Imagine: Positive Shifts in the Relationships Between the United States & Cuba

Imagine: Positive Shifts in the Relationships Between the United States & Cuba by Saul Bienenfeld

“And the world will be as one.” The world-renowned music and lyrics of John Lennon symbolize the current trajectory of the relationship between the United States & Cuba. This is ironic, given Cuba’s historic view of The Beatles.

In the 1950s and ‘60s, Fidel Castro said, “There will be no ‘Beatlemania’ in Cuba.” During that time in Cuba, The Beatles were considered to be a “vulgar, consumerist group” and “another tool of capitalist America,” (did he know they were British?) and people were actually imprisoned just for listening to the Beatles there.

Since that time, Fidel Castro has changed his opinion and lifted the ban. In fact, in 2000, on the 20th anniversary of Lennon’s death, Castro unveiled a statue of John Lennon in Havana Park. Castro’s appreciation of the statue was two-fold: 

  • Castro now identified John Lennon and his anti-war activism as an anti-American symbol.
  • Castro also fancied himself in the same league as Lennon, as evidenced by his remarks at the unveiling: “What makes him great in my eyes, is his thinking, his ideas. I share his dreams completely. I, too, am a dreamer, who has seen his dreams turn into reality.”

Despite the inherent narcissism and anti-American sentiment in this gesture, Fidel Castro’s opinion of the U.S. has gradually improved over the decades. Recently, this change in outlook was universally apparent when The Rolling Stones performed a free concert in Cuba. Tens of thousands of people attended in person, and because it was also televised, millions of Cubans were able to watch it at home. Some audience members were actually waving American flags!

Changing Policies

President Obama’s recent visit to Cuba is another important symbol of how things are changing between the two countries, particularly in terms of the embargo, visitation, and travel.


Under the 2004 regulations, it was illegal for a US citizen to smoke a Cuban cigar or drink Cuban rum—even outside of the U.S. Cuban cigars and rum are still prohibited in the U.S., but significant policy changes are taking place.

On January 16, 2016, the Department of the Treasury announced that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may purchase or acquire Cuban-origin merchandise, including alcohol and tobacco products, while in a third country, provided such products are intended to be consumed while in the third country. For example, an American visiting a European country would be able to drink Cuban rum while in that European country. 

This declaration did not quite lift the ban on the importation of goods, but changes in policy are currently in progress to permit Cuban goods into the United States. 

Travel & Visitation

Presently, the only way for an American to travel to Cuba is to be engaged in a full-time educational program. The trip’s schedule has to evidence “educational exchange activities intending to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence on Cuba from Cuban authorities, that will result in a meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.”

Travel options are also changing. Direct flights to Cuba will become available in addition to charter flights (the only current option).

My Experience

Last year, I was able to see these shifts in action when I traveled to Cuba to do mission work with the Jewish community (an activity which qualified as an educational exchange). The trip was enlightening, and I was enchanted by the people that I met. Best of all, I gained a more thorough understanding of life in Cuba and clarified some common misconceptions.

I discovered that, despite the pervasive and profound poverty, the people of Cuba are happy, and the landscape is stunning.

I also learned that Cubans also enjoy a great deal of religious freedom. Since Cuba can be characterized as an atheist country, there is no religious discrimination. Inhabitants of Cuba are now free to practice any religion of their choosing.

Food continues to be distributed through ration stores. And despite the positive momentum, American products are still scarce in Cuba. So, if you’re planning a visit and have a particular fancy (for me, it’s Diet Coke), be prepared to find yourself on a quest to locate the product that you seek. (I did finally find Diet Coke at a Mexican restaurant that imports food from Mexico. Go figure!)

If you’d like to hear more about my experience in Cuba or if you have any questions, please call me at (212) 363-7701!

Saul Bienenfeld, Criminal Defense Attorney

Saul Bienenfeld P.C.
450 Seventh Ave.
Suite 1408
New York, NY 10123

About Saul Bienenfeld
Former Assistant District Attorney For The Special Narcotics Bureau, with Over 25 Years Experience As A Successful Criminal Defense Attorney in New York. When you're in trouble, you better call Saul! The Law Offices of Saul Bienenfeld P.C. is dedicated to helping clients receive justice. As your personal law firm, we take the time necessary to fully understand your situation, ensuring that all of your legal needs are met. Your peace of mind is important to us, which is why we are always available to assist you. As a law firm designed specifically for the people, the Law Offices of Saul Bienenfeld P.C. is always ready to help out his fellow New Yorkers. We take each of our cases to heart and work as a team for you.

One Response to Imagine: Positive Shifts in the Relationships Between the United States & Cuba

  1. Pingback: Imagine: Positive Shifts in the Relationships Between the United States & Cuba | Saul Bienenfeld

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