Obama Can Loosen Cuba Policy More, Experts Say

February 16, 2011 6:54 am 2 comments
Obama Can Loosen Cuba Policy More, Experts Say

The city of Havana, Cuba.

WASHINGTON – Advocates of prying Cuba policy a bit further open are looking to the Obama administration rather than Congress for help.

Experts gathered in Washington on Tuesday to discuss actions the Obama administration can take to improve relations with Cuba by lessening current U.S. sanctions. The panel, meeting at the Brookings Institution, focused its recommendations on executive action President Obama can take without Congressional involvement and the potential for reciprocal steps taken by Havana.

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who is serving as special envoy for the Organization of American States, led the discussion, outlining possible steps the leaders of both countries could take to improve relations and show “good-faith” efforts to increase economic ties between the two nations. For the Obama administration, Richardson recommended removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, reducing or eliminating restrictions on travel to Cuba, and allowing U.S. citizens to open bank accounts in Cuba.

Richardson said these steps may push Havana to take reciprocal steps, such as the easing restrictions for Cubans traveling abroad, and increasing cooperation with the U.S. on environmental issues.

The panel’s focus on executive-branch action reflected the diminishing of options open to President Obama after the Republicans’ takeover of the House of Representatives and increased numbers in the Senate. Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio recently filed an amendment that would restrict new airports from offering flights to Cuba — a measure approved by Obama in January as part of a relaxation of travel and remittance policy to Cuba.

Richardson acknowledged this new political reality, but said “the Menendez-Rubio bill should not be a signal that the president should stop,” instead urging the administration to use executive orders and negotiations before dealing with larger issues requiring Congressional involvement.

Stephen Propost of the international law firm Hogan-Lovells explained the legal authority the president has in dealing with Cuba. “Significantly, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the president does have broad authority to modify the sanctions,” citing the two times the non-partisan investigative arm of the U.S. Congress reviewed executive actions taken by Presidents Clinton and Obama.

The GAO reports concluded the president maintains “broad discretion” to make additional modifications to the existing embargo. These possible modifications, like the ones suggested by Richardson, would be limited in scope and would be largely symbolic in nature.

One issue viewed as essential to easing tensions between the two nations is the release of USAID contractor Alan Gross who was arrested in Havana in December 2009. Gross has been imprisoned ever since, and Cuban prosecutors announced earlier this month that they will seek a 20-year prison sentence for “acts against the integrity and independence” of Cuba.

Such issues keep U.S.-Cuba relations highly political, but as President Obama and U.S. manufacturers seek to increase U.S. exports, the embargo has grown increasingly unpopular and its critics have grown to include the business community.

“The Chamber’s position is very simple: we oppose the embargo,” said Patrick Kilbride, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “(Our) opposition stems from the lost economic opportunity the U.S. embargo on Cuba represents,” Kilbride added.

“Cuba is a natural market for U.S. goods and services,” Kilbride said. “And Cuba fits into this pattern of markets we’re forfeiting around the world.”

Image: Milo80 @ Flickr.

2 Comments

  • How about a swap – Alan Gross for the Cuban Five. Does Cuba really want to continue to imprison Gross? Does the US really need to keep the Cubans as prisoners? Answer no to both questions and make the deal. Hugely symbolic for both sides, not to mention humanitarian.

  • It’s been fifty years since the embargo. Most of the people that were involved in all of this mess have died. Drop the embargo it’s 2011 and open up Cuba to trade and tourism and let the population have the freedom they deserve.

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Crisis in Guerrero Continues as Peña Nieto Meets with Families of Missing Students

    Crisis in Guerrero Continues as Peña Nieto Meets with Families of Missing Students

    Top Story – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto  met for the first time with family members of the 43 missing students from Guerrero state on Wednesday in Mexico City. Before the meeting, family members said they were prepared to voice their “indignation” over the country’s fruitless search for their missing loved ones and to demand the president do more. Since the 43 students went missing after being attacked by police on Sept. 26, the search for them has been marked […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Despite New Leads, No Answers in Search For Missing Students

    Despite New Leads, No Answers in Search For Missing Students

    Top Story — The search continues for Mexico’s 43 missing students in Guerrero state as authorities have not been able to confirm that new mass graves contain the students’ remains. Sunday marked one month since the students from the rural Ayotzinapa Normal School went missing after being arrested in the town of Iguala after commandeering several busses to use them in a protest. According to Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam, local police turned the students over to members of […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Colombia Dispatches United States Activists and Journalists Struggle to Make Colombia’s War Visible in the U.S.

    Activists and Journalists Struggle to Make Colombia’s War Visible in the U.S.

    NEW YORK CITY — Diana Gómez and Shaira Rivera, two young women from Colombia, visited several U.S. universities this month to raise awareness about Colombia’s current peace negotiations to end decades of armed conflict. Both their fathers were killed in the war. Their fathers, congressional aide Jaime Gómez and union worker Guillermo Rivera, were killed in Colombia in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Although their cases have not been resolved in court, the young Gómez and Rivera accuse Colombian state forces […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Cuba Today in Latin America Cuba to Allow Construction of First New Catholic Church in 55 Years

    Cuba to Allow Construction of First New Catholic Church in 55 Years

    Top Story — Cuba’s government has sanctioned the construction of the first Catholic church to be built in the country in 55 years, the latest development in a continued trend of growing acceptance of religion on the island. The church, to be funded by members of the U.S.-based exile community in Tampa, Florida, will be constructed in Sandino, a town located in the province of Piñar del Rio on the island’s western coast. The church’s construction indicates a growing connection […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil North America Southern Cone Today in Latin America Brazil Re-elects Dilma Rousseff as President

    Brazil Re-elects Dilma Rousseff as President

    Top Story — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff won her re-election bid in the closest race in the country’s history, taking just over 51 percent of the vote to beat her opponent Aécio Neves. The tight victory marks the end of a campaign cycle that stunned observers for the atypically vicious attacks from both sides. Rousseff, of the left-populist Workers’ Party, opened her victory speech by saluting fellow party member and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose two-term tenure […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Governor of Mexican State Steps Down Over Student Disappearances

    Governor of Mexican State Steps Down Over Student Disappearances

    Top Story — The governor of the Mexican state of Guerrero stepped down from his position on Thursday as the disappearance of 43 students there late last month continues to reverberate across the country. Ángel Aguirre, 58, is barred by law from resigning his post, but said that he is taking a leave of absence. Aguirre has faced widespread anger over his handling of the students’ disappearance, and many have called for his resignation during protests in Guerrero’s capital city […]

    Read more →
  • Southern Cone Today in Latin America Uruguay Uruguayan Presidential Candidate Would Roll Back Historic Marijuana Law

    Uruguayan Presidential Candidate Would Roll Back Historic Marijuana Law

    Top Story — Days ahead of Uruguay’s presidential election Sunday, the country’s top opposition candidate on Wednesday vowed to repeal the country’s historic marijuana law, which legalizes the commercial production and sale of the drug. Centrist National Party candidate Luis Lacalle Pou had not previously specified what actions he would take against the law. Lacalle Pou told Reuters that he would keep the articles permitting personal marijuana use and cultivation, but would repeal the rest, including the provisions for commercialization […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Mexican Troops Executed Victims in June Slayings, Rights Body Finds

    Mexican Troops Executed Victims in June Slayings, Rights Body Finds

    Top Story — Mexican troops executed up to 15 of the 22 suspected gang members killed in June in the small town of San Pedro Limón, according to an investigation by the government’s human rights agency. The account by Raúl Plascencia, president of the commission, contradicted several prior versions of a murky story offered at various stages by the military, the Attorney General’s office and an eyewitness. Plascencia called for prosecutors to investigate a potential cover-up by military officials. At […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean News Briefs North America As World Series Begins, So Does ‘Latin American Pipeline’ to MLB

    As World Series Begins, So Does ‘Latin American Pipeline’ to MLB

    When the opening pitch is thrown Tuesday night in game one of the World Series, a number of Latin American players will be front and center under the bright stadium floodlights. What won’t be on display, however, are some of the darker stories behind how many Latin Americans make it to play in Major League Baseball in the first place. This season, Latin American players made up close to a quarter of all MLB players — a staggering 86 percent of […]

    Read more →
  • Chile Southern Cone Today in Latin America Pinochet Bodyguard and Ex-Mayor Arrested in Santiago

    Pinochet Bodyguard and Ex-Mayor Arrested in Santiago

    Top Story — Chilean authorities have arrested a former aide to Gen. Augusto Pinochet, accusing him of committing various atrocities under the 1973-1990 military dictatorship. A judge on Monday ordered the arrest of retired military colonel Cristian Labbe on charges of “unlawful association” with a group that ultimately became the DINA secret police force. Labbe was allegedly involved in the murder of 13 people under Pinochet’s dictatorship. Those 13 people, investigators found, were tortured and executed at the notorious Tejas […]

    Read more →