President Obama to Lift Restrictions on Cuba - Political Punch
April 13, 2009 12:29 PM
ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
At today’s daily White House briefing, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs will announce that the administration will lift travel, remittance, mail and business restrictions relating to the Communist nation of Cuba.
The changes will allow unlimited visits to family members on the island as well as unlimited remittances -- the cash recent immigrants to the U.S. send to relatives back home. President Bush imposed stricter restrictions on both in 2004.
"As hard as we search, we can't find anyone who thinks the limitations Bush put on family travel and family remittances in 2004 were a good idea," a senior administration official tells ABC News.
The Obama administration will also take steps to enhance the flow of information by allowing U.S. telecommunications networks to link the U.S. and Cuba; and will allow an expansion of humanitarian items that can be sent to the island (including clothing, personal hygiene items and fishing equipment). It will remain illegal to send items to senior government officials and members of the Communist Party.
"These steps are being taken in support of the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their own future and to open up the space needed to see democratic progress in Cuba," says a White House official.
The announcement is timed to the president’s trip on Thursday and Friday to Mexico City and then Saturday and Sunday to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas.
Central and South American leaders ranging from Mexican President Felipe Calderon to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez will likely pressure President Obama to also lift the embargo, imposed by President John F. Kennedy six months after President Obama was born.
The Obama administration says there is both a moral and strategic argument in favor of lifting the restrictions. Morally, families will able to visit and help one another, the senior administration official says. Strategically, the official says, "family members in the U.S. will be good messengers of change and hope."
During the campaign, the president signaled that these would be moves he would make, while maintaining the embargo.
“I have said that I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island," then-Sen. Obama said in Miami Florida on May 23, 2008. "It’s time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less depended upon the Castro regime. That is the committeemen that I’m making right here. I will maintaining the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice, if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations.”
-- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller