Delegation of Members of Congress from the US in Cuba for five-day visit to listen

Saturday, April 04, 2009

See that island? That's 11.4 million potential new customers a mere 150 km from the US.

I like the tone of this visit. The House members are in Cuba at the moment without any particular message from the President but simply to listen and discuss and check out the scene.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives arrived in Havana on Friday to meet with Cuban officials in a sign of accelerating efforts to improve U.S.-Cuban relations.

Representative Barbara Lee said the group of seven Democrats came with no messages from President Barack Obama or proposals for the Cubans but simply to "see what the possibilities are."

"We're here to learn and talk and to see if there are any issues we need to communicate back to our government," she told reporters.
Along with that there are also going to be further restrictions lifted on traveling to Cuba:

El presidente Barack Obama pretende anular la prohibición a los viajes para visitas familiares a Cuba y el envío de remesas a la isla, informó el diario The Wall Street Journal.
President Barack Obama intends to annul the prohibition on travel for family visits to Cuba and remittances to the island, the Wall Street Journal reported.

El presidente no pretende levantar el embargo económico que Estados Unidos ha mantenido por décadas con Cuba, lo que requeriría la aprobación del Congreso, según el reporte.
The President doesn't intend to lift the economic embargo that the US has maintained for decades with Cuba, which would require approval of Congress, according to the report.

Which makes sense because there's no reason to expend political capital on this now when 1) there are certain changes he can make himself as President, and 2) there is already a certain amount of momentum building in Congress and the Senate to make these changes anyway. One example here from just two days ago:
With momentum building in Congress for a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, Sen. Richard G. Lugar called on President Obama to appoint a special envoy to initiate direct talks with the island's communist government and to end U.S. opposition to Cuba's membership in the Organization of American States.

The nearly 50-year-old economic embargo against Cuba, Lugar (R-Ind.) said in a March 30 letter to Obama, puts the United States at odds with the views of the rest of Latin America, the European Union and the United Nations, and "undermines our broader security and political interests in the Western Hemisphere."

The April 17-19 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago would present a "unique opportunity for you to build a more hospitable climate to advance U.S. interests in the region through a change in our posture regarding Cuba policy," Lugar wrote.

One good reason for the removal of the embargo is the immediate economic benefit it would bring:

There are those who argue that Cuba's population and economy are too small to make a difference on the massive U.S. economy. However, the Obama Administration wouldn't need much of a cost-benefit analysis on this topic, because there's virtually zero cost. As most of the proposals to prop up our economy require intense monetary investment, it's only prudent to look at an idea that would require nothing more costly (on the federal end, at least) than the signature of the President.

And the potential profits aren't necessarily minuscule. One report, produced by agricultural experts at Texas A&M for the Cuba Policy Institute in 2003, estimates that by merely lifting the travel ban the U.S. could bring anywhere from $126 to $252 million in new agricultural exports to Cuba and create nearly 7,000 new jobs. When one imagines the difference lifting that same ban could mean for the airline industry, it's a no-brainer.

Yes, Cuba would benefit much more from the lifting of the embargo than the US would, but considering how simple it is to do there's no reason not to remove the restrictions and make use of a country of 11.4 million located a mere 150 km or so from the US. Give the American travel and export industry a shot in the arm.


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