Obama’s expected Cuba policy changes anger some, delight others

NorthJeresy.com: The possibility that the Obama administration could allow more Americans to travel to Cuba angers North Jersey residents who support a tough stance toward the communist regime, and delights those who believe that more contact between both nations will lead to reforms in Cuba.

Speculation that the administration is preparing to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba grew stronger this week, as several media reports quoted anonymous White House officials who spoke of the president’s plans.

Some Cuban-Americans in North Jersey say that any change that would bring more U.S. dollars to Cuba would not, as some administration officials indicated, help ordinary Cubans on the island but rather benefit the regime.

“They’re giving a political system that for half a century has oppressed an entire nation a lifeline,” said Clara Nibot, a Bergenfield resident who emigrated from Cuba.

“It doesn’t make sense that on the one hand, we send Americans overseas to die fighting for liberty, and on the other hand, we’re moving toward fortifying a regime that violates human rights — just 90 miles from our shores — and shows no intention of changing.”

Expanded flights?

The reports say that the change in policy could include easing rules for academic, cultural and religious groups traveling to Cuba, and expanding the number of U.S. cities that have direct flights to the island. Also, the reports say, while people living in the United States who have relatives in Cuba may send them money at present, Obama may allow all Americans to send money to institutions or human rights groups in Cuba.

It would not be the first time President Obama has changed rules concerning Cuba. Last year, he lifted restrictions imposed by former President George W. Bush on travel and remittances to Cuba by those who had relatives living on the island.

At Marazul Charters in Weehawken, an agency that handles travel to Cuba, the speculation that the administration will institute such changes brought praise.

Bob Guild, an Englewood resident and vice president of Marazul, said: “Instead of having our travel used as a foreign policy tool, the people of our country would finally be able to share ideas and experiences with the people of Cuba, a right that the rest of the world has enjoyed freely.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, assailed the possible change in policy. “The Castro regime allowed a Cuban dissident to die during his pro-democracy hunger strike,” he said in a statement, “and during the past year, another hunger striker has gone on life support.

“Those who lament our dependence on foreign oil because it enriches regimes in places like Iran should not have a double standard when it comes to enriching the Castro regime, simply because Cuba offers white sand beaches.”

Opponents of the U.S.-Cuba embargo say a harsh approach toward Cuba for half a century has failed to achieve its objectives, and that it’s time to try something different.

“This would undo the Bush sanctions, but the blockade, most of the travel restrictions would remain in effect,” said the Rev. Lucius Walker, a Tenafly resident and founder and executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, which sends humanitarian caravans to Cuba every year.

“For 50 — not five or 15 — years, the U.S. has been arguing that the blockade will topple the ‘Cuban dictator’ but nothing has changed except that the humble, simple people of Cuba have been affected, have been hurting, and it just reinforces their support for their government.”

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3 Responses to Obama’s expected Cuba policy changes anger some, delight others

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