The Spanish foreign minister’s recent statement that he would bring ‘concrete messages’ from the US government to Havana has some Republicans speculating that President Obama is looking to move further away from decades-old policy on Cuba.
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor
A number of recent developments – from Mr. Obama’s recourse to executive action on immigration to the Spanish foreign minister’s enigmatic statement that he would be carrying “very concrete messages” from the US government when he visits Havana this week – have some Republicans fretting that the White House aims to move even further from decades-old policy of isolating communist Cuba.
Obama last took action on Cuba in 2011, when he eased travel restrictions on Americans visiting the island. But a year ago in Florida, he raised eyebrows – and the hopes of supporters about a new US direction with Cuba – when he spoke of wanting “to continue to update our policies.”
It makes no sense, the president said, to continue with policies from 1961 “in the age of the Internet and Google and world travel.”
Some advocates of liberalized relations with Cuba are pressing the administration for concrete steps before April. That’s when Obama is slated to take part in the Summit of the Americas in Panama, which is expected to be the first such hemispheric gathering to include Cuba.
In the past, the United States has vetoed Cuba’s participation on the grounds that the gathering is limited to the hemisphere’s democracies, but a number of countries have said they would not attend next year’s summit if Cuba were once again barred.
But supporters of the status quo on relations with Cuba counter that if the US has stuck with policies from the 1960s – notably an embargo – it’s because the Castro regime that came to power in that era continues today to deny the Cuban people the democratic governance and human rights that most of the rest of the Western Hemisphere enjoys.
Last week Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio used a confirmation hearing for Antony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser and his choice to become deputy secretary of State, to grill Mr. Blinken about “chatter” in Washington that Obama intends to make “unilateral change” on US-Cuba policy.
Ending the embargo would require congressional action, but there are other steps the president could take to redirect US policy on Cuba.
Feature continues here: Will Obama Go It Alone On Cuba?