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U.S. to Make Travel to Cuba Easier; Internationally Condemned Embargo Still in Full Force

(Photo: Brian Snelson/Flickr Creative Commons)

The Obama administration has announced that it will allow more Americans to travel to Cuba. Trips by schools, churches and cultural groups will be easier, although general tourist travel to the socialist island nation remains illegal.

The President is also restoring the $2,000 annual remittance allowance that can be sent to non-family members in Cuba.

The overall economic embargo on the country, in effect for nearly 48 years now, will remain in full effect. It has been repeatedly slammed by the international community, most recently last October when the United Nations voted for the 19th straight year to condemn Washington’s senseless policy.

Of the 192 UN member nations, only the United States and Israel voted to continue what Cuba called “a cruel and aggressive policy.”

The United States repeatedly cites Cuba’s dearth of democracy and jailing of  political opponents as justification for continuation of the embargo, yet there are only about 110 political prisoners remaining on the island.

China, which enjoys unhindered trade relations with the United States, has as many as 3,000 political prisoners, so Washington has been roundly criticized for what many international observers see as a double standard.

Obama’s decision was immediately blasted by Republican Cuban-American US lawmakers. Florida’s Marco Rubio irrationally overreacted, calling the mild easing “unthinkable.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s heavily Cuban 18th Congressional district (including Miami and the Florida Keys), said the new rules “will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba.”

“These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights,” she declared, “and they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them.”

But Ros-Lehtinen has a highly controversial human rights record of her own. She vigorously lobbied for the release and pardon of Orlando Bosch, a terrorist and CIA operative who, along with Luis Posada Carriles, was responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in and against Cuba including the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 innocent people. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen even helped organize an official “Orlando Bosch Day” in Miami in 1983 to celebrate the terrorist and gain support for his release. To this day, he lives free in Miami, even in the face of US threats against nations which harbor terrorists.

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