New group, #CubaNow, tells Obama it's time to change Cuba policy

A poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama is seen above a passing train at the McPherson Square Metro stop in Washington April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By David Adams MIAMI (Reuters) - A new advocacy group calling for the United States to change its policy toward Cuba launched an advertising campaign on Monday with posters on the Washington D.C. metro system showing President Barack Obama and urging him to "stop waiting." The metro ads by the group #CubaNow are designed to highlight economic changes happening in Cuba. The group believes the 52-year-old U.S. embargo against the communist-ruled island has not worked. "It's time to bring the conversation on U.S.-Cuba policy into the 21st century," said #CubaNow director Ric Herrero. The group said its mission, unlike other Cuba policy groups, was specifically focused on changing U.S. thinking about Cuba policy. While the group opposes the embargo, it recognized that overturning it in Congress is an uphill battle and other ways can be found to change policy, such as allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba. "There's plenty the President can do within his existing authority," said #CubaNow founding member Andres Díaz, a Cuban-born former Obama administration official at the Department of Commerce. #CubaNow was founded by a group of mostly younger generation Cuban Americans. Herrero declined to discuss its funding. The group's launch coincides with the fifth anniversary of Obama's 2009 steps allowing Cuban-Americans to travel freely to visit relatives in Cuba as well as send remittances. That policy shift helped "usher in more change in that time than had been seen in the previous 50 years," the group said in a press release. Herrero said the group, based in Miami and Washington, wants the White House to take "new steps" to encourage Cuba's burgeoning private sector which has emerged under economic reforms being slowly introduced by the Cuban government. Cuba announced new reforms on Monday loosening regulation of its largest state-run companies including minerals, tourism and telecommunications. The group's founding is part of a new wave of efforts to prod Obama into taking bolder steps to engage the Cuban government. It follows a February poll by the Atlantic Council which found a majority of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba. In November, Obama told a Miami area fundraiser that it may be time for the United States to "update" its policies toward Cuba. "Blue jeans and rock‘n roll brought down the Berlin Wall, so we have to recognize that there is a new wave of energy pushing a new approach toward U.S.-Cuba policy," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican political strategist who is Cuban American. (Editing by David Gregorio)