Future Travel Options for Americans and Cuban-Americans Wanting to Visit Cuba Under Obama

Regarding the current U.S. travel ban against Cuba, which has been made more difficult for U.S. travelers who (under U.S. Treasury Dept. guidelines) should be able to go there, such as journalists, academic researchers, and university groups, not to mention Cuban-Americans (who are now allowed to visit their relatives in Cuba once every three years, as opposed to once a year before), there has been high hopes that with the incoming Barack Obama administration in the White House, that such travel restrictions will be eased.
Despite Obama’s campaign comments which said that he’d like to liberalize the travel ban there, the restrictions are likely to remain in place for at least the early part of 2009.  Why is this?  Before, the President was able to make unilateral changes in Cuba policy (without Congressional approval).  However, thanks to the Helms-Burton Act, Congress must approve whatever changes the president wants to make on Cuba policy.  When Republicans in Congress saw that then-President Bill Clinton was gradually liberalizing U.S. relations with Cuba (especially travel) in the 1990s, they made sure that when Helms-Burton was passed in 1996, that Congress can override the President’s wish to change U.S. policy toward Cuba (in effect giving Congress real authority to change any U.S. laws or policies involving Cuba).
On that note, for these changes to happen, momentum much be made in Congress to ease the travel ban – both for various American travelers, and for Cuban-Americans as well.  Given the current U.S. economic crisis, Obama will have to prioritize that issue and tackle it before he gets to Cuba, which will certainly not be for at least a year, unless a major Cuba-related crisis, such as a new wave of Cuban boat people (balseros) hitting Florida’s shores again (like the mid-1990s) puts Havana back in the headlines in Washington.  Given Cuba’s track record with the U.S., nothing can be ruled out.  Let’s see what happens in the coming months……








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