SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— The president's call for loosening travel and trade restrictions with Cuba is an historic shift that many young Cubans living in the U.S. never thought they'd see. The United States and Cuba will discuss the possibility of diplomatic relations following an apparent prisoner exchange, which saw the release of American Alan Gross from five years of captivity.
President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro spoke on the phone this week on Tuesday in the first such presidential contact since the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s.
"This means as a start, we are establishing full diplomatic relations with Cuba. We haven't had that in over five decades," said Professor Harley Shaiken, chair of the Center of Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley. "It also means there will be a loosening of travel restrictions and a possible move towards relaxing the embargo."
Much of that is controlled by Congress, Shaiken explained, but President Obama has indicated he is working towards normalizing relations with Cuba.
President's Call To Loosen Cuban Travel And Trade Restrictions Receives Mixed Reactions
So does this mean Americans will be able to simply fly to Cuba without having to go through an educational program? Will America be flooded with Cuban cigars and rum? Well, not exactly.
Shaiken said the travel restrictions have been loosened in 12 existing areas and that the more illicit things are limited to around $100 per person.
"The kind of situation that you have in Canada [like] in Toronto, where there's billboards advertising tourist trips to Cuba aren't quite in the works yet," he said.
For many, the news is seeing mixed reactions. Some Cuban-Americans are very happy that they'll be able to see family that they've been in very real sense, blocked from seeing.
Oakland resident Jose Barroso has been teaching Cuban dance and music since arriving in the U.S. 20 years ago. He's a well-known performer at festivals and universities, but he's never been able to bring his mother from Havana to watch him perform.
"The time that I wanted to have her come [the most important person in my life] they said that she couldn't come because she was a possible immigrant," Barroso said.
He was excited by the notion of being able to call his mom without complications and was happy Americans would be able to see how warm Cuban people are.
On the other hand there are those who hate the regime so much that they think it's awful news.
"Overwhelmingly the polls show that Americans support this; Cuban-Americans support this." Shaiken added that there's been bi-partisan support for the release of the imprisoned Alan Gross, but that there have been negative comments from some Republican and Democratic political leaders as well.
President Obama argued that the U.S. policy towards Cuba predates when many of us where born and simply hasn't been the best option to isolate the island nation. Cuba is not isolated from the rest of the world.
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