Memo to President Obama:Cuba has extended an olive branch, shouldn' t the U.S.?

News from Cuba | Sunday, 20 January 2013

Cuban government officials have recently taken steps to ease long-standing bars to travel to the U.S., but the Obama administration has not yet followed suit.

It may be hard to believe but as the newsletter Cuba Central Newsblast points out, since last week Cubans have more freedom to see the world than American citizens have to visit Cuba.

Hopefully, the irony won't escape President Obama and members of Congress who should finally bury for good that political zombie which for 50 years has passed for a U.S. Cuba policy.

Last Jan. 14 Havana dropped travel restrictions on most of its citizens that had been standing since the early 1960s. Now practically any Cuban with a visa and a valid passport can book a flight. Gone are the days of the despised �tarjeta blanca� or white card, the expensive and complicated exit permit. Official permission to come and go will no longer be required. With this measure Raul Castro's government eliminates one of Washington�s main excuses for maintaining its counterproductive trade embargo and travel prohibition.

"We hope President Obama is paying attention," said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, who adds that while Obama has undertaken some reforms, he has not acknowledged that Cuba has taken any meaningful steps.

�After Cuba released scores of political prisoners following talks with the Catholic Church; after the Castro government implemented the most significant changes in its economic model in six decades; after Colombia turned to Cuba to help it broker peace talks with the FARC, U.S. policy remains in an official state of denial that its goals are being met,� Stephens added.

Then again no one should be surprised. After half a century it is clear that any attempt to implement a rational Cuba policy will encounter all sorts of obstacles raised by those who, despite their pious proclamations, could care less about the Cuban people. Last time I checked this was called hypocrisy.

Talking about hypocrisy, the small group of Miami Cuban-Americans who last week published a delirious document asking for the "help of the American people" to stop the "red tide" from Cuba, are the undisputed champions. Believe it or not these are some of the same people who for years loudly denounced Cuba�s violation of human rights and self-righteously demanded that Havana allowed unrestricted travel abroad.

Ironically, now that Cuba has done what they wanted, they are intent in stopping their compatriots from visiting relatives and friends in the U.S.

They have gone as far as adopting the Cuban government's long-standing position against the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, and are asking for "a change" (really meaning its abrogation). The act allows Cubans to get a green card one year after arriving in the U.S., which makes it possible for them to become U.S. citizens much faster than other immigrants.

Even stranger is that South Florida Cuban-American politicians Sen. Marco Rubio and Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, David Rivera and Mario DÃ?az-Balart, who sell themselves as great protectors of their community, have also switched positions and become staunch enemies of the act. Their motives, says Cuban writer JesÃ?s Arboleya, are rather pedestrian.

"[THEIR] real objective is to delay the new immigrants� access to local politics and by doing so weaken the potential strength of a segment of the electorate that overwhelmingly rejects them," Arboleya writes. That is, they are desperately trying to postpone their inescapable fall into irrelevancy. And for that they are willing to reverse gears and become Cuba's government allies. And I thought I had seen it all�

Again, hopefully, the irony won't escape the President and Congress.

"If we see positive movement [IN CUBA]then we will respond in a positive way," Obama has said in the past. And one has to wonder: what else is he waiting for?

aruiz@nydailynews. com

Read more: http://www.nydailyn york/long- cuba-easing- travel-restricti ons-u-s-continue s-50-year- old-embargo- article-1. 1242290#ixzz2IZW IDfq4

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