Cuban Citizens "Emotional" Over Prospects for Future

Several Cuban citizens have told me how emotional they became on December17, 2014, when Presidents Obama and Castro announced sweeping changes to the relations of the two countries. Even Cubans who are cynical voiced elation and hope. One told me yesterday that she had watched Obama's entire speech and she wanted me to watch it too.

Many Americans are happy with the proposed changes. Of course, many are not. I spoke to an American citizen not of Cuban descent yesterday, who voiced what the radical Cuban exile communities would voice.

We, the editors of this blog, have long believed that helping Cuban people individually, within the strict rules that our country has imposed, was good, and that worrying that my help to them might somehow benefit their government was a secondary concern.  I generally stay in casas particulares or family homes, rather than government hotels. I generally eat in paladares rather than government restaurants. I take only the amount of money allowed by the U.S. government. We have given computers, Ipods, and other electronic devices to Cubans in Cuba. We have assisted a family member to purchase a better dwelling once that was permitted by Cuba law.

We know that Congress will have the final say on some of the proposed changes mentioned by President Obama. We know that will be difficult to achieve. The editors of this blog support what President Obama has done, entirely, and find no fault with any of his proposals. We are elated, and have not talked to a single Cuban citizen living in Cuba who is not elated.

Here is a link with a synopsis from the White House web site.

Here is the UTube video of the talk:

Here is the White House's Recap of the Talk (same as the first link above):

"President Obama Delivered a Statement on Cuba

We are separated by 90 miles of water, but are brought together through shared relationships and the desire to promote a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. President Obama is taking action to cut loose the anchor of failed policies of the past, and to chart a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba that will engage and empower the Cuban people.

A Failed Approach

Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.
We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. We should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

Next Steps, New Course

Since the President took office in 2009, he has taken steps to support the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future.
Now, the President is taking the next steps to renew our leadership in the Americas, end our outdated approach on Cuba, and promote more effective change that supports the Cuban people and our national security interests.
Here’s what the President’s new approach will do:
    Re-establish diplomatic relations
    Our diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed in January of 1961. The President is immediately reopening discussions with Cuba and working to re-establish an embassy in Havana in the next coming months. The U.S. will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.
    More effectively empower the Cuban people by adjusting regulations
    The President is taking steps to improve travel and remittance policies that will further increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, and enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.
    Facilitate an expansion of travel to Cuba
    With expanded travel, Americans will be able to help support the growth of civil society in Cuba more easily, and provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers. Americans will also be able to provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector.
    General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in 12 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, research, or educational institutions
      11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
      12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines
    Authorize expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba
    The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector and make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.
    Authorize American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba
    Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.
    Initiate new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications 
    and their ability to communicate freely

    Cuba has an Internet penetration of about five percent – one of the lowest rates in the world. The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited. Now, telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services.

Human Rights and Civil Society

A critical focus of these actions will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba. The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future. The U.S. efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state.
The U.S. Congress funds democracy programming in Cuba to provide humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and support the free flow of information in places where it is restricted and censored. The Administration will continue to implement U.S. programs aimed at promoting positive change in Cuba, and we will encourage reforms in our high level engagement with Cuban officials.
The United States encourages all nations and organizations engaged in diplomatic dialogue with the Cuban government to take every opportunity both publicly and privately to support increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.
Ultimately, it will be the Cuban people who drive economic and political reforms. That is why President Obama took steps to increase the flow of resources and information to ordinary Cuban citizens in 2009, 2011, and today. The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of an entire region that has committed to promote and defend democracy through the Inter-American Democratic Charter."
Tweet from President on Twitter:
"To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship." —President Obama Watch the full video. "
To be fair, there are also opposing views on the Internet:

Yoani Sanchez, famous Cuban blogger did not act quite as enthusiastic as other Cuban citizens.

And there is a story on the Internet of 10 lies included in Obama's speech.  We don't like it, so we are not providing a link, but you can find it if you want to.

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