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Ex-US officials urge easing Cuba embargo

A group of former high-ranking US officials has called on President Obama to loosen the decades-old embargo on Cuba, saying more travel to the Communist-led island could promote economic activity there.

The US should loosen its embargo on Cuba to facilitate independent economic activity on the Communist-led island, an unprecedented number of former US officials and business executives wrote on Monday in an open letter to President Barack Obama.

The 44 signatories, which included former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, urged Obama to seize a "window of opportunity" opened by reforms underway in Cuba that restrict state control over some economic sectors and permit entrepreneurs to found small businesses.

The letter was the latest sign that a growing number of Americans support a change in policy with regards to Cuba, but it stopped short of calling for actual legislation.

The punitive sanctions and embargo imposed on Cuba were passed by Congress five decades ago, but the letter specified a number of steps Obama could take that are within the executive authority and do not require Congressional approval.

Catalysts for change

Allowing more licensed travel for all Americans to Cuba and loosening restrictions on financial activity on the island would help "by giving greater freedom to private organizations and individuals to directly and indirectly serve as catalysts for meaningful change in Cuba," the letter read.

Several former senior State Department officials and prominent Cuban Americans also signed the letter, which was dismissed by proponents of Cuba sanctions who argued it would undermine the rule of law.

In 2011, Obama permitted Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism purposes to boost their contact with ordinary Cubans.

cjc/sri (Reuters, AP)

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