Obama re-writes history by lifting restrictions on Cuba

WASHINGTON – President Obama announced that he is lifting some restrictions on Cuban Americans' contact with Cuba and allowing U.S. telecom companies to operate there, opening up the communist island nation to more cellular and satellite service, a senior White House official said.

The decision does not lift the trade embargo on Cuba but eases the prohibitions that have restricted Cuban Americans from visiting their relatives and has limited what they can send back home.

It also allows companies to establish fiber-optic and satellite links between the United States and Cuba and will permit U.S. companies to be licensed for roaming agreements in Cuba.

Communications of those kinds have been prohibited under tough rules put in place by George W. Bush’s administration to pressure for democratic change in the island nation.

But under the new policy promoted by Obama, satellite radio companies and television providers will also be able to enter into transactions necessary to provide service to Cuban citizens.

It will also provide an exception to the trade embargo to allow personal cell phones, computes and satellite receivers to be sent to Cuba.

As a candidate, Obama promised to seek closer relations with Cuba, and courted Cuban voters in the key state of Florida. As president, he has signaled that he intends to move toward a greater openness.

A White House aide said the president believes that democratic change will come to the Cuban nation more quickly if the United States reaches out to the people of Cuba and their relatives in the United States.

But the move is highly controversial, especially among those who supported former Bush’s hardline policy, which viewed the restrictions as a way of spurring political change.

Obama’s administration takes a somewhat different view, but has resisted a wholesale elimination of the trade embargo and travel ban, which has been pushed for by some in Congress.

The announcement, which is expected to come later today, comes as the president prepares to leave Thursday for the Summit of the America’s in Trinidad, and a stop in Mexico.