Shortly after the president moved to pursue the unilateral easing of restrictions on trade and travel Cuba, a debate emerged as to whether or not it would be morally prudent for Americans to travel to that communist nation and support its repressive government through American tourist dollars.
Obama insisted that he would have no objections to traveling to Cuba under the right circumstances, and that he would not even rule that prospect out while he still served as president. “I assume, like many Americans, he has seen that Cuba is a place where they have a beautiful climate and a lot of fun things to do,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in December. “If there’s an opportunity for the President to visit I’m sure that he wouldn’t turn it down.”
But hopping a flight to Havana is not the only way to enjoy the fruits of undercompensated Cubans’ labors. Reduced trade restrictions means that Americans can support the repressive Castro brothers’ repressive regime from the comfort of their own living rooms.
On Friday, the United States scaled back limits on the trade Americans can engage in with vendors in Cuba. “The U.S. State Department said the import of all goods and services was now permissible except in certain broad categories, which include arms, live animals, tobacco, vehicles, mineral products, machinery, and some textiles and base metals,” Reuters reported.
“The administration had made it very clear they are changing the thrust of U.S. policy to allow the private sector in Cuba to blossom,” said Pedro Freyre, chair of law firm Akerman LLP’s international practice. “Of course there are two ends to this. We are still waiting to see how it is going to play out in Cuba.”
Under Cuban law, private sector entrepreneurs cannot independently import and export products or services without a government license. However, artists are allowed to sell their work to foreigners, and there is also an exotic bird cooperative that obtained a license in 2013.
If you’re in the market to purchase arms and ammunition from Cuba, you’re probably not going to abstain from that activity merely because a selectively-enforced trade embargo was in place. For the rest of the law-abiding public, however, all the cigars in the world are now available at the click of a mouse.
Of course, you might want to read this report on anti-religious repression in the communist island nation before indulging in your formerly guilt-free smoke.
Violations of religious freedom in Cuba increased in 2014, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a UK-based organization that advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians.
“Week after week, scores of women affiliated with the Ladies in White dissident group, most of whom are Roman Catholic, were violently dragged away by state security agents to stop them from attending Sunday morning Mass,” the organization reported. “Many were beaten in the process and most were arbitrarily detained until after the conclusion of religious services.”
But don’t let that stop you. Do whatever you think is right. We’re not judging… much.