A group of businessmen and former high-ranking U.S. officials is asking President Obama to relax the embargo on Cuba. They want the President to ease travel and investment restrictions to help Cubans with their economic and social needs.
A letter sent last week by the group had 44 signers including former intelligence chief John Negroponte, former foreign policy advisor Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Jorge Perez, CEO of the Related Group.
Tomas Bilbao is head of the Cuba Study Group, which helped organize the letter. While the group isn't expecting a public response from the White House, he believes the letter is “evidence of the growing consensus for the need for more effective policy toward Cuba that prioritizes helping the Cuban people over solely focusing on hurting the Cuban government.”
A poll by the nonpartisan Atlantic Council found that 64 percent of Miami-Dade County adults favored engaging more with Cuba. Miami-Dade has the largest concentration of Cuban-Americans in the country.
Supporters of the embargo say the demands are misguided. Former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami led Congress to write the embargo into law in 1996: “This letter is fundamentally rooted in people seeking business with the dictatorship. It’s not rooted in something pure. The people are actually asking the President of the United States to violate the law."
Bilbao maintains the measures proposed are well within a president's power and points to the backgrounds of some of the letter's signers, which includes former senior officials for foreign policy.
Below is a history U.S.-Cuba relations, courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations.