Castro resigns!

“Fidel Castro has finally resigned”: as President of Cuba. The US is not ready to lift the embargo:

bq. In Washington, John D. Negroponte, deputy secretary of state, said it was unlikely that the United States would lift its trade embargo on Cuba, Reuters reported.

But “it’s inevitable”: that Cuba is opened up to Americans again:

bq. Many analysts say that Raul Castro hopes to emulate the Chinese model of development, in which the Communist party maintains tight political control while experimenting with economic liberalization.

bq. In addition, a number of voices in Congress have called for easing relations, and those lawmakers are bound to get a broader hearing if a Democrat wins the White House. “We have had a bad policy for nearly 50 years for bad reasons that have nothing to do with Cuba,” says Democratic New York Rep. Charles Rangel, who heads the House Ways and Means Committee. “There will be a change,” agreed Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has tried for years to lift a ban on travel by Americans to Cuba.

bq. In December 2006, Mr. Flake and Rep. William Delahunt (D., Mass.) led a 10-member delegation to Havana, the largest Congressional delegation to visit Cuba. Mr. Flake says he has “guarded optimism” about the possibilities of easing the decades-long embargo. Other lawmakers say they will try to attach amendments to farm and appropriations legislation to ease restrictions on travel, cash remittances and agricultural exports to the island.

bq. The European Union said it was ready to seek ways to relaunch ties with Cuba. “We reiterate our willingness to engage with Cuba in a constructive dialogue,” John Clancy, a spokesman for EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel, told a regular news briefing, noting that Mr. Michel planned to visit the island on March 6-7.

bq. A number of U.S. businesses can be expected to pressure for an opening, including agricultural exporters, who have already sold $1.5 billion of chicken, corn and other foodstuffs to the island since the government permitted food sales to the island in 2001.While Cuba is a relatively small and mostly penniless market of some 11 million people, hotel, airline, tourism and oil companies, interested in drilling in Cuba’s coastal waters where some oil has already been found, can be expected to join in the campaign.

And when it is, we will bring Havana to her namesake city to show her the city she was named after and where we picked her name eight years before she was born. And I can get some cigars. Havana was a beautiful city but today looks like it’s been through a war with unpaved pothole-laden streets and crumbling buildings. I’m optimistic.

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