Here’s what the President’s new approach will do:
Re-establish diplomatic relations
Our diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed in January of 1961. The President is immediately reopening discussions with Cuba and working to re-establish an embassy in Havana in the next coming months. The U.S. will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.
More effectively empower the Cuban people by adjusting regulations
The President is taking steps to improve travel and remittance policies that will further increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, and enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.
Facilitate an expansion of travel to Cuba
With expanded travel, Americans will be able to help support the growth of civil society in Cuba more easily, and provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers. Americans will also be able to provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector.
General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in 12 existing categories:
1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity
4. Professional research and professional meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutions
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines
I rarely have had cause to unabashedly celebrate one of President Obama’s actions, but today my rejoicing is genuine. After more than 50 years of failed sanctions and decades of friendly relations with countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Vietnam, it is long past time to normalize relations with Cuba.
The President’s actions today are an important first step, but they will have to be backed up by Congress. Under the Constitution, a President is entitled to deal with any nation they choose. But if he appoints an ambassador to Cuba, that nominee would have to be confirmed by the Senate. Also, if Congress chose to, they could prohibit the President from spending funds to establish an Embassy.
But I hope Congress will not stand in the way of common sense. As the President himself noted, we’ve been trying the same thing for more than 50 years without result. We maintain fully normal relations with countries with worse human rights records and potential for mischief than Cuba. Please, regardless of party, join the President in trying something new.