Barack Obama on Cuba

Last Updated : Jul 24, 2012

Summary

President Obama has had a significant impact on the US policies toward Cuba. During the campaign, Senator Obama pledged to loosen travel and monetary restrictions. Since taking office, President Obama has followed through on most of those pledges.

2008 Presidential Campaign

During the campaign, Senator Obama spoke often about the need to allow Cuba-Americans to travel to Cuba more frequently and to send money there to help their family. In August of 2007, Senator Obama wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald in which he stated that the Bush Administration policy of completely cutting off the island made the people more dependent on Castro. He noted his support for political reform and stated that Americans visiting family in Cuba was not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grass-roots democracy on the island. He pledged to grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island. Senator Obama also pledged bilateral talks in which he would aggressively promote human rights and if another upwelling of freedom begin in Cuba, the United States would be prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo.

In speeches in Little Havana and other campaign stops, Senator Obama mirrored these statements. He pledged to end the embargo with Cuba and to loosen travel restrictions.

Initial Lifting of Restrictions

In April of 2009, President Obama took the first step to allow families to travel to Cuba, allow remittances, and allow telecommunications companies to establish systems there. Shortly thereafter, he called for a "New Beginning" for US-Cuban relations. Specifically, the lifting of those restrictions did the following:

  • Lifted all restrictions on transactions related to the travel of family members to Cuba.
  • Removed restrictions on remittances to family members in Cuba.
  • Authorized U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
  • Licensed U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
  • Licensed U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
  • Licensed persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
  • Authorized the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
  • Added certain humanitarian items to the list of items eligible for export through licensing exceptions.

Further Lifting of Restrictions

In January of 2011, President Obama took another step to increase travel by students and other groups and to allow money to be sent for reasons such as religious promotion. Specifially, the new rules did the following:

  • Allowed religious organisations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba under a general licence
  • Allowed accredited institutions of higher education to sponsor travel to Cuba
  • Allowed any US person to send remittances (up to $500 per quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity
  • Allowed remittances to be sent to religious institutions in Cuba in support of religious activities
  • Allowed US airports to apply to provide services to licensed charters

 

Editorial - The Miami Herald

In August of 2007, Senator Obama wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald detailing his position on Cuba. Senator Obama states that cutting off relations with the Cuban people has made them more dependent on Castro and is a mistake.

 

Campaign Rally - Little Havana

On August 25, 2007, Senator Obama spoke in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami and outlined his policy on Cuba. In that speech he promised to lift restrictions for those with families in Cuba.

 

Campaign Forum

In a forum early in the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama stated that it was time to end the embargo with Cuba. He stated that the US policy towards Cuba has failed.

 

Easing Travel Restrictions for Families

In April of 2009, President Obama announced that he was instructing his administration to allow for the free travel of Cuban-Americans to visit their families in Cuba and to send them money. The move was hailed by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs as the fulfillment of a campaign promise Senator Obama made during the 2008 election cycle.

The White House released a press statement noting the details of the restrictions that were lifted.

 

A New Beginning

Days after removing travel and remittance restrictions in April of 2009, President Obama spoke in Trinidad at the summit of the Americas and noted that he sought to talk with the Cuban government.

 

Easing of Travel Restrictions for All

On January 14, 2011 the Obama administration announced that they would be lessoning travel restrictions for Americans and allow for some money to be sent to Cuba. The following changes were made to Cuban policy:

  • Allow religious organisations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba under a general licence
  • Allow accredited institutions of higher education to sponsor travel to Cuba
  • Allow any US person to send remittances (up to $500 per quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity
  • Allow remittances to be sent to religious institutions in Cuba in support of religious activities
  • Allow US airports to apply to provide services to licensed charters

 The announcement of these changes was made on the White House Blog and with little fan fare.

 

Voting Record

Amendment - to Prohibit Funds for Television Broadcasting into Cuba

In April of 2005, the Senate voted on an amendment to prohibit funds from being used for television broadcasting to Cuba. The amendment passed 65-35. Barack Obama voted against the amendment.

Barack Obama voted against the amendment.

Amendment - Removing funds for television broadcasting

The US broadcasts a television station into Cuba for the purposes of convincing the Cubans to form a Democratic government. In July of 2005, the Senate voted on an amendment to provide that no funds may be made available to provide television broadcasting to Cuba, to increase by $21,100,000 the amount appropriated to the Peace Corps, and to reduce by the same amount the amount appropriated under title I to the Broadcasting Board of Governors for broadcasting to Cuba. The amendment failed 33-66. Barack Obama voted in favor of the amendment to remove funds for travel into Cuba.

Barack Obama voted in favor of the amendment to remove funds for travel into Cuba.

Amendment - Family travel to Cuba

In June of 2005, the House voted on an amendment to facilitate family travel to Cuba in humanitarian circumstances. The amendment passed 60-35. Barack Obama voted in favor of the amendment.

Barack Obama voted in favor of the amendment.

 

Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

This representative has not been identified as sponsoring or cosponsoring significant legislation related to this title.

References

[1] Website: BBC Article: Barack Obama eases rules on US travel to Cuba Author: NA Accessed on: 03/03/2011

[2] Website: BBC Article: Obama eases curbs on Cuba travel Author: NA Accessed on: 03/03/2011

[3] Website: NPR Article: Obama Lifts Trade, Travel Restrictions To Cuba Author: SCOTT HORSLEY Accessed on: 03/03/2011

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