President Barack Obama is working to fulfill a campaign promise to ease trade and travel restrictions to Cuba, the White House announce Monday. As Obama prepares to travel to Mexico and Trinidad later in the week, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that Obama is lifting travel restrictions on Cuban-American families, as well as allow an expansion of humanitarian aid for the island nation.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that Obama will lift restrictions imposed by President Bush in 2004, when he limited the number of visits Cuban-American families could make to the island, as well as the amount of money they could send back to their families. There will be no restrictions on visits, or money sent under Obama's executive order.
In addition, the President is expected to face pressure when he travels to South and Central America to eliminate the trade embargo with Cuba.
Obama's moves to ease restrictions with the island nation directly clash with the directives of the Bush administration. In late December 2007, on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, then- U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez blasted what he called a staunch enemy of the U.S. and warned against unconditional dialogue with the communist government of the island nation.
The overthrow of the Batista dictatorship by Fidel Castro and his band of communist revolutionaries took place on January 1st, 1959. Since then, U.S.-Cuban relations have rapidly deteriorated, as the tiny island nation remains one of the few communist governments left in the 21st century. The economic sanctions the U.S. has in place against Cuba are total, with an embargo on the country.
However, the U.S. uses part of Cuba to house its prison facility Guantanamo Bay, evidence of the relationship between the two countries.
Although in the beginning days of his dictatorship the United States government worked with Castro, his choice to align himself and his country with the Soviet Union rather than the U.S. created tension between the two nations that has never been resolved.
The former commerce secretary placed the blame on the poor relations on the Cuban government, stating that since 1959 the Cuban government has made it close to impossible to improve relations between our two countries.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro urged the Soviet Union to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on the United States, Gutierrez wrote.
He added that in 2008 during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike the Cuban government refused humanitarian aid packages from the United States. However, Obama plans to boost humanitarian aid offered to Cuba.
Despite lingering reservations, many feel that it is time for a change with relations with Cuba. The chairwoman of the Black Caucus, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, issued a statement supporting the easing of tensions.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but by any objective standard our current policy toward Cuba just hasn't worked. Simply put, it's time to open dialogue and discussion with Cuba, Lee said.
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