On Friday, President Obama announced changes to US foreign policy towards Cuba, particularly impacting longstanding barriers to travel and remittances to that country. MADRE applauds this step as a necessary change to a failed policy that has undermined the well-being of Cuban communities and that has flouted international law for decades.
Since the introduction of the embargo and travel ban on Cuba beginning in 1960, the US has worked to seal off the country's access to trade and external support, a move that has denied the Cuban people basic necessities like food and medicine. Cuban families have been forcibly separated, and US citizens seeking to travel to Cuba have been blocked by a ban that prevents movement to the country.
Worldwide condemnation of repressive US policies towards Cuba has only grown in the many years since their implementation. Every year for the past 19 years, the United Nations General Assembly has voted almost unanimously to condemn the embargo.
The new US regulations will:
- Create expanded opportunities for travel to Cuba by religious, cultural or educational groups, provided they obtain a general license;
- Return the regulations on people-to-people programs hosted by non-academic study organizations to Clinton-era levels;
- Allow for individuals in the US to remit up to $500 every three months to persons in Cuba, provided the recipient is not a member of government or the Communist Party; and
- Increase the number of airports eligible to serve as departure and arrival points for flights to and from Cuba.
These changes will become effective in the span of some two months, once official steps have been taken to publish the regulations in the Federal Register and once a predetermined waiting period has passed.
MADRE has consistently denounced the use of the embargo as a weapon to withhold food and medicines from the Cuban people. MADRE calls on President Obama to join with the international community and move quickly to end the embargo and normalize relations between the US and Cuba.