Obama: Ease Cuba Embargo
Does Obama see a chance to take advantage of Hillary Clintons very high negatives in South Florida?
MIAMI (AP) Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is leaping into the long-running Cuba debate by calling for the U.S. to ease restrictions for Cuban-Americans who want to visit the island or send money home.
Obama's campaign said Monday that, if elected, the Illinois senator would lift restrictions imposed by the Bush administration and allow Cuban-Americans to visit their relatives more frequently, as well as ease limits on the amount of money they can send to their families.
"Senator Obama feels that the Bush administration has made a humanitarian and a strategic blunder," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an e-mail. "His concern is that this has had a profoundly negative impact on the Cuban people, making them more dependent on the Castro regime, thus isolating them from the transformative message carried by Cuban-Americans."
Obama was explaining his position in an op-ed piece Tuesday in The Miami Herald.
While the U.S. embargo has limited who can travel to the communist island and what can be sent there since the early 1960s, restrictions added by the Bush administration in 2004 made visiting and shipping gifts to Cuba more difficult.
Most Cubans in the U.S. can only visit the island once every three years and can only send quarterly remittances of up to $300 per household to immediate family members. Previously, they could visit once a year and send up to $3,000. The U.S. also tightened restrictions on travel for educational and religious groups.
The Cuban-exile vote is considered key to winning Florida, and top presidential candidates have generally followed the recommendations of the community's most hard-line and vocal leaders, who support a full embargo against Fidel Castro's government. Castro, 80, is in poor health and turned over temporary power last year to his brother Raul.