Kathy Castor tells Obama how U.S. policy changes could help the people of Cuba

1 - Cuba has instituted changes to its economy.


Castor alludes to recent reforms underway, such as the Cuban government's decision to eliminate most travel restrictions on its own people, and the encouragement of private ownership of property and private business.


2- Economic changes occurring outside of Cuba.


The Congresswoman refers to the fact that one of the island's chief benefactors, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, is gone and thus it's unlikely that the South American country will continue to provide billions of dollars in economic aid and oil to Cub.


3- Support the constitutional rights of Americans by lifting restrictions on our rights to travel.


Maybe you remember the controversy that erupted earlier this month over uber-celebrities Beyonce and Jay Z traveling to Cuba on a "people-to-people" license — travel authorized by the Treasury Department in the name of cultural exchange and education.


Castor writes that the travel ban is "incongruous with the freedom of Americans to travel even where the U.S. government has severely strained relations or dangerous travel conditions exist like North Korea, Syria or Iran."


4 - Reforming the policy will improve U.S. diplomatic standing in the region.


Castor alludes to an issue that was articulated at Al Fox's summit on U.S.-Cuba relations last month: The Summit of the Americas ended in 2012 with a warning from U.S. allies that if Cuba is not allowed to attend the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama, they will boycott the conference.


5- The working conditions of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.


U.S. and Cuba don't have foreign embassies in their respective capitals, but they do have what are called interest sections (formed during the Jimmy Carter era). Castor writes that though the U.S. consul and the professional staff "are exceptional," the physical condition of that building is dilapidated.


"I was dismayed to witness the large numbers of individuals who wait in enormous lines outside in the elements for an interview to determine their ability to travel," she says.


Castor concludes her letter by saying that the Tampa Bay area would "welcome the opportunity to host such a dialogue between the two nations," adding, "There is a generational change occurring in the leadership of Cuba just as has happened in other countries around the world. You can lay the groundwork for improvement in human rights, democracy and economic change that is long overdue."

  • Kathy Castor

When Tampa Democratic area Congresswoman Kathy Castor returned from Cuba earlier this month, she told reporters that she would brief President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry about her thoughts on modernizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

Castor followed through on Tuesday, sending a four-page detailed letter, acknowledging that human rights remain a "challenge" for the Raul Castro-led government. She says historically, the U.S. has "always been more effective in advancing the cause of human rights through engagement."

The 46-year-old fourth-term representative admits that when she was elected to succeed Jim Davis in 2006, she was not an advocate for ending the now 51-year-old embargo on the communist island. But she has since come around to see the folly of the sanctions. In her letter, she presents five reasons why the sanctions must end:

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