Former Cuban President Fidel Castro accused Barack Obama of looking down on Latin America.

Cuba will implement migratory reform in the next months to eliminate the old restrictions impeding Cubans from traveling abroad

“One of the issues currently under discussion at the highest level of the Cuban State is the issue of migration. We will carry out a radical and deep immigration reform in the coming months, in order to eliminate this type of restriction,” said Alarcon, president of the National Assembly of the People’s Power. Alarcon said the migratory control in the last five decades was one of the resources used by the revolution that began in 1959 to defend itself from “the long terrorist campaign,” for which some Cuban immigrants were responsible. “Now things have changed a lot,” Alarcon said, adding that “nearly half a million Cubans living abroad visit us each year. The vast majority of Cuban emigrants have normal relations with their country of origin.” “Currently it is an economic emigration, whose fundamental interest is to keep peaceful links with its country of origin, they have family and friends on the island, and they wish above all stability,” he said. “This new reality leads us to a ‘substantial’ reform of our migratory policy. Some rules must be changed and others eliminated,” Alarcon saidAlarcon also recalled that the migration issue has been always a “weapon used by the U.S. government to destabilize the revolution.” Cubans are the only foreign immigrants who may automatically gain residence after a year in U.S. territory according to the Cuban Adjustment Act, established in 1966 to encourage illegal Cuban immigration by crossing the Florida Strait in unsteady boats, he said.

The first announcement on a migratory reform in Cuba was made in August 2011 by President Raul Castro at the parliament and was ratified in December

HAVANA – People walk through the streets December 3, 2006 in Havana, Cuba. The island nation continues to wait for a glimpse of President Fidel Castro, who has ruled Cuba since 1959, he temporarily transferred his powers as president to his younger brother Raul Castro, the defense minister, due to his ailing health on July 31. Since that time he has been seen by the public only in videos and photographs released by the government. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Castro’s government has removed several restrictions observed in the country for half a century, but Cubans still can travel into and out of the country freely. To travel abroad, a Cuban citizen must suffer a winding net of limitations and expensive permits that cost nearly 1,000 dollars. If successful, the travel permission is granted for 30 days and may be extended ten times. People must return within the time limit, otherwise they will lose the right to reside on the island.

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President Barack Obama leaves today for a trip to a summit in Latin America that may have as much resonance in domestic politics as in hemispheric economics. Discussions at the meeting of North and South American leaders in the resort city of Cartagena, Colombia, will cover trade, economic growth and the battle against drug trafficking. Yet the White House is mindful that about 16 percent of U.S. residents trace their roots to the region, and that group may play an outsized role in the November presidential election.

photo source AP

“The president desperately needs high voter turnout among Hispanic Americans,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston. “It doesn’t hurt for him to be in Colombia, and being seen with Latino leaders of the hemisphere is not a bad photo-op in an election year.”

Obama’s campaign is gearing up for a close election fight against Republican Mitt Romney, putting a premium on gaining an edge with any voting group. Obama is actively courting Hispanics — who gave him 67 percent of their votes in 2008 — with a Spanish-language website and by recruiting Spanish-speaking volunteers and using Spanish-language voter registration forms and phone banks.

President Barack Obama addresses the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 34th Annual Awards Gala in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

“Key swing states that have large Hispanic populations will be extremely attentive” to the trip, said Susan MacManus, professor of political science at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “Many feel that Latin and South America has been ignored.”

Swing State

One of those states is Florida, with 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency and where Hispanics make up 22.5 percent of the population. Before Obama meets with the other 32 leaders at the Summit of the Americas he’s scheduled to stop at the Port of Tampa.The theme for that visit, as at the summit, will be expanding U.S. exports and gaining greater access to Latin markets for small businesses. About 40 percent of all exports from Tampa go to Latin America, and the port means 100,000 jobs and generates almost $8 billion in annual economic impact, according to its website.

President Obama waves as he arrives to speak at the Port of Tampa in Tampa, Fla., Friday April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara) CHRIS O’MEARA — AP

Total U.S. exports in the Americas amount to $700 billion a year out of $1.5 trillion worldwide, according to Commerce Department figures. Among the summit participants, Canada is the biggest U.S. trading partner, Mexico is the third largest and Brazil ranks ninth.

Hemispheric Trade

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Port of Tampa on April 13, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. The President, on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, used the visit to emphasis small business trade with countries in Latin America.
(April 12, 2012 – Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America)

“The U.S. economy benefits substantially from our trade in the Americas, and over 40 percent of our exports currently go to the Americas,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters in an April 11 briefing. “Those exports are growing faster than our trade with the rest of the world.”

US President Barack Obama with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff Photo: Reuters

Latin America managed to largely escape the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Brazil (BZGDYOY%) is the world’s sixth largest economy, and the ranks of the middle class have swelled. The World Bank classifies most countries in the region as middle- income or higher. As countries in the region have grown more prosperous, they are less reliant on the U.S., the world’s biggest economy. That growth also comes as the Obama administration has made a deliberate pivot to focus more on Asia.

Diminished Role

Obama is “quite comfortable with the diminished role of the United States in the hemisphere” and that it’s “the natural order of things,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center. “The U.S. is going to continue to be engaged but no longer has the domineering authority it once did.”

President Obama arrives in Cartagena, Colombia, on April 13 for the Summit of the Americas

The summit host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, has an agenda focusing on boosting advances in technology, finalizing the free-trade deal between the U.S. and Colombia, lessening income inequality and improving responses to natural disasters, such as earthquakes.

Obama remains popular in Central and South America, though promises to rebuild cooperation at the last summit, in 2009 in Trinidad, may have fallen short, according to the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy group that focuses on the Western Hemisphere.

“The U.S. must regain its credibility in the region by dealing seriously with an unfinished agenda of problems — including immigration, drugs and Cuba — that stands in the way of a real partnership,” according to a policy report issued yesterday.

Illicit Drugs

Bigger issues that aren’t on the official agenda are legalization or decriminalization of illicit drugs and whether Cuba should be allowed at the next summit. Selee said that while he doesn’t expect “dramatic outcomes” from the summit, one area where “sparks” might fly would be the debate raging in Latin America over drugs. The presidents of Colombia and Mexico have called for a discussion about easing penalties for drug use. Obama’s aides say the U.S. will resist such proposals.

Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon (R) speaks to journalists as Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe listens during a news conference at the presidential residence Los Pinos, in Mexico City November 10, 2008. REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO)

“The president doesn’t support decriminalization,” Dan Restrepo, Obama’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, told reporters.

There is friction between the U.S. and some summit leaders over restrictive U.S. policies toward Cuba. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is boycotting the summit because of Cuba’s absence. The region’s sole dictatorship is the only nation excluded from the gathering of heads of state from the Western Hemisphere.

Brazilian President

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff told Obama during a White House meeting April 9 that this should be the last such regional meeting without Cuba in attendance. In an e-mail interview with a group of Latin American newspapers, Obama said his administration has done more than any in decades to improve U.S. relations with Cuba and blamed the communist regime for the nation’s exclusion from the summit.

SOURCE: AP/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Barack Obama meets with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the United Nations in September 2011.

“We’re looking for a new era in the relationship between our two countries,” Obama said, according to a transcript of the interview published in Spanish by Bogota’s El Tiempo newspaper. “History shows that the longing for liberty and human dignity can’t be ignored forever. No authoritarian regime lasts forever. The day will arrive when the Cuban people will be free to determine their own destiny.”

While Obama moved to ease travel restrictions earlier in his presidency, the U.S. wants Cuba to release political prisoners, increase political freedoms and adopt democratic principles.

File: Barack Obama attends Cuban Independence Day celebrations in Miami in May during his run for president.
Read more: FOX NEWS

“Cuba authorities continue to deny the Cuban people their universal rights and the president will continue to stand up for those rights,” Restrepo said.

The policy is in keeping with those of past U.S. presidents from both parties, said MacManus, the Florida professor. As with other issues at the summit, Obama’s position on Cuba has political implications.

“If Obama can keep some of the Cubans who voted for him last time, appease them with that kind of stance, then that could be the difference” in winning Florida, MacManus said.

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Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, widely speculated to be a top pick for the Republican presidential running mate, once again firmly denied he would join the GOP ticket.

“I’m not going to be the vice president,” Rubio said Friday in an interview with CNN en Español‘s Ismael Cala. “I’m not.”

photo source AP

“I’ll tell you, the Hispanic vote has to be earned,” he said. “You can’t just put somebody on there and say, ‘This is gonna deliver it.’ You’ve got to earn it, and primarily I think you earn it through economic policies.”

Last month, Rubio rolled out a big endorsement for Mitt Romney, adding fuel to the fire in talks over whether Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, would possibly be tapped for the Republican veep spot. Rubio, however, has repeatedly shot down the notion. With Latino-Americans becoming a more influential voting bloc, politicians are increasingly growing more aggressive in their efforts to court their votes. But the junior senator argued Friday that choosing him as a running mate would not do the trick.

In Florida, Republican Marco Rubio won the senate seat convincingly, with a strong turnout from Latino voters. Photograph: Gary Rothstein/EPA

“I think a better approach is the one I’ve talked about, and that is providing these kids some sort of non-immigrant visa status so they can continue to study and then work in the U.S.,” Rubio said. “Then at some point in the future they would be able to get in line, same line as everybody else in the world.”

Elected in 2010, Rubio was dubbed early on a rising star in GOP. He’s known for bucking popular policies within the Latino community, such as the DREAM Act, a proposal that would grant a path to citizenship for minors in the country illegally, providing they served in the armed forces or attended college. Instead, he sides with positions more inline with the Republican platform on immigration.

Asked if he was setting aside a vice presidential spot in hopes of aiming for higher office in the future, Rubio said:

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, works in his Washington office. (EFE)

“Well I haven’t thought about that in that way. I don’t know what the future holds. I want to do a good job as a U.S. senator. “I think if I do that, I’ll have opportunities to do different things in future.”


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