What To Know About the US-Cuba diplomatic reunion
After more than five decades, the Obama Administration has re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, ending an “outdated approach” to how the United States and Cuba interact. President Obama stated in a speech at The White House last month, that this approach, “for decades, has failed to advance our interests.”
Interests, huh? As the new US-Cuba travel and trade rules come into effect today, many will wonder, what does this mean for Americans? What does this mean for Cubans? Will this only advance American corporate interests and do nothing to advance Cubans? Will Cuba remain a completely repressed nation – but with American visitors?
For American Citizens
-Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have managed to negotiate a “prisoner swap.” Since then, 53 American political prisoners have been released.
-Traveling to Cuba will be much easier for Americans. Ordinary tourism is still banned, however if an American meets one of twelve criteria, travel to Cuba is permitted. Criteria include family visits, business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and government organizations, religious or educational activities, journalism, etc. And what else? Prospective travelers will no longer have to obtain a license from the government to go to Cuba. This will certainly pave the way for leisure travel in the future without all the bureaucratic drama.
-Americans will be able to use their credit and debit cards on the island, AND (get this) travelers will be able to bring back up to $400 worth of goods, that of which include $100 worth of tobacco and alcohol products. Which means we’ll be able to celebrate the birth of babies with a nice cigar, just like the good ol’ days.
-Though the trade embargo imposed by former president Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 isn’t entirely over, the new approach, according to Obama includes the "expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba."
For Cuban Citizens
-The amount of remittance money that can be sent back to Cuba will quadruple, going from $500 per quarter to $2000.
-Cubans will have more access to the Internet as Telecom providers will be able to improve Cuba’s infrastructure.
-Cubans will be able to import materials, such as construction materials for building homes, auto parts, and even agricultural products to enhance the country’s food supply—that of which is highly dependent on imports according to the World Food Program.
Josh Earnest, press secretary for the White House states that these changes would "immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower [Cubans] to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy." Pres. Obama admits that he does not “expect the changes…to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight,” however, he hopes that these changes will "help the Cuban people help themselves.” However, it is John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, who puts everything into perspective: "What people tend to forget is it’s not what the U.S. wants to do to or for Cuba. It’s about what Cuba feels is in its interest."
Well, it seems like the good intent is there. Only time will tell what’s in store for Cubans, Americans, and even Cuban-Americans. For now, a mojito?