WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama is reviewing various “options” to ease the trade and financial embargo on Cuba through executive action, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday.
At his daily press conference, Kirby said that the president has relaxed some trade restrictions on Cuba and will continue to review future options available to him as per his authority to ease the embargo.
Kirby did not say what the future measures to be undertaken by Obama might consist of and the White House so far has not commented on the matter.
When consulted by EFE, another State Department spokesman said that “any future change in the regulations will be designed to move forward on the policy of ... support for the Cuban people.”
“We firmly believe that facilitating travel, the flow of information and certain types of trade allows the United States to better foster our interests and improve the lives of Cubans,” the spokesman added, although he did not say if the changes would be conditioned on more reforms or human rights progress.
During his meeting with Obama at the United Nations in late September, Cuban President Raul Castro linked the further advances toward normalization with the United States to more decisive action by the U.S. president to ease – and ultimately lift – the embargo.
Meanwhile, Obama told Castro that more reforms in Cuba would increase the impact of the changes adopted by his government to relax the embargo, the complete elimination of which can only be undertaken by Congress.
So far, Obama has used his executive authority to ease travel restrictions to Cuba for U.S. citizens, authorize the import of certain products manufactured by the small Cuban private sector and give permission to telecommunications firms to operate on the island.
The president has also repeatedly asked Congress to lift the embargo, which was imposed in 1962 and incorporated into law in 1996, but it is not likely that current lawmakers, most of whom are Republicans in both chambers, will act on that before Obama leaves office in January 2017.
Robert Muse, an attorney considered by many as the top expert on U.S. legislation regarding Cuba, thinks that Obama still has much maneuvering room regarding the embargo.
If he wanted, Obama could let the embargo fall by the wayside “as a piece of cheese that has so many holes that no cheese remains,” a “relic” without any real effect that Congress would have no choice but to lift, Muse told EFE in August.