News and Facts about Cuba

Opening to Cuba is ‘irreversible,’ senior Obama aide says

Opening to Cuba is ‘irreversible,’ senior Obama aide says
By Karen DeYoung June 9 at 7:26 PM

Obama’s opening to Cuba is irreversible and remaining
legislative restrictions on relations between the two countries —
including a U.S. ban and trade — are likely to be lifted
by Congress “sooner than people think,” senior White House official Ben
Rhodes said Thursday.

“The fact of the matter is that the American people and the Cuban people
overwhelmingly want this to happen,” Rhodes said. “Frankly, whatever the
political realities in either country, for somebody to try to turn this
off, they would have to be working against the overwhelming desires of
their own people.

“That ship has sailed,” he said.

Rhodes, who, as Obama’s deputy national security adviser, spearheaded 18
months of secret talks that led to restored relations, spoke before a
largely sympathetic audience at a forum on “cultural diplomacy” with
Cuba at the Meridian International Center.

Numerous bipartisan bills have been introduced in Congress to lift the
ban on travel to Cuba, financial restrictions and the overall
trade embargo that remain despite the normalization Obama announced in
December 2014. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were
restored nearly a year ago.

Action on most of the legislation has been blocked. The Senate’s
financial services bill in the Appropriations Committee, set for a vote
next week, is likely to pass, judging from bipartisan support that has
been voiced. It includes measures lifting the travel ban and removing
restrictions on financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. But the
House version of the appropriations bill, rather than easing
restrictions, would impose new ones.

A strong majority of the American public, according to a wide range of
opinion polls, favored restoring relations long before it happened.
Recent surveys indicate about 60 percent support lifting the embargo and
travel restrictions.

Among Cuban American lawmakers who have opposed restoring relations are
Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.), both of whom said during
their campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination that they would
reverse Obama’s actions.

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, supports the
policy; Donald Trump, on the Republican side, has said he is “fine” with
normalizing relations with Cuba, although he said he would have forged
“a better deal” than Obama.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), one of 22 members of both parties who belong
to a House working group on the issue, told the Meridian House audience
that “73 percent of Americans are in favor of lifting the embargo. It’s
no longer a question of if, but when.”

Emmer acknowledged that there are “many thoughtful and patriotic members
whose families have suffered greatly” under Cuba’s repressive communist
government over the years. But, he said “the world is changing, and so
is Cuba.”

In May 2016, Cubans gather on shore to greet the arrival of the Adonia,
the first U.S. cruise ship to dock in the country since 1959. (Reuters)

Obama has used his executive authority to implement all of the Cuba
actions he has taken thus far. But only Congress can repeal the embargo
and other sanctions adopted through legislation over the past half-century.

Thursday’s conference included a number of U.S. business and cultural
leaders who have taken advantage of the opening and are pressing to
widen it. Some were critical of the slowness with which the Cuban
government has opened its own doors to economic reforms that would allow
greater participation there.

Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, said that
Cuba’s lengthy isolation has held back development of the arts there and
that defections have caused a significant “brain drain” — including 15
Cuban dancers he said he has hired in the past 10 years. Now, he said,
those dancers can travel back and forth.

Cuba’s National Ballet is considered among the best in the world, and
Webre — the son of a Cuban mother and an American father — began some of
the first U.S.-Cuban cultural exchanges nearly two decades ago.

Source: Opening to Cuba is ‘irreversible,’ senior Obama aide says – The
Washington Post –

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