Sunday, January 16, 2011

Economist editorial: Score 2 for Obama and 0 for Congress

Obama eases travel to Cuba
An easier, and better, way to Cuba
The Economist, Jan 16, 2011

CONGRATULATIONS to Barack Obama for easing travel restrictions to Cuba. But will this presidential decision be followed by a quick end to America's embargo of Cuba, instituted in 1962 and—given the longevity of Cuba's communist regime—a spectacular exercise in futility? Almost certainly not.

Mr Obama's decision is an executive order, enabling the White House to circumvent any opposition from Congress and essentially restoring Cuban-American travel conditions to the level they enjoyed under President Bill Clinton, before George W. Bush imposed extra restrictions.

To go further and end the trade and investment embargo would need the approval of Congress—which looks very unlikely since the House of Representatives is controlled by the Republican Party and the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee is chaired by the Cuban-born and vehemently anti-Castro Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Yet advocates of better Cuba-USA relations should not lose hope. As The World in 2011 points out, change is afoot in Cuba, with state encouragement this year for modest steps of private enterprise. Fidel Castro may dislike the process, but he is not immortal and long ago ceded day-to-day power to the current president, his younger brother Raúl—who, at the age of 79, is also not immortal.

In other words, the post-Castro era approaches.

Whatever that will mean in terms of political and economic reform, it will surely give America the perfect excuse to end the embargo.

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