As I mentioned in my last Cuba Travel Newsletter edition, the Cuban Embargo is not going to end soon. By law, it must be killed by Congress. Fortunately, it is full of exceptions that have allowed American companies to ship products to Cuba, and have allowed Americans to travel legally to Cuba without permission of the U.S. Government. It’s not going to be officially rescinded for many years, and it will eventually become completely irrelevant. Yet we continue to see articles and news reports by media professionals describing the “upcoming battle to end the Embargo.” I assume that President Obama’s team working on the issue understands this. It seems that it would be a complete waste of time and political capital to try to force a vote by a congressional committee. I don’t think the president or his staff should even bring it up. He should just let it die a natural death by not funding enforcement and allowing more exceptions until there is nothing left of it.
There are also current reports about future plans to establish an American Embassy in Havana and a Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. News reports indicate that this is going to happen fairly soon. Unfortunately, Cuban-American congressmen have stated that embassies will NOT be established, and they have the means to block funding for them.
In my opinion, this is another area that should not be tackled now. Embassies already exist in both Havana and Washington D.C. They are called “Interests Sections,” (technically a part of the Swiss Embassies in both cities), but they function as embassies in most ways. Last year, one of my travelers misplaced her passport while we were in Havana. We went to the embassy (pardon me–I mean “Interests Section) and she had a new passport in less than 24 hours.
Here are my conclusions: First—if you are in Cuba and need embassy services, they are available. Second—the issue of re-establishing a real embassy probably isn’t worth President Obama getting in yet another fight with Congress. It looks like he will be involved in several other concurrent battles in the near future. I hope he continues with the normalization process and doesn’t waste time and energy when he really doesn’t need to. Third—this situation is an excellent example of behavior you would expect from 7-year-olds–a silly name game. A rose by any other name is still a rose, even if you want to call it an “interests section.” I expect we’ll see more silly behavior and comments as high-level diplomats begin talks this week in Havana. Expect to see a lot of irrelevant distractions on the news. I’ll bet there will be a lot going on under the radar—things we won’t find out about for many years.
During President Obama’s “State of the Union” address last night, the largest and most enthusiastic bi-partisan applause he received was when he mentioned his normalization efforts with Cuba. It looked to me like most members of his audience gave him a standing ovation. This may be the only issue where many conservative Republicans agree with him.