U.S. and congressional officials said on Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering easing travel restrictions to Cuba.
The New York Times originally reported on Tuesday that unidentified officials,
said it was meant to loosen restrictions on academic, religious and cultural groups that were adopted under President George W. Bush and return to the people to people policies followed under President Bill Clinton.
The story intimated that politics, which always is at play when it comes to the U.S. and Cuba, is certainly part of the equation, but that the administration doesn't think it will be negative, save from some criticism from New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and no doubt parts of the South Florida Cuban exile community.
They have made the calculation that if you put a smarter Cuba policy on the table, it will not harm us in the election cycle, said one Democratic Congressional aide who has been working with the administration on the policy. That, I think, is what animates this.
The Obama administration is also planning to allow flights to Cuba from more cities than the three Miami, New York and Los Angeles currently permitted and the big hope locally is that Tampa will be one of those cities.
In recent months, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has written a letter to Obama asking for that to happen.
Tampa businessman and activist Jason Busto, who also publishes the online publication Cuba Standard, said that as a Tampa native he hopes "we get some non-stop flights and that our port authority board will be more open-minded about meeting with their counterparts in Cuba now."
Busto, like many others in this country, thinks the 50-year embargo has long stopped being effective, and hopes it ends sooner rather than later. "Once the US ends the embargo, I hope that the re-engagement it secures will help create jobs in Tampa Bay and in Cuba, particularly in the construction businesses of which so many find themselves languishing today," he says.