While refusing to confirm the details, deputy White House spokesperson William Burton said that Obama would continue to do things that help to create a more democratic environment and expand freedoms for the Cuban people.
According to the August 6 Miami Herald, the key change is the expansion of existing purposeful educational, religious, and cultural travel between Cuba and the United States.
U.S.-Cuba flights, currently allowed only from Miami, Los Angeles, and John F. Kennedy airport in New York, could be permitted from some 35 U.S. airports. The measures would also make it easier to pay in the United States for telephone and other services, the Herald said, in hopes of increasing communications between the island and Cuban exiles.
Washington has been stepping up its aid to counterrevolutionary groups in Cuba. Some $15 million for the Cuba Democracy programs of the U.S. Aid for International Development (USAID) were released in June, including $3 million for groups that are particularly marginalized to help empower them, including aiding them in setting up private businesses.
USAID boasts that it directly supports groups like Ladies in White that organize provocative actions against the Cuban government and that it sends international experts to Cuba to train independent groups.
On August 5 the U.S. State Department announced that it was keeping Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. On August 31 a federal appellate court upheld a Florida law that prohibits state funding of academic and research trips to nations on the list.
Embargo aimed at crippling Cuba
Since the early 1960s, every U.S. president, Democrat and Republican alike, has maintained the economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed on Cuba. Their aim is to cripple the countrys economy and punish the Cuban people for having made a revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Except for a brief period in the late 1970s and early 80s, Washington essentially banned travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, with exceptions for journalists and some academic exchanges.
An integral part of Washingtons efforts has been combining violent armed actions against Cuba with what the U.S. imperialist rulers call Track II, creating opposition political groups that could aid in overturning the revolution. An October 1962 State Department memo states that U.S. advisors would keep their direct participation to a minimum, while financing such groups.
In 1992 President George H. Bush signed the Cuban Democracy Actoften called the Torricelli billwhich tightened the embargo of Cuba, including restrictions on remittances by family members and travel to the island, and at the same time stepped up Track II organizing and financing of internal opposition.
In March 1996 President William Clinton signed the Helms-Burton bill into law, further tightening the embargo and adding penalties to businessmen from other countries who invest there. Clinton justified the law as a way to punish Cuba for shooting down two hostile aircraft flown by counterrevolutionaries who had repeatedly violated Cuban airspace.
By January 1999 Clinton announced he was initiating steps to expand people to people contact, two-way exchanges of scientists and academics with Cuba, emphasizing the Track II approach.
President George W. Bush tightened up interaction in 2003, limiting remittances sent by Cuban Americans to their families on the island and cutting back on cultural and academic exchanges.
Continued U.S. hostility to revolution
The Obama administration began a return to the Clinton-era Track II approach last year with the removal of restrictions on Cuban Americans traveling to Cuba and sending money to their families there. White House moves to further expand specific types of travel take place in the context of economic, social, and political challenges confronting the Cuban Revolution in a period of prolonged absence of revolutionary struggles worldwide and mounting consequences of the worldwide capitalist economic crisis.
Some liberal politicians, including California congresswoman Barbara Lee, who present themselves as friends of Cuba, say that the expected Obama measures do not go far enough.
Lee, a Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued a statement August 18 titled Mr. President: Lift the Travel Ban. She is a sponsor of the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, a congressional bill that calls for fewer restrictions on travel and trade with the Caribbean nation.
The 50-year embargo of Cuba hasnt brought down Castros government, Lee argues. We need to try a new approach.
When Cubans start buying our goods and forming relationships with Americans, the path to their futurea democratic and prosperous onewill become clearer than ever, she said.
This approach is also supported by many U.S.-backed counterrevolutionary groups and individuals inside Cuba who want to restore capitalism there. A letter to the U.S. House of Representatives backing the Lee-sponsored bill was signed by 74 Cuban dissidents.
In a speech to Cubas National Assembly of Peoples Power August 1, Cuban leader Raúl Castro pointed out that the Obama administration is not easing Washingtons hostility to the revolution.
In essence nothing has changed, Castro stated, although there is less rhetoric and occasional bilateral talks are held on specific and limited topics, in reality the blockade continues to be applied.
We will keep acting with the serenity and patience we have learned over the last 50 plus years, he concluded.
Two weeks after Castros speech, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was fining Barclays Bank $176 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Burma, Iran, and Sudan.
Art show by Cuban Five prisoner opens in N.Y.C.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home