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Monday, April 22, 2024

U.S. begins to lift embargo on Cuban goods, enables further humanitarian work

A local nonprofit organization will now be able to provide better humanitarian aid to Cuba after a recent decision by the White House to repair relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

In a recent statement by the group, Inspire Cuba said the policy change “will make us a more efficient humanitarian organization by eliminating travel restrictions, money spending restrictions and importation of humanitarian and technological items restrictions.”

Before the embargo and sanctions on Cuba were lifted by the U.S. in December, Inspire Cuba gave aid to Cubans by raising money to purchase flash drives, cellphones, laptops, school supplies, food and toys. The products were then taken to Cuba by Cuban-Americans visiting the country.

Now, the group will be able to directly deliver the aid.  

“Consistent with our mission, we unanimously support the White House effort to improve relations with Cuba, because we can already foresee the beginning of true reconciliation, the waning of hate and rancor, and the establishment of a stronger independent civil society in the island,” the statement read.  

Previously, a state law prohibited Florida universities from using state or grant money to travel to countries deemed terrorist states by the U.S., Cuba being one of them.

After the announcement that relations with Cuba would be repaired, President Barack Obama ordered Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s inclusion on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, hinting at the possibility that the country could be removed from the list.

The White House has said the U.S. will work with Cuba to improve its human rights conditions. To do this, licenses to allow educational, religious, humanitarian and other trips will be issued to Americans by the U.S. government. This will help groups like Inspire Cuba, the organization said.

According to Inspire Cuba, an estimated 25 percent of Cubans live on less than $2 a day.

Solange Rodriguez of Inspire Cuba experienced the effects of poverty firsthand, having been born and raised in Cuba.  From 2001 to 2004, she said her parents worked for $20 a month, the maximum amount of pay a Cuban worker can receive.

Because Cuba is a communist nation, most Cuban workers are paid between $10 and $20 a month, Inspire Cuba co-founder Marco García said.

Due to this pay limit, it can be very difficult for Cubans to buy products they need to survive, such as food.

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“With $20, you have to be able to manage to buy soap — which was around $3 — (and) milk, which was distributed by the government. But it was never enough,” Rodriguez said, adding that the government only provides a liter of milk per family every week.

The prices for things such as milk are the same as prices in the U.S. For this reason, Rodriguez said maintaining a healthy diet is almost impossible because of the low pay that Cuban workers receive.

“It is not enough to live,” she continued. “So people have to consider: ‘So this month I’m going to eat this kind of food and next month this is what I need to do so I can balance my nutrition and balance my life so I can survive.’”

The decision by the U.S. to improve its relations with Cuba has been met with mixed responses.  Some people have welcomed it, but many Floridian politicians rejected it.

Former Florida governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush also criticized Obama’s decision. In a Facebook post he said it was “the latest foreign policy misstep by this President, and another dramatic overreach of his executive authority.”

“It undermines America’s credibility and undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba,” Bush said in the statement. “The beneficiaries of President Obama’s ill-advised move will be the heinous Castro brothers who have oppressed the Cuban people for decades.”

“Cuba is a dictatorship with a disastrous human rights record, and now President Obama has rewarded those dictators,” Bush continued. “We should instead be fostering efforts that will truly lead to the fair, legitimate democracy that will ultimately prevail in Cuba.”

The president, however, remains confident in his decision and believes that it will benefit both Americans and Cubans in the long run.

“Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba,” Obama said during a live television announcement on the day of the decision.

“In the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years, we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” he said. 

“Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas,” he continued. 

 

Correction: The original headline was misleading, and it insinuated that the embargo was lifted.

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