The United States is lifting long-standing restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to visit or send money and personal necessities to relatives on the island, an effort toward greater communication between our 2 peoples. And at the recent Summit of the Americas, President Barack Obama affirmed that the United States seeks a new beginning in U.S.-Cuba relations.
With Cuba's takeover by the Castro regime in the early 1960s, the U.S. banned travel and trade with the island to avoid supporting a communist dictatorship. In the years since, the restrictions have been modified periodically, and in an effort to reach out directly to the Cuban people, they are being eased again.
To further promote the flow of information to Cuba, as well as contact and dialogue on a people-to-people basis, President Barack Obama will allow a range of telecommunications services that could benefit the Cuban people, such as fiber optic and satellite links between the nations, roaming agreements that would permit cell phones on U.S. service plans to work in Cuba, and the provision of satellite radio and television broadcasts to the Cuban people.
"This is a step to extend a hand to the Cuban people, in support of their desire to determine their own future," said Dan Restrepo, a top adviser to President Obama on Western Hemisphere affairs. "It's very important to help open up space, so the Cuban people can work on the kind of grass-roots democracy that is necessary to move Cuba to a better future."
The changes could help on an individual level as well. Hurricanes last year caused much hardship in Cuba and many families are still rebuilding. Salaries on the island remain low and food prices are high since much of what the island consumes must be imported.
Some restrictions remain in place, however. With a new president, a review of U.S. policy toward its Caribbean neighbor is under way, and further changes may be made. The Cuban government should reach out as well in a similar attitude of good will. The United States will be watching and evaluating Cuba’s response