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Obama Takes ‘A Sledgehammer’ To Cuba Embargo

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Obama Takes ‘A Sledgehammer’ To Cuba Embargo

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By Chris Adams, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — What is commonly known as the trade embargo on Cuba is still on the books, as it has been for some five decades.

But for companies from around the United States — whether a package-delivery firm from Tennessee, rice producers from Arkansas, a heavy-equipment maker from Illinois or a software developer from Washington state — the barriers to trade with the untapped market 90 miles from Florida are getting lower and lower.

The Obama administration on Friday announced it was moving to further change U.S.-Cuba trade rules, ushering in what experts called a major development that would significantly open the door to expanded business on the island.

It’s a continuation of the actions President Barack Obama and his administration have taken since December, when he announced a major thaw in the decades-long freeze with Cuba. But for American companies and the trade experts who work with them, the announced moves are a big boost in their hopes to _ someday _ have full and free trade with Cuba.

“There remains much of the embargo to be dismantled,” said John S. Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, who estimated that maybe 40 percent of the embargo has been disrupted by the president’s regulatory actions.

Obama did not merely chip away at the embargo, Kavulich added. “He used a sledgehammer,” he said.

Kavulich considers the changes announced Friday to be “the most comprehensive trade and investment changes to the United States relationship with the Republic of Cuba in decades.”

The rules will be formally published and take effect Monday. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said they underscore “the administration’s commitment to promote constructive change for the Cuban people.”

“A stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike,” he added in a statement. “By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous and stable Cuba.”

The rules were greeted warmly by many business interests, who see greater leeway to boost sales and travel to Cuba. But they were instantly lambasted by some lawmakers, particularly those in South Florida who both represent and come from the Cuban-American community.

That said, the opposition to Obama’s Cuba opening hasn’t been able to stop the president. While experts on both sides of the issue say the embargo as now on the books is politically safe in the short term, there are administrative actions the president can _ and has _ taken to further his goals.

Among the most significant of Friday’s changes, as announced by the Treasury and Commerce departments, are those involving personal travel, personal remittances and business activity.

On travel: Earlier changes had permitted official government business and some educational and other activities. Now, a close relative also will be allowed to visit or accompany authorized travelers for additional educational activities, journalistic activity, professional research, religious activities and humanitarian projects.

On remittances to Cubans: Current rules said they could be no more than $2,000 per quarter. That limit will be removed entirely.

Easing restrictions on business activity by U.S. firms is among the most significant changes.

“The rules in January were important _ they established the precedent,” said Robert L. Muse, a Washington-based lawyer and expert on Cuba trade. “But it was more of a beachhead, and it was a bit murky. Now they are engaging the business community in a way that’s going to be interesting and important to them. It begins to give them some real commercial traction.”

Muse said that companies engaged in exporting authorized items to Cuba will be able to establish, maintain and operate physical premises in Cuba.

“Maintaining a presence is brand new — that’s the big further step they have taken here,” Muse said. “The intention is to bring American businesses to the island.”

An example, he said, would be an agricultural company allowed to export to Cuba that would now be able to establish a sales office on the island.

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Medical student Electo Rossel, 20, wearing a shirt with a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama, listens to music at the Malecon seafront outside the U.S. embassy (not pictured) in Havana, Cuba, in this file photo taken August 14, 2015. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/Files

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10 Comments

  1. David September 19, 2015

    Let’s get some damned cigars shipped — NOW!!!

    Reply
  2. Eleanore Whitaker September 19, 2015

    If you study the history of the Cuban, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan and Iranian embargos, the reeking odor of Bush is behind every one of them. The GOP is big business. If they had their way, there would be NO government…just a national corporation sucking off the teats of workers. As such, Bush owned 11 sugar plantations in Cuba that were confiscated by the Cuban revolutionists, something no one in the US bothered to check. The Bush Dynasty also owned plantations in Nicaragua. Hence Bush ’41 involvement in the contra deal there. As for Iran and Venezuela, there is also much proof of the Bush long arm of vengeance there as well. Why would a then VP sell arms to 2 known terrorists if not to overturn the Iran government to the GOP’s desired CIA mastered leadership?

    If the GOP men had any balls, they would see what their party has become. More and more Americans are seeing that the GOP men today just defy, deny, act irresponsibly and recklessly and all to show how powerful they are. They are anything but. If they shut down this government again, they may as well pack their bags and leave DC for good. They will have raised the hackles of Americans who now view these middle aged BS artists of the GOP as men who are tyrants who need to be removed and fast.

    Reply
    1. AWHODAT September 19, 2015

      Word.

    2. Independent1 September 19, 2015

      Did you see in the polls take after the last GOP debate, that everyone of the clown show candidates that have previously held political office are now polling below 10%!! While Trump, Carson and Fiorina, all political novices are leading the pack – and that one of those Bushes that you were talking about, has fallen almost to the bottom of the pack at 6%??

      How can the GOP not see what even their base is telling them – we’d prefer anyone BUT YOU GUYS!! Even some outright idiots!! Wow!! talk about a slap in the face!!!

    3. Otto Greif September 19, 2015

      Provide evidence Bush owned “11 sugar plantations in Cuba”.

  3. jmprint September 19, 2015

    And President Obama keeps on accomplishing good things with a dysfunctional congress.

    Reply
  4. charleo1 September 20, 2015

    I have just one question for the Marco Rubios, and Illianni Ros Latinains, and the rest of the GOP who after 54 years, oppose reestablishing diplomatic, and trade relations with Cuba. Why don’t they ask the Cubans living in Cuba what they think of President Obama? Instead of a bunch of fat, comfortable exiles, playing dominos, sipping coladas and fighting Communism tooth and nail on Radio Marti.

    Reply
    1. John Murchison September 21, 2015

      wow! awesome comment!

      1. charleo1 September 21, 2015

        Thanks John! After reading your great comments. I’m signing up to become your first, ‘follower.’ as to catch all your discus posts, whatever the publication. I hope this is ok with you?

        1. John Murchison September 21, 2015

          cool

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