Following his announcement last week making changes to long-standing US restrictions on dealings between the US and Cuba, President Obama is likely to discuss such matters further — including the broader question of working to bring Cuba back into the mainstream of Western Hemisphere relations — during this week’s Summit of the Americas being held in Trinidad and Tobago. As opined in this blog last month, it is high time to begin unraveling the trade and diplomatic restrictions on dealings between the US and Cuba. To whatever extent such restrictions might have been appropriate when instituted nearly five decades ago, they simply are neither productive nor truly defensible today; especially considering the likelihood of a new generation of leaders set to assume control of the Cuban government in the near future.
The changes announced April 13th by the White House are modest in scope — making it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel to the island nation and to send money to their families there; allowing telecommunications companies to more readily establish cell, satellite TV and computer networks in Cuba; and undoing Bush-era restrictions on sending packages by Cuban Americans to Cuba. Still, the timing of the moves is important, and hopefully we will now see an acceleration of such process, including more substantive changes on the commerical trade and diplomatic fronts in the near future.
While he’s at it, President Obama should take the opportunity of attending this first Summit of the Americas in five years, to start the process of convincing our hemishere neighbors that the United States will at long last start paying sustained and sincere attention to this oft-overlooked region of the world.