Fidel Castro Is Your New President, America!
The Obama administration announced today what it calls the most significant changes in 50 years to American policy toward Cuba, including the normalization of diplomatic relations, increased trade and easier travel, and a review of Cuba's listing as a state sponsor of terrorism. But no, you aren't going to be buying Cohibas at your neighborhood Walgreens anytime soon. It's always about cigars with you people, jesus.
Yr Wonkette listened in to a conference call the administration held for news media, and a whole bunch of "Senior Administration Officials" gave background on the changes. It was very informative!
The press call kicked off with details on the release of American contractor Alan Gross, who had been convicted of espionage in 2011 by Cuban authorities but who is very definitely not a spy. While the U.S. will be releasing three Cuban agents in exchange for an unnamed American "intelligence asset" who had been held in Cuba for 20 years, the Senior Administration Officials made it absolutely clear that the only swap was for those actual spies -- Cuba released Gross as a humanitarian gesture, not as part of the trade, which was completely separate, you got that?
Among the Big Deal Changes:
- The U.S. and Cuba will formalize diplomatic relations, reopening embassies in each other's capitals. You won't be able to buy Cuban cigars at the Cuban embassy.
- America will open more trade with Cuba, but it will mostly be American agricultural equipment, building supplies, and computer and telecommunication equipment. The increased trade will not include Cuban cigars, and they don't even like ours.
- Americans will be allowed to send larger remittances to family members in Cuba. They will not be able to send cigars.
- Travel restrictions will be eased for 12 categories of visits to Cuba, such as family visits, religious, educational, and medical exchanges, and business, always business. Americans visiting Cuba will now be able to access their American banks through debit and credit cards.
- The State department will review whether Cuba should remain on the list of official state sponsors of terrorism, and America will not try to send Fidel Castro any more poisoned cigars.
- America will still yell at Cuba about human rights, but will also not object to Cuba's attending the Summit of the Americas in Panama next year, especially if they bring cigars. It's expected that the new arrangements will also improve U.S. relations with the rest of Latin America, since now those countries won't always be asking "What about Cuba? What about Cuba? Hey -- what about Cuba?"
- The ban on tourist travel was put in place by Congress, so Congress would have to change that. Congress would also have to take action to allow importation of cigars.
- Finally, news of cigars: Americans coming back from Cuba can bring up to $400 worth of stuff, including up to $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco products for personal use only.
- Cuban tinkerers will still keep all those great old pre-1961 American cars running, because they're awesome.
The changes are being pursued because if 50 years of sanctions, embargos, name-calling, and isolation (not to mention the CIA) haven't killed former President Fidel Castro, then maybe it would make sense to try something else. Obviously, once President Marco Rubio takes office, we'll shutter the embassies and try an embargo again.
The negotiations have been going on since the spring of 2013, and were backed by the Vatican, which hosted meetings to finalize the agreements. Pope Francis was directly involved, and personally appealed to Barack Obama and Raul Castro to knock it off already and make nice.
Yr Dok Zoom also learned one other really important thing from the conference call: CNN's Jim Acosta wasn't listening very closely, since he asked follow-up questions about cigars and the travel ban that had been covered already. Seriously, Jim, they covered the cigar thing, they really did.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.