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Historic Ties that bind and divide with Cuba, U.S.

Historical links and political differences ensure that the question of what to do about Cuba still stirs passions in the United States.

Despite Obama Administration steps to normalize relations, a Republican-controlled Congress isn’t likely to lift the decades-old trade embargo, said James Coyle, Ph.D., director of global education at Chapman.

“As long as the Castro brothers are there, I don’t see any changes in laws,” he said. “Cuba is in a vulnerable position. The last few years it has been kept afloat by Venezuelan oil money, and now with oil at around $60 a barrel, vs. $140, Cuba is in trouble. The government is going to be much more willing to look at alternatives.”

Although some in Congress may see an opportunity to continue applying pressure while the U.S. has Cuba over a barrel, American agricultural interests are also pushing to open a new market. A younger generation of Cuban-Americans is likely to welcome that opening, said Sandra Alvarez, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at Chapman.

“(President) Raul Castro already is opening new possibilities in the economy, including opportunities to start small businesses,” said Alvarez, whose research focuses on Latin America. “We’re also seeing an underground economy develop.”

Coyle and Alvarez agree that the most impactful step taken by the Obama Administration is likely to be the one raising remittance levels. Americans now can send as much as $8,000 a year to relatives in Cuba, vs. the previous limit of $2,000.

“It will stimulate the economy and increase well being on the island,” Coyle said.

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Dennis Arp

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