of Americans favor allowing all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. An awesome 84% of "Obama supporters favor revising US policies toward Cuba".

An immediate move by the new President to allow travel to the maximum extent permitted by law will forestall a long diversionary battle with the US-Cuba Democracy PAC and their beneficiaries, both Democrats and Republicans, who decisively defeated Representative Rangel's pro-travel amendment to the Agriculture bill last Spring.

As importantly, new or return visits to Cuba in 2009 by tens of thousands of people with a serious purpose will engage and energize an important non-Cuban American constituency of opinion leaders. The Obama Administration will need them to successfully overcome the more contentious problems associated with direct negotiations and the embargo.

While I sympathize with the humanitarian and political reasons the campaign stressed the value of Cuban American travel and remittances, I believe there will be a significantly greater impact on economic and political evolution within Cuba (and the US) from mainsteam non-tourist visits.

There also may be no easier way for President Obama to quickly signal to his supporters, the general public, the Western Hemisphere and allies and adversaries internationally that a new era is really upon us than by decisively moving beyond the hoary anachronism of US policy on Cuba.

As with Vietnam and China, obstacles to normalization appear overwhelming only until it is done. Expansive travel properly authorized by the President is the essential first step so Congress can finish the job.

2 comments:

marisel said...

As a cuban born citizen (naturalized American) I agree it is time for the embargo to be suspended or at least modified.
The embargo is older that President elected Obama. It has proven that it hasn't hurt the Castros but the citizens.
Please, keep in mind that the cubans that are imigrating now are not doing so for political reason but economic reasons. If the situation in Cuba changes less people would live their country. Less money would be expended on them, less recipients Medicaid would have to help. Thus, having more funds for the Americans who need them. These are the only ones affected; the citizens.
At the begining of the year I lost my father after a long fight with cancer and due to these restrictions I wasn't able to see him for the last time. First of all because being a USA citizen but Born in Cuba Iam requred to have 2 passports; the american (to come back) and the cuban (to get into the Island). Truly, it is a hassle and very expensive to obtain the cuban one. It takes lots of time in the process, it last only 2 years (ridiculous). It has to be done through an office in an Embassy that is not cuban.
Furthermore, I was (in Cuba) and Iam here a health care worker an I know for fact that Cuba,despite the embargo, has a very good health system including a research institute and medicine made in Cuba that with the communication between both countries would of beneficial for all of us. I also know that the pharmaceutical companies in this country might be against this idea, but the citizens are first. Don't you think?
For years I worked in the medical field over there and I can say that never I saw an authistic child, why there are so many here? Is it something that we are doing/giving to those kids wrong? such as the immunization shots? these are questions that need to be determined.
Finally, I think that embargo should be over, enough is enough. I really appreciated if he does something about it. We need lots of changes and this is one of them

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