As part of the normalization process that began a little less than a year ago, the United States has taken additional steps in renewing full relations between itself and Cuba. On September 18th, the U.S. government announced revisions to its sanctions against Cuba that would make business and travel between two countries much easier. On top of this, President Obama may be working to end the embargo that the United States has on Cuba. Insistence on removing the embargo comes from personal requests by Cuban President Raul Castro, Pope Francis, and the United Nations, who condemned the embargo. Obama may aid Cuba in ending the embargo to the U.N.'s wishes, an unprecedented move by a world leader. While most are in favor of continuing to open trade between the U.S. and Cuba, completely removing the embargo proves to be a controversial subject.
The new trade revisions between the United States and Cuba come with several essential benefits. American internet and telecommunications firms are now allowed to open in Cuba and hire native Cuban workers. Travel restrictions between the countries are now eased, direct shipping is allowed, certain people and businesses can open bank accounts, and Cuban-Americans can send more money to their relatives at home. The revisions went into effect on September 22nd, intentionally coinciding with Pope Francis' visit to Cuba. While this is a major step forward for Cuba's international business, it is essential for them to figure out how to take advantage of it. In order for these measures to be effective, Cuba will have to address their economic goals and concerns directly with the United States. Also, permission for business activity within the country has to be granted by Cuba, which may have to adjust its own economic policies to make way for foreign business.
It is clear that loosening these sanctions is a stepping stone to completely removing the embargo on Cuba. The United States' embargo against the island was first established in the early 1960s because of opposition to Cuba's communist practices. Since then, popular favor has returned to Cuba as several human rights organizations have spoken out against the provisions of the embargo. Most significantly, the United Nations has condemned the embargo since the 1990s. However, Congress has staunchly held on to the practice to the present day. This may change with the coming U.N. General Assembly vote on removing the embargo. Every year, votes by U.N. member states on this issue have favored Cuba, with last year's tally coming to 188-2 in opposition of the embargo. This year, the Obama administration is considering abstaining from the vote if the resolution for removing the embargo undergoes certain changes. If the United States abstains, it would be the first time in history a world leader has ever refused to actively oppose a U.N. policy that criticizes its country's laws. This has angered U.S. government officials who refuse to side with a U.N. criticism of their policies and advocate the embargo as a necessary blockade against a country with differing politics. In face of global disapproval of the embargo, however, national opinion may have room to change.
The United States has opened its doors further to business in Cuba and may be considering tearing down one of the most significant political economic acts in its history. What do you think lies in store for the future of relations between the two countries?