Bridging the gap

President Barack Obama’s administration has announced the lifting of some of the
longstanding restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba. This move may provide more opportunities for Cuban families as well as USF students who want to study Cuba, its culture and its people.

“It’s time to let Cuban-Americans see their mothers and their fathers, their sisters and their brothers,” Obama said in a Miami campaign speech last year. “It’s time to let Cuban-American money make their families less dependent on the Castro regime.”

The Cuban American Student Association (CASA) is involved in an affiliated non-profit organization called Raices De Esperanza (Roots of Hope, Inc). Roots of Hope is an organization that creates avenues for direct and indirect contact between youth in the U.S. and Cuba.

CASA at USF helped organize and participated in Roots of Hope’s sixth annual conference, March 30 at the University of Miami. This year’s conference theme was “GenerAccion,” or “A Generation in Action.”

Madeline Camara, USF associate professor of Spanish language, spoke at the conference about societal changes that Cuba has undergone. She said she hopes the new policy will open up more educational opportunities to students at USF.

“I think this opening offers a great opportunity for students to learn more about the country first hand,” Camara said. “The department of Study Abroad has been very open to the idea of possibly offering a study-abroad experience to Cuba sometime in the near future.”

Silvia Soto, a sophomore international business major and vice president of the Latin American Student Association at USF, attended the conference in April. She called the experience “eye-opening” and unforgettable.

Soto said the conference featured different presentations about Cuba and Cuban life. Students at the conference got firsthand accounts from people living in the country via the Internet. The conference also included speeches from a variety of Cuban Americans, including actor Andy Garcia.

“It showed how important it is to be able to communicate with these people,” Soto said. “The children there are the third generation under the Castro regime and because everything in their society is censored, they know nothing of other forms of government or of life outside the country.”

Frank Hernandez, president of CASA at USF, said he thinks that alleviated travel restrictions will be beneficial to Cubans both in Cuba and the U.S.

“The increased face-to-face interaction amongst family will have profound effects for the future reconciliation between both countries, a reconciliation that acknowledges a free and democratic Cuba,” he said.

Hernandez said the people of the island would also get a glimpse of American life.

“The interaction will also provide an opportunity for Cubans on the island to feel, see and learn about a future that allows all Cubans to be the authors of their own future,” he said.

Hernandez said travel to Cuba was possible before the administration’s announcement, but only under specific circumstances — the former policy only allowed immediate family members to travel once every three years. Special licenses were also issued, mainly dealing with humanitarian aid projects as well as limited academic and cultural exchange programs.

The policy changes will lift travel restrictions on family members’ visits to Cuba.  It will also add items to the allowed humanitarian donations, such as clothing, items for
personal hygiene, plant seeds and other supplies, and allow more free telecommunication links between U.S. and Cuban providers.

Another aspect of the new policy is the ability for U.S. citizens to send money to Cuba unrestricted. Previously, the government feared that being able to send money would only contribute to the Castro regime. 

Camara said the changes are necessary.

“There are a lot of people here in the U.S. because they need to help their families over there,” she said. “The bridge has two sides — I can only hope that both countries will put forth the effort in improving the relationship.”


• Lift all restrictions on transactions related to the travel of family members to Cuba.

• Remove restrictions on remittances to family members in Cuba.

• Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the U.S. and Cuba.

• License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.

• License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.

• License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.

• Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.

• Add certain humanitarian items to the list of items eligible for export through licensing exceptions.

— Source: