New Cuba policy in U.S. interests

President Barack Obama opened the door to Cuba a crack, but much more must happen before relations between the United States and its island neighbor move toward normal.
By presidential order, Obama removed the harsh restrictions im-posed by the Bush regime on Cuban Americans who have relations in Cuba. They may now send unlimited money and gifts and can travel to Cuba as often as they wish.
All other Americans remain under Cold War travel restrictions — which keeps Cuba closed to U.S. tourists and business representatives and thereby keeps Cubans isolated from Americans.
The trade embargo that prevents U.S. firms from selling to Cubans, and vice versa, also remains.
President Obama has made a good will gesture. If Cuban leader Raul Castro responds in some significant way, incremental improvements can begin.
Castro’s initial response was to downplay Obama’s actions and call again for him to “lift the cruel embargo” — repeating the regime’s old litany verbatim.
For 50 years the Cuban communists have used Washington’s enmity to bolster its dictatorship. They have conjured up the threat of an American invasion to insulate themselves from political opposition and it may remain true today that they really don’t want the embargo or travel restrictions lifted.
The U.S. response should be to take the initiative and move slowly but steadily toward normalization.
We should adopt that policy because it is very much in our interest to do so.
Cuba needs U.S. food, medicine, agricultural equipment, cars, lumber and much, much more. U.S. agriculture and industry need the Cuban market.
Lifing the travel restrictions would give the economy a huge boost each winter as tourists swarmed to its beaches, visited Ernest Hemingway’s old haunts and chartered its deep sea fishing boats.
The only downside to treating Cuba as we treat our other neighboring nations is that it would require us to admit to having a wrong-headed Cuban policy for at least 20 years.
Perhaps this administration can handle that.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.