Culver City Observer -

Bass Applauds Moves to Normalize Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

 

December 25, 2014

Following the announcement of American Alan Gross' release from a Cuban prison after five years of incarceration President Barack Obama announced significant changes in U.S. policy as it relates to Cuba.

The idea is to promote more effective change in Cuba that is consistent with U.S. support for the Cuban people and in line with U.S. national security interests.

In addition to changing diplomatic relations, changes to remittance, trade and travel rules are also being proposed. These changes are the most dramatic since relations were severed in 1961.

"I am first and foremost absolutely thrilled to learn about the release of Alan Gross from prison in Cuba," said Rep. Karen Bass (D-Culver City), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"I look forward to the announcement by President Obama, which signals a substantial first step in normalizing relations with Cuba.

"This is the most significant foreign policy action with our neighbor to the south in decades and I applaud the Obama Administration and all those who worked to make these changes a reality allowing for a free flow of ideas and trade, including a new avenue for agricultural businesses in California.

"We will also have the opportunity to test and share medical breakthroughs, particularly in the area of drugs that treat diabetes and long-term health concerns."

Key Components of the Updated Policy Approach from the White House:

The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed in January, 1961.

• In the coming months, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.

• As an initial step the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks in January 2015, in Havana.

• U.S. engagement will be critical when appropriate and will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba and other measures aimed at fostering improved conditions for the Cuban people.

• The United States will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern and that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.

Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people

• The changes will soon be implemented via amendments to regulations of the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce. Our new policy changes will further enhance our goal of empowering the Cuban population.

• Our travel and remittance policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information and opportunities for self-employment and private property ownership, and by strengthening independent civil society.

• These measures will further increase people-to-people contact; further support civil society in Cuba; and further enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people. Persons must comply with all provisions of the revised regulations; violations of the terms and conditions are enforceable under U.S. law.

Facilitating an expansion of travel under general licenses for the 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law-

• General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

• Travelers in the 12 categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law will be able to make arrangements through any service provider that complies with the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing travel services to Cuba, and general licenses will authorize provision of such services.

 

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