Common sense on Cuba

The Obama administration has taken an important first step toward overhauling a 50-year-old failed Cuba policy by lifting restrictions on family visits and remittances to the island, as well as laying the groundwork for improved telecommunications to increase contact. The interests of democracy have never been served by keeping Cuban Americans from their relatives, just as the U.S. trade embargo has never led to regime change.

The Obama policy allows Cuban Americans to visit Cuba as often and for as long as they please, and it removes limits on the frequency and amount of money they can send to relatives, as long as those relatives are not prominent members of the government or the Cuban Communist Party. Banks and other institutions will be licensed to forward remittances, and U.S. telecommunications network providers will be allowed to enter into agreements to establish links.

These welcome humanitarian developments should mark the beginning of a new approach to relations between the two countries. But there are further steps to be taken to strengthen those ties. The White House said there are "no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans." What about other Americans who would like to travel to Cuba, although they don't have family there? The ban on travel to the island should be lifted altogether. And more important, what about the trade embargo? Nothing speaks for our way of life better than our way of life; the embargo merely denies Cubans the opportunity to appreciate this country in all its diversity and ingenuity.

We share the administration's goals of political and economic reform in Cuba. We would like to see respect for human rights and free and fair elections there. And like most of Latin America, we think the best way to pursue those long-term goals is through constructive engagement with the Cuban government. We hope the Castro regime will acknowledge these overtures and reciprocate in some way. (How about letting dissidents out of jail?) At the very least, it should accept the telecommunications agreements that will help Cubans connect to the outside world.

But even if the regime balks, Obama should commit the U.S. to more open relations, overcome the objections of some members of Congress and initiate a dialogue with the Cuban government of the sort he has proposed for other problematic regimes. Contact and openness should lead to familiarity and dislodge outdated antagonisms, and eventually force the lifting of the ineffective embargo. That will be a day for both countries and their citizens to celebrate.

— Los Angeles Times

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