Bay Area divided on new Cuba policy

April 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's been a major shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba. The Obama Administration lifted restrictions on Monday, allowing Cuban Americans to travel there freely, and to send an unlimited amount of money to relatives. However, not everyone thinks this policy change makes sense.

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The move by the White House will not lift the U.S. embargo against Cuba or allow non-Cubans to travel freely to the island. The president hopes this new policy change will link divided families, but some of the Bay Area Cubans ABC7 spoke to are divided in their reaction to Monday's news.

Maximo Mendoza hasn't been to Cuba since he left on a raft more than 30 years ago.

"This isn't a matter of one man. This is a matter of the regime. His brother is the same as him," said Mendoza.

The flag draped on a wall in his San Francisco home and the bust of a Cuban national hero are the simple signs of just how much he misses his homeland, but even now, he has no plans to go back.

"I cannot go because it's against my principle to sustain the regime," said Mendoza.

The changes mean Cuban Americans can now travel freely to the island and also to send an unlimited amount of money to relatives. The policy shift also allows U.S. cell phone and computer companies to do business there.

Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D) from Oakland just visited Cuba last week. Monday, she applauded the changes, but she wants to see the passage of legislation that would lift travel restrictions so that all Americans could travel to the island.

"This is the right thing to do. This is the humane thing to do. And I think the president is fulfilling the goals and promises that he discussed during his campaign," said Barbara Lee.

Under the bush administration, Cuban Americans could travel to Cuba only every three years and send a limited amount of money to relatives.

The new rules mean Roberto Borrell plans to see his entire family in January and send as much money to them as possible.

"Every time, I go they have less and less and less, and it's really hard and I just go there to help them," said Borrell.

The announcement comes just days before President Obama leaves for a conference with Latin American leaders, some of whom were expected to press the president to improve U.S. relations with Cuba.

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