Monday, March 23, 2009

Cuba: US embargo 'still standing' despite new law

Cuba's state-controlled media on Monday downplayed eased U.S. rules on family ties with Cuba, calling the measure a defeat for the communist government's foes that still left Washington's 47-year-old trade embargo intact.

The article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma was the first official mention of the Cuba clauses in a package signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 11 _ nearly two weeks prior.

The law rolled back limits on family travel and remittances imposed by the Bush Administration, effectively allowing Americans with relatives in Cuba to visit once a year, stay as long as they wish and spend up to $179 a day. The changes only remain in effect until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Granma said the changes "represent the first setback for the anti-Cuban mafia and its representatives in Congress," but added that "in practice, they don't affect the siege that successive administrations have maintained against our people."

U.S. law still bars most trade with and travel to Cuba.

"These steps don't restore the rights of Cuban residents of the United States to travel freely to Cuba or approve the rights of citizens of that country to visit a neighboring island," it said.

President Barack Obama has said he is open to talks with Cuban leaders, though he said he does not yet favor lifting the U.S. embargo. Cuban officials have sometimes criticized Obama, but have been far less hostile than they were toward ex-President George W. Bush.