Lifting Cuba's Travel Embargo

Last Updated Apr 14, 2009 12:19 PM EDT

The Obama administration announced unlimited travel to Cuba for Cuban-Americans and will allow transfers of money to relatives in the small island nation. While trade embargoes are still untouched, this humanitarian step may be more political than it seems. It's considered to be a preemptive strike against Latin American countries who would plead Cuba's case at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago this week. President Barack Obama reportedly did not want Cuba dominating the agenda -- because the island country wasn't even invited to the summit.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in Cuba's state-run media that the country would not beg Obama to lift trade sanctions, but called them the "most cruel" of U.S. measures.
A bill is still in Congress that would lift travel restrictions to Cuba for all Americans.

In Florida, home to many of Cuba's exiles and their descendants, travel agencies are fielding thousands of calls for plane flights to Havana. And while Obama faces some opposition with anti-Castro Cubans, including Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, many are happy to be able to visit family.

While Cuba always seemed to be a political landmine for U.S. presidents, with the aging anti-Castro contingent and even a geriatric Castro himself, the stakes have lessened in Obama's favor. While I, and a few million other Americans, support a lift on all American travel to Cuba, the administration seems to be less sure how to proceed -- whether to mend fences with our irascible island neighbor, or punish the government and its people for its sins. It's easy to keep the same policies, but it takes vision and strength to blaze a new trail.

Allowing Americans to travel to Cuba would only increase our goodwill and make every tourist an ambassador for freedom and democracy. Surely that can only be a good idea and policy.