Contrary to popular belief, President Obama’s executive actions do not allow for free and open commerce with Cuba, nor do they open the doors for Americans to visit the island as tourists; the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 codified the embargo that prohibits most American companies from undertaking transactions with Cuba, and travel remains restricted. Rather, the reforms have allowed some American companies and individuals to engage in limited additional activities in Cuba.
Perhaps most critical among these activities has been granting Americans the right to support a new generation of Cuban-born entrepreneurs and Cuban-run small businesses. This move is a logical response to a change allowed by the Castro regime in recent years. These small-business owners and their employees will need tools, supplies, building materials and training in accounting, logistics and other areas. The new reforms allow American citizens and businesses to address such needs, and I am hopeful the Cuban government will allow its citizens to take full advantage of their assistance.
Cubans yearn not only for these interactions but also for a time when they can enjoy opportunities to chart their own course in life without having to leave their home, as I did 55 years ago.