Obama must decide if Cuba is enemy or not: Cuban expert

Havana, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) — U.S. President Barack Obama must now decide whether to continue applying the Trading With the Enemy Act to Cuba since the two countries have restored diplomatic ties after 54 years, according to a Cuban scholar.

Passed in 1917 shortly after the United States entered World War I, the Trading With the Enemy Act authorizes the president to impose economic sanctions in wartime and during national emergencies, and prohibits trade with enemy countries and their allies.

However, on Sept. 5, Obama will have to decide whether to extend for a year of this act, with Cuba being the only target country by now.

In 2008, President George W. Bush crossed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea off the list, which had previously included China, Vietnam, and Nazi Germany as well as its World War II allies.

Since the White House has never declared any type of national emergency linked to Cuba, the extension of the act only applies to Cuba.

However, various analysts now see this legal document as a litmus test for how seriously Washington takes its restored relations with Cuba.

“Obama’s actions with this act will send a very clear signal as to whether his political stance on the blockade is real or pure demagoguery,” said Esteban Morales, founder and honorary director of the University of Havana’s Center for Hemispheric and U.S. Studies.

Morales said it seems “absurd” for Obama to bring this issue up to Congress when the lift of a trade ban is within his executive power.

The United States removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in May and has since improved Cuba’s ranking in the list of countries suffering from human trafficking.

The application of the Trading With the Enemy Act is the legal basis for the fact that since 1963, the Treasury Department has banned American companies or citizens from travelling or maintaining commercial relations with Cuba.

If the Obama administration decides not to renew the act, it would eliminate the legal basis for the ban on tourist trips to Cuba.

Under the new regulations, Washington allows U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba under 12 categories such as academic, artistic, journalistic, sport and religious activities.