Ferry travel to Cuba set to begin

For the first time since a trade embargo was imposed on Cuba in October 1960, the United States is allowing ferrys to travel to Cuba.

The qualified embargo, placed on Cuba two years after the American-backed Fulgencio Batista regime was ousted, was imposed in response to Cuba’s nationalization of American-owned property and has remained in place ever since.  The United States severed diplomatic ties with the Caribbean nation in January 1961 and tightened the embargo in ’62.

The Treasury and Commerce Departments involved in the approval of applications for ferry operation declined to offer specifics, but there are four-known firms which were granted licenses and all four firms are based in Florida.

Since President Obama’s 2014 announcement to re-engage Cuba and take steps to normalize relations with Havana, the fifty-year-old embargo remains firmly in place, awaiting Congress to approve any modification.  Despite the approval of licenses to travel to Cuba, restrictions persist: Travel for tourism is disallowed and travelers must qualify as visiting Cuba for, among other reasons, family, religious or educational purposes.

This appears to have generated some jubilation in small circles, but a larger, more contentious issue of restoration of ties to Cuba remains.

The expansion of business in Florida is welcome news.  For some, on the national scale, Obama’s emancipating policy ends a decades-long rudderless strategy, brings to a conclusion a fevered, stale and outdated policy position, will allow family to be re-united and can provide an alternative to costly air travel.

Others will cast scorn on Obama for rewarding an authoritarian government which refuses to reform and is an implacable foe of democracy, allowing the malignant minds which run Cuba to remain without any concession to the United States and ridding ourselves of a tool to influence the demise of communism in Cuba.

The Left rejoices at righting a wrong with this step toward normalization and will assert we are unlikely to yield a better result.  Conservatives will demand Mr. Obama abandon a conciliatory attitude and ratchet up the pressure to guarantee Cuba become a free and democratic place on our terms.

One unintended consequence of this travel could be Castro’s Cuba saddled with a controversy over English in their education system.