US business groups urge Obama to end Cuba embargo

December 5th, 2008 - 12:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Dec 5 (IANS) A group of leading US business organizations, including the US Chamber of Commerce, has urged president-elect Barack Obama to initiate the process of scrapping Washington’s 46-year-old economic embargo on Cuba, EFE reported Friday.”We support the complete removal of all trade and travel restrictions on Cuba,” the group said in an open letter to Obama.

“We recognize that change may not come all at once, but it must start somewhere, and it must begin soon,” the letter read.

Complaining about the restrictions on travel to the communist-ruled island, the organizations said it was “simply wrong” that US citizens are free to travel to North Korea or Iran but not to Havana.

Havana in recent months has repeatedly asked the Bush administration to ease travel and remittance restrictions on Cubans living in the US as Cuba struggles to recover from the damage of three hurricanes.

Obama promised during the campaign that he would scrap the regulations sharply limiting the ability of Cuban Americans to visit their homeland or send money and goods to family members on the island.

While the Democrat said on the stump that he would not end the embargo, his victory in last month’s election has fuelled calls to normalize ties between Washington and Havana.

The writer of the open letter, National Foreign Trade Council vice president Jake Colvin, said Thursday he had circulated a similar letter a year ago but found few organizations willing to sign.

But the latest letter was signed by a number of business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, Business Roundtable, National Retail Federation and Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The letter cites a 2001 government report that Cuba embargo was costing US exporters up to $1.2 billion annually in lost sales.

Obama would need congressional approval to dismantle the embargo, but he could use executive orders to ease the restrictions.

A poll released this week shows that 55 percent of Miami’s Cuban Americans say the US should end the economic embargo, while 65 percent say Washington should re-establish diplomatic ties with the island.

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