[url=http://www.pantagraph.com]http://www.pantagraph.com[/url] - opinion
President Bush should be increasing ties between the United States and Cuba, not worsening them. He should be acting in the best interests of the country as a whole, not pandering to rabid foes of Fidel Castro to court their votes in November.
At a time when many have called for a closer relationship with the island nation off the Florida coast, Bush has tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Under the order Bush signed last week, U.S. authorities would have greater authority to prevent unauthorized American ships from entering Cuban territorial waters. In some circumstances, it would allow placing guards on a vessel and even taking possession of the craft.
As a practical matter, Bush’s latest order probably will not have a major impact.
However, it is likely to further chill relations between the countries. The State Department recently canceled migration talks with Cuba that are usually held twice a year, claiming Cuba hasn’t been cooperative in working toward orderly migration of those who want to leave the communist state.
The virtual wall the United States has placed around Cuba might have been justified in the era when Cuba and the Soviet Union were closely allied. But that era is long gone, as is the Soviet Union itself.
Four decades of trade embargoes and other restrictions have not led to regime change in Cuba.
This continued policy of ostracism rather than engagement not only hurts the Cuban people, it hurts Americans.
It hurts Cubans by strengthening Castro’s hand and allowing him to blame the United States for his people’s troubles.
It hurts Americans by limiting trade and travel opportunities.
And, specifically, it hurts Illinois, which has long sought Cuba as a customer for agricultural and industrial products.