Cuba Rejects American Think Tank Report on U.S. Sanctions

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

( - Cuba's Castro government has dismissed a report by the Council on Foreign Relations calling for a significant relaxing of American sanctions against the Caribbean nation, which were imposed after Castro took over in 1959. Cuba believes the report doesn't contain anything new.

The CFR report also recommended increasing contacts between the United States and Cuba, as part of efforts to encourage a transition to democracy.

One recommendation is "family reunification and migration", especially in the wake of the lengthy legal battle over Elian Gonzalez.

"We believe that for both humanitarian reasons and the national interest and security of the United States, U.S. policymakers should take all possible steps to remove the obstacles that divide Cuban Americans from their family members in Cuba and promote lawful family reunification," the CFR report said.

However, the CFR believes that as "long as a closed, repressive system persists in Cuba, the United States has a moral obligation to accept anyone attempting to flee, whatever his or her motive or circumstance."

Other CFR recommendations included an end to restrictions on family visits to Cuba.

"At present, the United States permits Cuban Americans to travel only once per year to Cuba without first asking permission and then only for a humanitarian emergency. We recommend an end to all restrictions on visits by Cuban Americans to Cuba. The federal government should not be the judge of how often Cuban Americans or any other Americans need to visit relatives living abroad," the report said.

The CFR also believes Cuban Americans should be allowed to retire to Cuba and collect United States benefits if they so desire.

"We recommend that retired and/or disabled Cuban Americans be allowed to return to Cuba if they choose, collecting Social Security, Medicare and other pension benefits to which they are entitled in the United States," the report said.

The think tank also called on the United States to revise criteria for temporary travel visas from Cuba so Cuban citizens can visit their American relatives.

"Current policy on temporary visas treats Cuban applicants like it treats those from other foreign countries, applying a selection of high criteria such as salary, types of bank accounts, age, or property ownership to estimate their likelihood of returning home voluntarily. The nature of the Cuban government and economy makes these standards prohibitive but inappropriate for Cuban applicants."

The Council on Foreign Relations is not affiliated with the United States government.

Alarcon said at a Havana news conference, he does not expect any change in American policy towards Cuba by President-elect George W. Bush, but was optimistic that the American policy would be abandoned sometime in the future.