.- An article published by the Archdiocese of Havana’s Catholic magazine, “Espacio Laical,” praised the decision by the Obama administration to relax the rules on travel to Cuba for academic, cultural and religious reasons, saying it comes at a strategic moment and will spur necessary reforms in the country.
The U.S. government announced the new travel rules on Jan. 14 and also made it easier to send remittances to Cuba in order to help promote private economic activity.
Arturo Lopez-Levy, a lecturer on Latin American politics at the Colorado School of Mines, said the new rules come at a strategic time of economic transformation in Cuba, with the recent layoffs of thousands of government workers and the granting of permits to establish small businesses.
In the January edition of “Espacio Laical.” Lopez-Levy also said that by allowing academic, religious and cultural groups to travel to Cuba, the United States is creating “a virtuous circle of travelers” who will help bring about reform. “There are few things of greater impact than direct contact between people,” he said.
He added that for its part, the communist government should eliminate the travel permits Cubans are required to obtain before traveling abroad, and it should allow Cubans to visit the United States for academic reasons.
“The flexibility regarding travel will also benefit U.S. interests in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it will be warmly received and coincides with the international and Cuban human rights agenda,” Lopez-Levy said. However, he criticized U.S. officials for not lifting “the counterproductive, illegal and immoral embargo against Cuba.”
“This opening is potentially the beginning of a thawing in bilateral relations,” he asserted.