Editorial: Time for a change on Cuba

Among the new opportunities that the election of a new president and Congress brings us is to end once and for all the vicious U.S. economic blockade and travel ban imposed on Cuba nearly 50 years ago.

The blockade has now continued through 10 U.S. administrations. But the Cuban Revolution has survived those 10 presidencies, plus many other challenges and disasters. This does not mean that the blockade has had no impact. It has indeed made it hard for Cuba to obtain many essentials, from petroleum to heart pacemakers. But the blockade is also harmful to the interests of U.S. workers and farmers, who would benefit in jobs and income if trade with Cuba were restored. The blockade has also kept people in the United States from having access to products of Cuba’s innovative pharmaceuticals industry. And the accompanying ban on travel to Cuba violates our right to go and see for ourselves what is going on there — not to mention enjoy a reasonably priced vacation on the island’s sunny beaches or a live taste of Cuba’s vibrant multiracial culture.

The Bush administration is closely tied to the most reactionary circles that have been trying to bring down Cuba’s socialist system, including the increasingly narrow group of extremist Cuban exiles in Miami and elsewhere. But Barack Obama will not be burdened with such ties, and has indicated a readiness to meet with President Raul Castro without preconditions. Democrats in Congress are increasingly willing to do away with the travel ban and blockade altogether.

Obama has promised to cancel the Bush administration’s cruel restrictions on Cuban Americans’ visits and monetary gifts to relatives in Cuba. This is a good beginning.

Let us also ask Congress and the Obama administration to end the blockade and travel ban entirely, and normalize diplomatic and trade relations.

Part of this process should include freeing the Cuba Five — five Cuban patriots who, after a joke of a trial, are stuck in U.S. jails serving draconian sentences for defending their country against terrorist attacks that past U.S. administrations encouraged and promoted, in violation of our own and international law.