obama cuba policy, us cuba policy
Lawrence Jackson/AP

How Will Obama Impact Relations With Cuba?

December 26, 2008 12:58 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Many wonder how the Obama administration will approach U.S. policy in Cuba and how it could impact travel to the island.

The Right Approach to Cuba

Some analysts see great potential for immediate change in U.S.-Cuban relations once the Obama administration takes office, but others are cautioning the president-elect to proceed slowly and carefully.

According to CNN’s Morgan Neill, if the United States takes a new approach to Cuba, it “could be felt throughout the region.” Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations agrees, telling CNN that change in U.S. policy toward Havana “would be widely applauded in Latin America and globally, and it would give a boost to the Obama administration’s claim that it represents turning over a new leaf.”

During a speech in Miami in May 2008, Obama spoke about how he would approach Cuba if elected president. According to NPR, Obama said, “I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island. It’s time to let Cuban-Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers.”

But some think Obama should move more cautiously. According to USA Today, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez feels that “Cuba must offer reforms first or the U.S. would be giving it something for nothing.” Gutierrez told USA Today, “There’s a good reason why this policy has been in place since President Kennedy.”

Opinion & Analysis: Dealing with Cuba

In an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dan Simpson outlines “five policy areas” that he feels need immediate attention from Obama, “before the concrete starts to harden around old positions.”

Simpson believes relations with Cuba should be addressed first. “If the goal is change in Cuba, it is clear that the United States would have had much more positive impact in Cuba over the past half-century by engagement with it, as opposed to constantly taking negative steps” writes Simpson.

Background: Obama’s plans for Cuba

Obama has criticized the Bush administration’s policy in Latin America, and according to NPR, has “proposed a series of economic initiatives he calls a ‘new alliance for the Americas.’” Obama told a crowd in Miami in May 2008 that if elected he would “reappoint a special envoy to the Americas, increase aid and economic development investment and work to promote democracy throughout the region,” reported NPR.

Related Topic: Tourism in Cuba

In November, Cuba received its 2 millionth tourist of the year, marking the occasion with celebrations at airports in Santiago and Varadero. Although Cuba has welcomed more than 2 million tourists each year since 2004, this year it has happened earlier than ever, “leading Cuba to predict it would pass its 2005 record of 2.3 million visitors,” according to the Associated Press. Most of Cuba’s tourists come from Britain, Canada, Spain and Italy, reported the wire service.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has called on the Obama administration “to permit Americans to travel to Cuba.” The ASTA and other business organizations sent a formal request to the incoming administration on Dec. 4, asking that it remove the travel ban to Cuba. The letter also stated, “Were the American people allowed to travel to Havana, as they currently are allowed to travel to Pyongyang, Tehran, Khartoum, and other cities whose nations’ leaders are publicly opposed to American interests, they could serve as ambassadors of freedom and American values to the Cuban people.”

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines