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Cuba's economic class system will feel effects from new policies

Cuba's economic class system will feel effects from new policies

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 18, 2014

A State University of New York College at Oswego professor who has traveled to Cuba many times had a mixed reaction Wednesday to President Barack Obama's plan to normalize relations with the island nation.

Lisa Glidden, a political science professor who teaches a class on Cuba, said one problem may be that Congress won't approve many parts of the president's proposal to end the decades-long embargo against Cuba.

Some Congress members who helped pass the strictest parts of Cuba-America embargo laws are still serving in Congress, she said.

"I'm concerned it might become a partisan issue," she said.

On the other hand, Glidden is excited about the possibility that the United States will ease economic and travel restrictions.

A more open door on communication, remittance and travel could eventually spread the wealth among Cubans, she said.

Obama Wednesday called for remaking U.S. relations with Cuba are sweeping: He aims to expand economic ties, open an embassy in Havana, send high-ranking U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry to visit and review Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. also is easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, including for family visits, official government business and educational activities. But tourist travel remains banned.

Glidden teaches a course called "Havana - A Global City," which focuses on political and environmental facets of the country for about eight weeks before taking students to Havana for a week-long study abroad program. She's been to Cuba 10 times in the past 12 years and is going back Jan. 17.

She said one of the primary impacts of Obama's plans would impact Cuba's class system.

Glidden said Cuba's class system exists in unofficial ways under the country's government. It was created during market reforms in the 1990s, which allowed people with wealthy relatives outside the country to create new businesses.

The well-off Cubans, who have access to money, and American companies doing business will benefit first under the proposed reforms, she said. The less well-off Cubans will not immediately see the same benefits, she said.

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