Photo: Gareth Williams
THE US-CUBA EMBARGO HAS BEEN IN place for decades, but yet another step has been made towards lifting it. This week, the White House announced that American travelers will be able to more easily travel to the country for “people-to-people” educational purposes. This has been allowed to some extent in the past, but it has to have been organized through groups, whereas now, individuals will be able to travel to Cuba on their own. There are still restrictions: travelers would be required to keep records of how the trip was educational, but it’s still a major step in loosening the trip restrictions up.
The new guidelines will also allow Cuban citizens to earn a salary in the United States or open a US bank account without having to defect to the United States, an issue which will be huge for Cuban baseball players and entertainers who want to tour in the country. The guidelines will also make it easier for their to be transactions between the countries, which could be huge for the Cuban economy.
All of this comes before this weekend’s historic visit by President Obama to the island of Cuba, the first trip by an acting US President since Calvin Coolidge visited in 1928. The visit is part of a several-years long process on the part of the Obama administration to improve ties with the island neighbor, and to slowly end the decades-long embargo that is one of the last remaining remnants of the Cold War. This comes a few weeks after international pop act Major Lazer threw a gigantic concert in downtown Havana, and shortly before a much-anticipated visit by the Rolling Stones to the island nation.
All in all, it feels like Cuba is finally being welcomed into the modern world, and it is amazing. While there is still a long way to go before relations between the two countries are totally normalized (and a long way to go before Cuba’s government starts instituting some much-needed democratic reforms), it’s great to see tensions slowly slipping away after 50 long, painful years.
h/t: The New York Times