U.S. and Cuba to restore diplomatic relations

In a major announcement, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would restore diplomatic relationships with Cuba. President Obama said, “It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a dramatic, prosperous and stable Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1969, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.”

The announcement was praised by many agricultural and business organizations including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, USA Rice Federation, etc.

The president announced various actions the administration would take including:

  • Diplomatic relations - take steps to restore full diplomatic relations.
  • Embassy - reopen a U.S. embassy in Havana.
  • Agriculture sales – the Department of the Treasury is to remove restrictions that require Cuba to pay for agricultural commodities through a third-country bank. U.S. banks will now be allowed to deal directly with Cuban banks.
  • Expanded commercial sales and exports – Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers.
  • Expand travel – restrictions would be eased for travel to Cuba: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; exportation, importation or transmission of information or related materials; etc. Tourist travel will still be banned.
  • Increase remittances – U.S. citizens will be allowed to send to Cuban nationals $2,000 per quarter up from $500.
  • Imports – U.S. citizens will be allowed to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of alcohol and tobacco products, including cigars, for personal consumption.
  • Financial transactions – U.S. institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions to help process authorized transactions.

The Cuban embargo will remain in place but the administration is expected to begin discussions with Congress. It will take an act of Congress to end the embargo implemented in 1961. Also, some members of Congress have stated they will try and stop various actions the administration plans to implement. In my opinion it is time to end the embargo. It is a failed policy.

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