Obama to lift travel restrictions to Cuba

Sweet. Now we can have the Green Room launch party in Havana, like I wanted. Dates are required, except for me.

Under the new policy, Cuban Americans will now be allowed to travel freely to the island and send as much money as they want to their family members — so long as the money is not going to senior officials of the Cuban government or the Communist Party.

Second, the administration will take steps to open up communications to the island by allowing telecommunications companies to engage in licensing agreements that will support cell phones, satellite televisions and computers there.

Third, the president will reverse restrictions on gift packages imposed by his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, in 2004. The new rules will permit Cuban Americans to send clothing, personal hygiene items and fishing equipment to family members on the island — again, so long as the recipients are not government or Communist Party officials.

CNN’s story on this also implies that the new policies are limited to Cuban-Americans, which can’t be right, I think. Federal law that discriminates on the basis of ethnicity almost always violates equal protection; the policy must be broader than the media’s suggesting. Meanwhile, the GOP — minus RINO Mel Martinez, natch — is hammering The One for having played into the Castro boys’ hands here, with the Diaz-Balart brothers in the House calling him out for a “serious mistake”:

“Unilateral concessions to the dictatorship embolden it to further isolate, imprison and brutalize pro-democracy activists, to continue to dictate which Cubans and Cuban-Americans are able to enter the island, and this unilateral concession provides the dictatorship with critical financial support,” the two said in their statement.

Fair points all, but also equally fair (if not more so) with respect to, say, China, and there’s no travel ban in place there. (Indeed, compare the dramatic difference in tone in the descriptions of China and Cuba on the State Department’s visa page.) CNN cites a poll taken last month showing that 71 percent of Americans want to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, which doesn’t surprise me: We can debate whether it’s smart policy to punish totalitarian states with travel bans as a rule, but I’m not sure what the argument is for distinguishing between them. As near as I can tell, the Cuba ban is driven mainly by good ol’ fashioned tradition and not wanting to let Fidel, the last vestige of the Cold War, claim a moral victory by outlasting America’s antipathy to him. Or am I overanalyzing it and this is really a simple case of Cuba being small and powerless enough to shun and China being very much not so?

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