April 13th, 2009
01:58 PM ET

Why Cuba, and why now

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/13/cuba.travel/art.obama.today.afp.gi.jpg caption="The changes in Cuban policy will be unveiled before President Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas."]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

Just days before traveling to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas, President Obama has lifted some travel and financial restrictions on Cuban Americans with family back in Cuba.

Now Cuban Americans will be able to visit their family back home and send them money, which many Cubans on the island depend on in the face of a stiff economic embargo.

Many in the U.S. Cuban American community went along with the Bush administration crackdown on those remittances and travel, because they believed it would squeeze the regime, which skims from the payments and tourist revenue.

But countries like oil-rich Venezuela were making up the difference with cash payments to the Castro regime. Cuban Americans were prepared to sacrifice seeing their families and sending money for a greater purpose, but that wasn't working. So now they have been pushing for an end to the restrictions.

Lifting restrictions will be a step-by-step process. This issue is a political hot button, so administration officials say President Obama is going to start with what is most palatable politically. The administration doesn't see the narrow lifting of restrictions as very contentious with Congress. A full lifting of the travel embargo would be a "natural next step," one senior official said, but the administration wants to see how this initial move goes first.

The administration is not planning to make Cuba a big issue at the Summit of the Americas. It expects countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua to raise the issue, because they are trying to bring Cuba back to the summit and into the Organization of American States.

The US is not prepared to do that yet, because Cuba does not exactly fit the description of a democracy. But officials said the US will be looking to see the message Cuba will be sending through these countries. The Cubans have been meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and others before the summit - and the US expects that Cuba is preaching to these nations that they should be less aggressive than in the past about pushing the US to change the way it responds to Cuba.

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Raheim W.

    You know what's so funny? Anyone that lashes out at President Obama for changing the tone of a policy that hasn't worked have their right to opinion but like a dariere, everyone has one. Some keep it clean while others stink.

    Touting human rights atrocities and the like is hypocrysy when we as Americans do the same everyday to our own. Get off the high horse and get onboard with "CHANGE". Its not hard to do, even though a little difficult at first. Who knows, it may be the volly needed to cause a Cuban democracy that encourages and supports human rights advocacy to empower this region within the next 50 years. Turning up our noses at Cuba for actions that preceded all of us is rediculous.

    Ever increasingly, we seem to become a country of "do as I say and not as I do". Before we go around the world taking a moral highground, lets examine ourselves to see if things have changed for us as well in the last half a century that would be construed as a "better than" attitude. We have the collective power and reason to be a brother's keeper. Put away attempting to be the judge and jury...I'm proud of our President even though not all like him.

    April 14, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  2. Chris

    I think that everybody has the right to have an opinion, but some times opinons are far from realities (that's american pie case). We are not bigoted cubans in Miami, we are the cubans that send the money to their families and friends and the medicines that the people in the island can not buy because they not exist there; the same cubans that the government chased only because we want the same freedom that some americans are demanding now, free traveling, for instance, among many others that you have for free in this great country. Maybe with this step most of the americans could understand the real cuban tragedy.

    April 14, 2009 at 9:07 am |
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