President Barack Obama has signed a one-year extension of the law used to impose the trade embargo on Cuba, disappointing those who favored allowing the law to expire as a friendly nod to Havana while reassuring others who oppose easing the sanctions.
The extension of the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWTEA) was largely symbolic. While it was used by President John F. Kennedy as the legal basis for slapping the embargo on Havana, another law would have kept those sanctions in place even if Obama had not signed the extension.
Several groups that favor improved U.S. relations with Havana had urged Obama to allow TWTEA to expire as scheduled on Monday as a signal to the Cuban government that his administration was truly interested in rapprochement.
Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, said that although the extension was indeed symbolic, Obama had forfeited a chance to send a message to Havana and the rest of Latin America that he was removing one of the foundations for the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
"I am disappointed that President Obama has missed several opportunities to do things that may not get any attention here in the United States, but that would send a signal to the region," Stephens said in a telephone interview.
Supporters of sanctions against Cuba argued, however, that the extension confirmed that Obama is sticking by his promises to retain the trade embargo, while removing restrictions on Cuban Americans who want to travel to the island or send remittances to relatives there.
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