On Monday, the Obama Administration announced that it would allow Cuban Americans unlimited travel to Cuba, as well as permit unlimited transfers of money to Cuban family members on the island. The administration kept the trade embargo in effect, "arguing that that policy provides leverage to pressure the regime to free all political prisoners as one step toward normalized relations with the U.S.," according to the AP.
"It's time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers," Obama said in a speech in Miami last month. "It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime."
The AP reported the decision was met with cheers by Cubans in Havana, anxious for their family members to now visit for as long as they'd like, and whenever they can.
The move was controversial for some U.S. lawmakers such as Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who thinks the relaxed policy works as concessions to Cuba's communist regime. There is also clamoring, however, for the administration to remove the embargo for good, such as this op-ed from William Ratliff. He argues that the embargo has been ineffective, and has given Castro a "scapegoat" on which to blame all of his economic problems.
If President Obama were to push for an end to the embargo, he'd have to overcome some major opponents in Washington. In March, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., threatened to derail an omnibus spending bill because it originally outlined the relaxing of travel restrictions made permissible on Monday. Florida Sen. Mel Martinez took a similar stance.
However, as outlined in Ratliff's editorial, support for the lift of the embargo is increasing. A poll taken in late 2008 found that the majority — 55 percent — of Cuban Americans in the Miami area supported lifting the embargo. Seventy percent of Americans nationwide support lifting the ban.
The Florida sugar industry had benefited from the embargo on Cuba. However, the moves to restore Florida's everglades (as well as the wide usage of high fructose corn syrup in place of sugar) have severely decreased the presence of its sugar industry. The decline could make the effect of the flow of sugar from Cuba to the U.S. aversive to hurting American jobs.
Do you think the U.S. should go further than Monday's decree and lift the trade embargo on Cuba? Are the new lifted travel restrictions a victory for an oppresive Cuban regime?