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John Kerry: President Obama’s new Cuba policy looks forward, not back
BY JOHN KERRY, PENNY PRITZKER AND JACOB J. LEWWWW.STATE.GOV
12/20/2014 8:09 PM 12/20/2014 8:31 PM

President Obama’s decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba will
advance United States’ interests and those of the Cuban people. The 11
million people of this island nation have waited far too long — over
half a century — to fulfill their democratic aspirations and build
closer ties with the rest of the world in the 21st century. Our new U.S.
policy on Cuba reflects the reality that past policies — although
well-intentioned — no longer suit today’s situation. The president’s
announcement reflects a historic turning of the page on enmities born of
a different era and toward a brighter and more promising future.

Early in his administration, the president took steps to ease
restrictions on Cuban-American visits and remittances that opened new
pathways for family reunification — and later expanded this to include
religious, academic and cultural exchanges for all Americans. Last
week’s decision builds boldly on those initial measures and will
increase communications, commerce and travel between our two countries.
The State Department will lead discussions to restore regular diplomatic
relations with Cuba for the first time since 1961 and re-establish an
embassy in Havana. In our bilateral discussions, the United States will
seek to advance cooperation on issues of mutual interest, including
counter-narcotics, migration, combating trafficking-in-persons, the
Ebola crisis and shared environmental challenges.

The president has made clear that a critical focus of these actions will
include continued strong support for improved human-rights conditions
and democratic reforms in Cuba. The promotion of democracy supports
universal human rights by empowering civil society and supporting the
freedom of individuals to exercise their freedoms of speech and
assembly. For these reasons, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release more
than 50 political prisoners, expand Internet access for Cuba’s citizens
and allow better human-rights monitoring by the International Red Cross
and United Nations. Our firm support for progress in these areas will be
unwavering, and we will continue to implement programs to promote
positive change in Cuba.

As Albert Einstein said long ago, it’s just not rational to continue
doing the same thing in the expectation of obtaining a different result.
Since U.S.-Cuban relations were frozen, the world has been transformed;
the Cold War ended a quarter century ago. Over time the U.S. effort to
isolate Cuba began to have the reverse effect of isolating the United
States especially in the Western Hemisphere. Meanwhile, Cuban leaders
used our stance as a source of propaganda, to justify policies that have
no place in the 21st century. It has been an open secret that the
relationship has been in a rut that benefits no one on either side. The
time has come to cease looking backward and to begin to move forward in
the interests of both freedom-loving Cubans and the United States.

First, he has authorized U.S. officials to expand travel, increase
remittances and grow bilateral trade. To facilitate this and ensure
proper oversight, the Treasury Department will also make banking easier
and allow the use of U.S. debit and credit cards in Cuba. In addition,
it will strengthen the monitoring and transparency of financial flows
between the United States and Cuba by allowing American financial
institutions to open correspondent accounts at Cuban banks. One effect
of all of the changes will be to increase the ability of Americans to
provide business training and other support for Cuba’s nascent private
sector, which already includes 500,000 employees. In this regard, the
Commerce Department will ease current export limits on a variety of
products that would help Cuban small businesses grow such as
construction firms, agricultural companies, automobile repair and others.

Second, the president’s decision will support new efforts to tear down
the digital wall that isolates Cubans. The country has an Internet
penetration rate of 5 percent, among the lowest in the world. Prices are
high, and services are limited. Under the new policy, we will permit the
sale of technology that will begin to unleash the transformative effects
of the Internet on the island.

Third, the president has ordered reforms in the application of U.S.
sanctions to Cubans in third countries.

Fourth, the president has asked the State Department to review Cuba’s
designation as a state sponsor of terrorism to ensure that any such
designation is guided entirely by the facts and law.

All this is in addition to the start of talks aimed at the restoration
of normal diplomatic relations. Next month, Assistant Secretary of State
Roberta Jacobson will lead the U.S. delegation to the next round of
U.S.-Cuba Migration talks, and the Commerce Department will lead a
business delegation to the country in the coming months. In the spring,
President Obama will travel to Panama for the 2015 Summit of the
Americas, where we are encouraging full participation by representatives
of Cuban civil society. Meanwhile, the United States has welcomed home
USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who was wrongfully jailed in Cuba for
more than five years, and also an American intelligence agent who had
been imprisoned for two decades.

President Obama’s announcement last week is forward-looking and
emphasizes the value of people-to-people relations, increased commerce,
more communications and respectful dialogue. It will enhance our ability
to have a positive impact on events inside Cuba and to help improve the
lives of the Cuban people. It will put American businesses on a more
equal footing. And it will enhance the standing of our own country in
the hemisphere and around the world.

JOHN KERRY IS U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE. PENNY PRITZKER IS SECRETARY OF
COMMERCE. JACOB J. LEW IS TREASURY SECRETARY.

Source: John Kerry: President Obama’s new Cuba policy looks forward, not
back | The Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article4746744.html

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