Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama to maintain Cuba embargo...for now

The administration of Barack Obama, sworn in as US president Jan. 20, will eliminate some current US sanctions against Cuba but "it is not time to lift" the 47-year-old US economic embargo, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC on Jan. 13. Her appearance before the committee was part of a process that is expected to win her a quick confirmation as the new administration's secretary of state. Clinton answered a number of questions orally and in writing about US relations with Latin America. The Obama administration "will return to a policy of vigorous involvement" in the region, she said.

"President-Elect Obama believes the Cuban-Americans especially can be important ambassadors for change in Cuba," Clinton wrote in answer to a written question from Richard Lugar (R-IN). "As such, [Obama] believes that it makes both moral and strategic sense to lift the restrictions on family visits and family cash remittances to Cuba. We do not currently have a timeline for the announcement of such a new policy..." Lugar also asked about a number of other issues, including the possibility of taking Cuba off the State Department's "State Sponsors of Terrorism" list; of increasing cooperation with Cuba in fighting drug trafficking; and of developing cooperation around "energy security and environmentally sustainable resource management." Clinton didn't go beyond indicating that the new administration "anticipate[s] a review of US policy regarding Cuba." (La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 14; Steve Clemons, Huffington Post, Jan. 16)

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