By: Hank Tester
American companies can open their doors in Cuba
The Obama Administration continues its aggressive moves to open up relations with Cuba. The most recent modification of sanctions against the Communist nation include allowing U.S. companies to open offices, warehouses, and bank accounts on the island. The administrations revamped regulations will allow U.S. companies to hire Cuban workers. Also as part of the most recent package of changes is the removal of the cap on the amount of money that can be brought to the Island and a further easing of travel restrictions, though Americans still cannot travel to Cuba strictly as tourists.
The new rules go into effect Monday, September 21st and were announced just a day before Pope Francis begins a three day visit to the Island Nation. Pope Francis is acknowledged as the person who facilitated the opening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba ending a half-century-plus of strife laced non recognition between the two countries.
Treasury secretary Jacob J. Lew says, “By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuba people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.” The move was widely praised by American Business leaders, seeing opportunity, who have lobbied hard to open Cuba and want to push the opening much further. "Congress must also do its job and respond to the growing calls from constituents across the country who want to see an end to both the travel ban on Americans and the trade embargo.” says James Williams President of the Industry trade group Engage Cuba. Pope Francis is on the record as being opposed to the Cuban Embargo and will certainly carry that message across Cuba and to the United States where he will address congress and visit with the President of the United States.
Critics are quick to point out the Obama Administration has extended a hand to the Cubans but the Cubans have not responded in kind. “It is a pattern of give away by the Obama Administration,” says Dr. Jaime Suchlicki of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami. “The Cubans are not reciprocating and Cubans (citizens) will not benefit from any change,” says Suchlicki who has authored numerous books on Cuba and U.S. Cuba relations. Suchlicki says that Cuba has not granted permission for any U.S. flagged ferry boats or cruise ships to enter their ports despite U.S. approval. The Cuba/U.S. Bilateral Commission talks have been painfully slow.
Despite American hopes and overtures the Cubans have not made any moves for free elections, legalization of opposition political parties, freedom of the press, or the ability to unionize. Ahead of the Pope's visit the Castro Government did free 35-hundred prisoners but none were political prisoners and arrests of dissidents continue. The Obama Administration has taken the Castro Regime off the U.S. list of terrorist nations, and opened up diplomatic relations.
“They have gone farther at one time than most expected,” John Kavulich, the president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council told the New York Times. “It's in keeping with President Obama strategy…which is, 'I am throwing the proverbial ball into the Cuban court.’ "
American business leaders and the Obama operatives have worked long and hard to get the U.S. Government to crack open the door to Cuba. The question is when will the Cubans let them in?