Friday, November 7, 2008

Cuba Sanctions Likely to Ease

This is an action that is long overdue. Obama, er, President Obama, can begin by easing some of the draconian sanctions Bush, er, soon-to-be ex-President Bush, piled on.

The election of Barack Obama opens the door for the U.S. to relax sanctions against Cuba for the first time in more than a decade. Mr. Obama, in a May campaign speech in Miami, went where presidential candidates have long feared to go by promising to lift restrictions on family visits and remittances by Cuban-Americans seeking to help relatives on the island.

Time to stop being afraid of the Miami Cubans. And to stop pandering to them. They have had too much influence for too long. And now the monolithic block is breaking down, as 3rd generations voters come into play. Obama got 35% of the Cuban-American Florida vote.

Gisela Ortega, a registered Republican who is Cuban-American, voted for Mr. Obama in the blue-collar suburb of Hialeah. "If people want to go to Cuba to visit family or send money for their relatives, why should we stop them?" the 55-year-old auditor said. "We've had the embargo for 50 years and it hasn't done anything to get rid of the Castros. Maybe it's time for a change."
"Changing Cuba policy is a high-symbolic-value, low-political-cost way to show that [Mr. Obama] plans to conduct business differently in the world," said Carlos Saladrigas, a Cuban-American businessman in Miami and co-chairman of a group that advocates rethinking the embargo.

The embargo is law, and changing the law would be quite difficult; too much political capital would need to be spent, and it need not be wasted that way. Instead, a less costly, less confrontational approach can be taken.

The U.S. relaxed sanctions during the Clinton administration, only to see relations become tense again in 1996 when Cuba shot down two unarmed planes flown by members of Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban-exile organization. It was after that incident that the embargo became law rather than longstanding presidential policy.

There is a generational divide among Cuban-Americans. Many older people were born in Cuba and came in the 1960s as political refugees in the early years of Fidel Castro's rule. Their American-born children, as well as refugees who came more recently for economic reasons, are more likely to support easing of sanctions.

Time to change. Time brings change.

People on both sides agree that the troubled U.S. economy trumped the sanctions issue for many Cuban-Americans in Florida this year. "Cuba was the issue that didn't bark in this election," said Dario Moreno, a political-science professor at Florida International University and director of the Metropolitan Center, a think tank.

Mr. Obama won 35% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida, surpassing the previous high-water mark for Democratic candidates of 30% set by Bill Clinton in 1992, according to an exit poll conducted in Miami-Dade County by Bendixen & Associates, an opinion research firm. Among voters ages 18 to 29 years old, he won 55%, while Sen. John McCain carried 75% of those 60 and older.

The divide is stark, and clear.

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