So as to the links from yesterday, this is the first step taken by the Obama administration to undo some Bush administration rules that strengthened the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
This bill, which was passed by Congress yesterday, is a $410 billion appropriations bill that states that Cubans in American will be able to visit the island more (Bush rules limited travel to just two weeks every three years, and confined visits to immediate family members). The amount of money they are able to send to the island will also increase (right now, they are only allowed to send $100 a month to family in Cuba). It will also loosen trade restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, making it easier to ship agricultural products and medical supplies to the island.
Many Cubans rely on remittances from the U.S. to supplement their low wages here in Cuba. But for people who do not have family abroad, they're out of luck. This bill, while greatly improving life for many Cubans on the island, will create an even greater wealth gap in this supposedly "classless" society. I'm not blaming the U.S. for this because I think passing the bill is the right thing to do, but I think that Castro needs to take into account that this bill, in addition to other changes in U.S. policy regarding Cuba that are sure to come in the future, will change this country forever.
Obama said that he is open for talking with Cuban leaders but that, like other U.S. presidents, he will only consider a full lifting of the embargo once Cuba's communist government makes "significant moves" (democratic elections and the like).
I am excited about the easing of trade because this will mean more food and more medicine on the island, both of which are greatly needed.