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    John Kerry – President Obama’s new Cuba policy looks forward, not back

    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