Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cuba Lowers Its Guard

Cuba Lowers Its Guard

For close to two decades, the Cuban government has issued a scathing
annual report against the American trade embargo. But this year, as the
island continues to face dire economic straits, the report—released last
week—offered an unexpected and conciliatory twist. The document
acknowledged that the Obama administration cannot end the embargo on its
own and offered steps that Washington could take to unilaterally lessen
its scope. Among them: permitting more religious, academic, and cultural
groups to travel to Cuba.

The White House decided to take some of these steps several months ago
(insiders say the administration is waiting to announce them until after
the November elections). Yet, in light of Cuba's recent decisions to
release political prisoners and spearhead a major shift in economic
policy, the report's striking change in tone appears to be an olive
branch directed at the world and at the White House, says Ted Piccone, a
senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Cuba still needs the U.S.
as a bogeyman," says Adolfo Franco, the former head of the American
government's programs to promote democracy in Cuba. "But they want to
create an opening and ultimately get credit from U.S. financial
institutions." That may be a long way off. But incremental change,
analysts say, is something with which both Havana and Washington now
seem comfortable.

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