In Havana a 50-year dictatorship considers dropping the ration book that has defined its control over a citizenry that has come to depend on its meager allotment of staples like rice, beans and coffee.
In Washington a free society debates whether to allow American tourists into Cuba even if the Castro brothers' government has yet to take a baby step to reciprocate President Barack Obama's initial opening for more travel and remittances by Cuban Americans to the communist island.
The backdrop for these two seemingly disparate moves? A global recession that has Cuba's regime scrambling for cash, and a change in U.S. leadership that has travel providers hoping to cash in on Cuba.
The Miami Herald has long supported maintaining the trade embargo on Cuba because of its dismal human rights record but lifting travel restrictions to stimulate more people-to-people contacts that bypass the Cuban government's chokehold on information.
Even if American tourists stay in gussied-up areas and few get to see the desperate situation that most Cubans are forced to live, these same tourists can leave a mark on Cubans. Americans, by their interactions with Cuban workers in hotels, restaurants and on the street, could help to erase the propaganda the Cuban regime has fed its people for five decades about the "evil imperialist monster to the North."
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