Monday, May 11, 2015

203.1 - Good News: US approves ferry service to Cuba


Good News: US approves ferry service to Cuba

Starting, as I always like to, with some Good News, we have the news that the Amazing Mr. O continues his moves to normalize - to open normal political relations with - the nation of Cuba.

On May 5, the White House announced approval of ferry service between the United States and Cuba, the first such service in decades.

This comes in the wake - no pun intended - of the April meeting between Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro, the first time such a meeting has taken place in over 50 years.

Obama has also eased up some on the embargo on trade with Cuba and, more directly related to the ferries, has moved to ease long-standing travel restrictions between the two nations. While regular tourist travel is still prohibited, Cuban-Americans visiting family, officials on government trips, and journalists will no longer need to get special permission to go from the US to Cuba.

Even with the remaining travel restrictions, the new ferry service would open a new path for the movement of the hundreds of millions of dollars in goods that travel between the two nations yearly - not to mention the many people who make the trip from the US to Cuba each year, usually to visit relatives.

The Treasury Department said that specific ferry licenses are being issued on a "case-by-case" basis and there was no blanket permission for such ferry services. However, at least five ferry lines - one in Mexico, one in Puerto Rico, and three in Florida - have confirmed receiving a license for a ferry service between the US and Cuba.

The downside of all this is that this will also have to be approved, obviously,  by Cuba - and it's not a slam-dunk that Cuba would be comfortable with opening up the possibility of a new large-scale means of exchange. They are going to be cautious, to feel wary, about moving beyond a half-century of mutual hostility, just as the US government has been and still is. Even so, it's a step in the right direction.

And as the guy in the movie said, "Small moves. Small moves."

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