New Cuba policy overdue

Seattle Times: President Obama’s lifting of all restrictions on Americans visiting relatives in Cuba is a long overdue step toward a rational foreign policy with the island. His decision also marks a generational shift.

Obama’s change, which additionally eases rules on sending money to Cuban relatives, interjects a powerful human element into relations between the two governments. American citizens visiting loved ones become an informal civilian corps of advocates for opportunity and change.

U.S. policy toward Cuba was held hostage for decades by presidential politics and the influence of Cuban exiles in Florida politics. Fidel Castro’s penchant for never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity also helped.

Castro’s communist regime struggled from its revolutionary roots in 1959, but it has been on the economic ropes since the demise of the Soviet Union, a once-generous benefactor. Very recently, President Raul Castro softened the official tone toward the U.S. when he replaced his aging, ill brother.

Cuban Missle Crisis

Obama was about 14 months old during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Likewise, new generations of American descendants of Cuban exiles in Florida have replaced the passions of their elders with a question: Why not renew relations with Cuba?

For decades, there has not been a credible answer. Even the Bush administration reflexively tightened regulations against Cuba when it took office in 2001.

Now there is bipartisan legislation to lift all restrictions, including a half-century old trade embargo. Yes, of course.

Even die-hard Cold Warriors ought to see there is nothing more subversive for Cuba’s government than easy association with that beacon of freedom 90 miles away. One could argue U.S. political and economic isolation of Cuba did Castro a favor.

The president’s announcement was endorsed by a host of retired military leaders, including former regional commanders responsible for security in the Southern Hemisphere.

Obama took a welcome first step. He and Congress need to finish the restoration of political and economic ties to Cuba.

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