Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Democracy Can’t Take Root in Isolation

    Democracy Can’t Take Root in Isolation

    Christopher Sabatini is the senior director of policy at the Americas
    Society and Council of the Americas and founder and editor in chief of
    the hemispheric policy magazine Americas Quarterly. He also chairs the
    AS/COA Cuba Working Group. ?He is on Twitter.

    OCTOBER 12, 2014

    Human rights abuses continue in Cuba and U.S.A.I.D. contractor Alan
    Gross remains in prison. But it is precisely for that reason that
    President Obama needs to continue to lift the veil of isolation the U.S.
    has placed over Cuba – doing so will promote a greater flow of
    information and independent activity that has led to political opening
    across the world. It’s no coincidence that there’s never been democratic
    change in a country under as tight as an embargo as the one the U.S. has
    had on Cuba for 53 years; and it’s no coincidence that it has failed.

    President Obama needs to encourage social and commercial exchange with
    Cuba – doing so will promote a greater flow of information and
    independent activity.
    Because of the 1996 law (the unironically titled Libertad Act) much of
    the embargo is codified into law and requires an act of Congress to lift
    it. Given the paralysis of the current congress this appears very
    unlikely. But there is scope for the president to use executive
    authority to liberalize elements of the embargo, including nontourist
    travel, greater opportunities for commerce with the growing nonstate
    sector, U.S. telecoms investment and sales on the island, and removing
    Cuba from the U.S. Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list. In the
    latter case, there is no evidence to support the current designation.

    All of these measures are not only immediately possible, but they are
    also desirable. Recent steps taken by the Castro regime to “update” its
    failed socialist economy, like permitting the formation of small private
    businesses, as well as steps taken by the Obama administration, like
    allowing unlimited travel and remittances from Cuban-Americans and
    broadening purposeful travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens, have produced
    real, measurable changes, including the emergence of over 450,000 small
    businesses and a palpable space and optimism for change, especially as
    the Castros (Fidel is 88 and Raul, his brother and now president, is 83)
    near the end of their time in power.

    Source: Democracy Can’t Take Root in Isolation – NYTimes.com –
    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/10/12/should-the-us-normalize-relations-with-cuba/democracy-cant-take-root-in-isolation