A group of nearly 50 prominent U.S. citizens has issued an open letter to President Obama urging him to take executive action to expand U.S. involvement with Cuba. Here are the specific recommendations from this group:
- Expand and safeguard travel to Cuba for all Americans
- Expand general licensed travel to include exchanges by professional organizations, including those specializing in law, real estate and land titling, financial services and credit, hospitality, and any area defined as supporting independent economic activity.
- Expand travel by general license for NGOs and academic institutions and allow them to open Cuban bank accounts with funds to support their educational programs in Cuba.
- Authorize U.S. travelers to Cuba to have access to U.S.-issued pre-paid cards and other financial services-including travelers’ insurance-to expand possibilities for commerce with independent entrepreneurs and safeguard people-to-people travel.
- Increase support for Cuban civil society
- Allow unlimited remittances to non-family members for the purpose of supporting independent activity in Cuba and expand the types of goods that travelers may legally take to the Island to support micro-entrepreneurs.
- Establish new licenses for the provision of professional services to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
- Authorize the import and export of certain goods and services between the U.S. private sector and independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
- Allow U.S. NGOs and other organizations to lend directly to small farmers, cooperatives, self-employed individuals, and micro-enterprises in Cuba.
- Permit family remittances to be used as credits or equities in Cuban micro-enterprises and small farms.
- Allow U.S. academic institutions to issue scholarships for exceptional Cuban students.
- Allow for Cuban entrepreneurs to participate in internships in U.S. corporations and NGOs.
- Promote agricultural exchange studies between U.S. based NGOs and private cooperative farms in Cuba.
- Authorize the sale of telecommunications hardware in Cuba, including cell towers, satellite dishes, and handsets.
- Authorize general travel licenses for the research, marketing and sale of telecommunications equipment.
- Authorize telecommunications hardware transactions to be conducted through general license in the same manner as existing transactions for agricultural products.
- Prioritize principled engagement in areas of mutual interest
- The Obama Administration should engage in serious discussions with Cuban counterparts on mutual security and humanitarian concerns, such as national security, migration, drug interdiction, and the environment, among others. The United States should leverage these talks to press Cuban officials on matters such as the release of Alan Gross and on-going human rights concerns.
- The Obama Administration should take steps to assure financial institutions that they are authorized to process all financial transactions necessary and incident to all licensed activities.
This is a helpful suggestion from such a group of eminent citizens even though they do not go far enough. They say nothing about ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba or the U.S. absurd designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” or about launching a much needed respectful bilateral negotiation with the Cuban government on a raft of issues that have accumulated over the last 50 years. Perhaps they did delve into these issues because of their asserted belief that in “the current [U.S.] political climate little can be done legislatively.”
The group includes 12 former U.S. diplomats, two former U.S. military officials and nine former U.S. Senators, Representatives and federal officials.
 The former diplomats are Harriet Babbitt, former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States; Paul Cejas, former U.S. Ambassador; Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere; Vicki Huddleston, former U.S. Ambassador, Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba and Director of Cuban Affairs at Department of State; John Negroponte, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and U.S. Director of National Intelligence; Michael Parmly, former Chief of U.S. Interests Section in Cuba; Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Charles Shapiro, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela; Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department of State; Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; Arturo Valenzuela, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs; and Alexander Watson, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
 The former military officials are John Adams, former Brigadier General, U.S. Army, U.S. Military Representative to NATO and Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, U.S. Army; and Admiral James Stavridis, former Commander of U.S. Southern Command Supreme Allied Commander NATO.
 The former Senators, Representatives and federal officials are Bruce Babbitt, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Governor of Arizona; Carol Browner, former U.S. EPA Administrator and Director of White House Office of Climate Change and Energy Policy; Byron Dorgan, former U.S. Senator; Richard Feinberg, former Latin American Advisor to the White House; Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Congressman; Lee Hamilton, former U.S. Representative and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Jane Harman, former Congresswoman; Ken Salazar, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Senator and Colorado Attorney General, and Hilda L. Solis, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and U.S. Representative.