On Friday, President Obama made a move that will surely retain his place in American history by opening talks with Cuba in a sweeping directive aimed at lifting the Cold War trade embargo to end a half-century of clandestine plotting against the one-time enemy.
National security advisor Susan E. Rice explains, “The United States used to have secret plans for Cuba; now our policy is fully out in the open and online for everyone to see and read.”
This new action from the Obama administration aims to formalize the shift towards normalization, an aim that the president had originally unveiled almost two years ago when he announced he had been meeting with Cuban Persident Raul Castro, in private, to see if they could come to an agreement and repair their countries’ relationship.
Put simply, the two managed to loosen the restrictions on Cuba, a move that includes the lifting of the $100 limit on bringing Cuban rum and cigars into the United States.
President Obama also made most recent use of his executive power, in this case pressing onward despite wide opposition in Congress and repealing the embargo. This time, the 12-page document transforms what has always been a major priority of every presidency (to keep Cuba in its place) into a new set of official mandates that will serve to shape United States policy towards Cuba for the next several decades.
President Obama further dictates, “This directive takes a comprehensive and whole-of-government approach to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible. Challenges remain — and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights — but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values.”
He also makes sure to note, “We are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba,” asserting this embargo is “outdated and should be lifted.”
The sanctions eased on Friday were the sixth round of regulatory changes announced by the Treasury and Commerce Departments aimed at easing travel to Cuba as well as trade and commerce between the United States and the island nation.
The actions built on a series of milestones with Cuba as Mr. Obama’s tenure draws to a close. Last month, he nominated the first United States ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years, following the reopening last year of embassies in Washington and Havana. The first direct commercial flight from the United States reached Cuba in August.