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Op-ed: President Obama’s new Cuba policy looks forward, not back

This news story was published on December 21, 2014.
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Op-Ed by Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew

cuba_map_480_1President Obama’s decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba will advance United States’ interests and those of the Cuban people. The 11 million people of this island nation have waited far too long — over half a century — to fulfill their democratic aspirations and build closer ties with the rest of the world in the 21st century. Our new U.S. policy on Cuba reflects the reality that past policies — although well-intentioned — no longer suit today’s situation. The president’s announcement reflects a historic turning of the page on enmities born of a different era and toward a brighter and more promising future.

Early in his administration, the president took steps to ease restrictions on Cuban-American visits and remittances that opened new pathways for family reunification — and later expanded this to include religious, academic and cultural exchanges for all Americans. Last week’s decision builds boldly on those initial measures and will increase communications, commerce and travel between our two countries. The State Department will lead discussions to restore regular diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time since 1961 and re-establish an embassy in Havana. In our bilateral discussions, the United States will seek to advance cooperation on issues of mutual interest, including counter-narcotics, migration, combating trafficking-in-persons, the Ebola crisis and shared environmental challenges.

The president has made clear that a critical focus of these actions will include continued strong support for improved human-rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba. The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and supporting the freedom of individuals to exercise their freedoms of speech and assembly. For these reasons, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release more than 50 political prisoners, expand Internet access for Cuba’s citizens and allow better human-rights monitoring by the International Red Cross and United Nations. Our firm support for progress in these areas will be unwavering, and we will continue to implement programs to promote positive change in Cuba.

As Albert Einstein said long ago, it’s just not rational to continue doing the same thing in the expectation of obtaining a different result. Since U.S.-Cuban relations were frozen, the world has been transformed; the Cold War ended a quarter century ago. Over time the U.S. effort to isolate Cuba began to have the reverse effect of isolating the United States especially in the Western Hemisphere. Meanwhile, Cuban leaders used our stance as a source of propaganda, to justify policies that have no place in the 21st century. It has been an open secret that the relationship has been in a rut that benefits no one on either side. The time has come to cease looking backward and to begin to move forward in the interests of both freedom-loving Cubans and the United States.

What, specifically, has the president decided to do?

First, he has authorized U.S. officials to expand travel, increase remittances and grow bilateral trade. To facilitate this and ensure proper oversight, the Treasury Department will also make banking easier and allow the use of U.S. debit and credit cards in Cuba. In addition, it will strengthen the monitoring and transparency of financial flows between the United States and Cuba by allowing American financial institutions to open correspondent accounts at Cuban banks. One effect of all of the changes will be to increase the ability of Americans to provide business training and other support for Cuba’s nascent private sector, which already includes 500,000 employees. In this regard, the Commerce Department will ease current export limits on a variety of products that would help Cuban small businesses grow such as construction firms, agricultural companies, automobile repair and others.

Second, the president’s decision will support new efforts to tear down the digital wall that isolates Cubans. The country has an Internet penetration rate of 5 percent, among the lowest in the world. Prices are high, and services are limited. Under the new policy, we will permit the sale of technology that will begin to unleash the transformative effects of the Internet on the island.

Third, the president has ordered reforms in the application of U.S. sanctions to Cubans in third countries.

Fourth, the president has asked the State Department to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism to ensure that any such designation is guided entirely by the facts and law.

All this is in addition to the start of talks aimed at the restoration of normal diplomatic relations. Next month, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will lead the U.S. delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration talks, and the Commerce Department will lead a business delegation to the country in the coming months. In the spring, President Obama will travel to Panama for the 2015 Summit of the Americas, where we are encouraging full participation by representatives of Cuban civil society. Meanwhile, the United States has welcomed home USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who was wrongfully jailed in Cuba for more than five years, and also an American intelligence agent who had been imprisoned for two decades.

President Obama’s announcement last week is forward-looking and emphasizes the value of people-to-people relations, increased commerce, more communications and respectful dialogue. It will enhance our ability to have a positive impact on events inside Cuba and to help improve the lives of the Cuban people. It will put American businesses on a more equal footing. And it will enhance the standing of our own country in the hemisphere and around the world.

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22 Responses to Op-ed: President Obama’s new Cuba policy looks forward, not back

  1. Philosophus Reply Report comment

    December 26, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Brilliant. Viva Obama! Long live the Obama revolution / transformation. Obama will go down in history as the GREATEST United States President since perhaps Roosevelt.

    • Maybe Reply Report comment

      December 26, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      You are right, there will be a revolution and we will win, obama and his communism will not last to the next election.

      • Philosophus Reply Report comment

        December 26, 2014 at 8:06 pm

        Maybe, you guys will all but be phazed out during the next several elections. The youth are approaching voting age, and they are finished with war, tyranny, and abuse. I heard a Solar City district manager espouse that Jeb Bush would win the next election in the sauna today at 24 hour fitness, but I doubt it severely. The guy says the machine is gearing up for another war against Iran. My prediction is the Reds won’t see the White House for another 16 years or so…if ever.

        • Maybe Reply Report comment

          December 26, 2014 at 8:25 pm

          I know that you are a self proclaimed expert on every subject but mark my words, there will not be another election here in the united states.

          • Philosophus

            December 26, 2014 at 8:27 pm

            Oh my golly #maybe, you’re going off the deep end huh? Okay, your words are MARKED. Care to elaborate as to why you believe this? I’ll apologize in advance for the 483 character limit.

          • Maybe

            December 26, 2014 at 8:39 pm

            Lets just say that before the next election there will be martial law and the constitution will be suspended.

      • LeftMC Reply Report comment

        December 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm

        Obama is the worst communist in the history of communism. Under his presidency the rich have gotten infinitely richer while the middle class has floundered and poverty has gotten worse. Please stop using the communist / socialist argument, that’s a stupid Fox News hot button word that completely misrepresents Obama. Has Obama been a great president? Absolutely Not. Is Obama a Communist? Absolutely not. So many measurable markers show he’s not.

        • Maybe Reply Report comment

          December 29, 2014 at 2:58 pm

          There is a fine line between communist and socialist. Some of obamas ideas have been used by the communist party in russia during the 50’s and some of obamas ideas have been used by the socialist party in kenya and vietnam. None of his ideas are original, they have been used before and have been proven to not work. I am not calling obama a communist or a socialist, what I am saying is that his ideas are NOT good for America and he knows it.

          • LeftMC

            December 29, 2014 at 3:03 pm

            Can you give me some more specific examples of these ideas?

          • Philosophus

            December 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm

            Your pride (or ignorance) won’t admit when there’s a good thing going. Obama has been perhaps thousand fold better than W. When it comes to saving lives from ending wars, how can you really measure such a thing? No more grieving parents, wives, children…you of all people should know this.

          • Maybe

            December 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm

            Instead I will give you a couple web sites that should answer your question,




            I know what you will say. the same thing every liberal out there says. If the website doesn’t agree with what they think then they say it’s all made up. Read them before you make up your mind.

          • Maybe

            December 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm

            As for you peter, you are not ignorant because you know the truth and yet you refuse to believe it, that is more than ignorance. Ending a war just because it is unpopular isn’t always the right thing to do, just look at ISIS. If we would have stayed just alittle longer in iraq we could have stopped them. Now that he is pulling us out of afganistan we will probably run into the same problem. Just because it is popular doesn’t make it right.

          • LeftMC

            December 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm

            We’ve covered this before @Maybe, Obama didn’t set the timeline for pulling troops from Iraq. The date was determined by the US – Iraq Status of Forces Agreement signed by President GW Bush in 2008. I know you like to spin this somehow into the fault of Obama’s but it’s not. Also, I’m not blaming Bush for ISIS. ISIS happened because Iraq was unstable. But back in 2008 they were sick of us and wanted us out, and the US citizens were sick of the war too.

          • Maybe

            December 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm

            I am not talking about the timeline and who set it. As the president, obama has access to information. He knew about ISIS before they started beheading people. You say it was because iraq was unstable, was it any more unstable than afganistan is right now? Before we got in there and before the russians got in there the tribes were fighting constantly. We leave and the whole country will destroy itself. I know, it’s not our problem, that maybe so but once we start something.

          • LeftMC

            December 29, 2014 at 3:44 pm

            Your comment implied that Obama pulled us out of Iraq too soon thus opening the doors for ISIS. My point was simply that the timeline for getting out of Iraq does not rest on the shoulders of Obama, even though the Republicans love to place that blame there now.

          • LeftMC

            December 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm

            Also, you may recall how unpopular the Iraq war was / is once the American public realized it was duped into it to settle a grudge Dubya had for his daddy. ISIS has grown significantly since then, but we can’t stay militarized in every country that has a radical tribe running around.

          • Maybe

            December 29, 2014 at 3:49 pm

            Bush set the timeline but if things were bad he would have left them there like obama did when he took office. They were supposed to come out but intelligence said there would be problems so obama left the troops there longer. The timeline was set but as president he has the options of bringing them out earlier or later. Intelligence reports from 2006 said a new group was forming in iraq and yes bush screwed up by allowing the prisoners loose from GITMO where the leader of ISIS came from.

          • Maybe

            December 29, 2014 at 3:55 pm

            The main problem liberals have right now is believing everything that is told to them. Dubya is a new one to me. The reports of ISIS taking bases in iraq and finding WMD’s has been all over the news. Thats why we originally went into iraq was the WMD’s, they were there, I saw them and hauled them on my truck. Now they found them and you know what, Bush was right, and it had nothing to do with Bush Sr.

          • LeftMC

            December 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

            But politically, the American public was sick of the Iraq war, for the reasons mentioned in my previous post. People were sick of troops dying in Iraq for a war that we never should have started in Iraq in the first place. Afghanistan is hopeless too, we will never bring peace to that country. It’s been tried several times over the years and none have succeeded. There comes a point in time where you just get out and worry about / protect yourself.

          • Philosophus

            December 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm

            It’s futile to concern yourself with monikers. ISIS, Muslim brotherhood, All Quaeda in Iraq etc, are all the same thing. They are Muslims who believe in erecting a Caliphate and total Sharia law.when one group is scattered, they re-form and try again. There’s only one way to quiet that hornet nest down: get out of there and leave them alone. Energy companies refuse to. Youd have to eradicate them completely and annex the territory for OPEC to win.

          • Philosophus

            December 29, 2014 at 4:30 pm

            This is not about spreading freedom to the middle east, and because it was a lie, it was doomed for failure. Bush bet the American people were incredibly stupid (which they largely are), as he bet (wrongly) the middle eastern people were. I’ve been against this war from the beginning on all levels. When it comes to death and killing, it’s impossible to undue what’s been done, so the situation is permanently FUBAR, and America created more bad karma, yet again.

          • Maybe

            December 29, 2014 at 5:05 pm

            The first half of your 1st post I agreed with but then you went off on a rant again and ruined it.