Sunshine Economy: Changing Cuba

Dec 12, 2016

What started with a phone call two years ago may end in a tweet early next year.

The changes in the relationship between the U-S and Cuba have been dramatic and quiet, slow and significant since Dec. 17, 2014 when President Barack Obama began a new strategy of engagement with Cuba.

Travel restrictions on Americans visiting the island have been relaxed. The amount and type of stuff that can be imported and exported to and from the island have been expanded. Limitations on who can send remittances to Cuba have been removed. And even banking restrictions have been reduced. The U.S. now allows Cubans to open bank accounts in America.


In the span of two and a half weeks last month, the future of U-S Cuba relations went from knotty to unknown. First, Donald Trump was elected president in the United States with the help of Cuban-American voters. More than half of them in Florida supported Trump, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.

The second event that may change the relationship -- the death of Fidel Castro. While he hadn’t been in power for a decade, the economic and political systems remain his constructs. His ideological DNA remains embedded throughout the policies and practices of bureaucrats responsible for the official Cuban economy even as Cubans stretch the boundaries of past reforms.

The future of the relationship is uncertain, to say the least.

In the meantime, Cubans keep coming to America. Cuban immigration has more than doubled over the two years since President Obama announced the normalization effort. More than 54,000 Cubans came to the U.S. in the last fiscal year, according to an estimate from  U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Most are crossing the Mexican border, but some still brave the Florida Straits. Thirteen came ashore in the Keys less than a week ago.