05/23/2014 06:21 pm ET Updated Jul 23, 2014

Policy Heavyweights Push/Enable the President to Move on Cuba

A just-issued letter to President Obama does not go as far as it might, but because of the VIP character of the signers, it is a significant step in the process of inducing the White House to finally move forward.

Here are its policy recommendations (I've italicized those I find especially interesting):

Expand and safeguard travel to Cuba for all Americans

Expand general licensed travel to include exchanges by professional organizations, including those specializing in law, real estate and land titling, financial services and credit, hospitality, and any area defined as supporting independent economic activity.

Expand travel by general license for NGOs and academic institutions and allow them to open Cuban bank accounts with funds to support their educational programs in Cuba.

Authorize U.S. travelers to Cuba to have access to U.S.-issued pre-paid cards and other financial services-including travelers' insurance-to expand possibilities for commerce with independent entrepreneurs and safeguard people-to-people travel.

Increase support for Cuban civil society

Allow unlimited remittances to non-family members for the purpose of supporting independent activity in Cuba and expand the types of goods that travelers may legally take to the Island to support micro-entrepreneurs.

Establish new licenses for the provision of professional services to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.

Authorize the import and export of certain goods and services between the U.S. private sector and independent Cuban entrepreneurs.

Allow U.S. NGOs and other organizations to lend directly to small farmers, cooperatives, self-employed individuals, and micro-enterprises in Cuba.

Permit family remittances to be used as credits or equities in Cuban micro-enterprises and small farms.

Allow U.S. academic institutions to issue scholarships for exceptional Cuban students.

Allow for Cuban entrepreneurs to participate in internships in U.S. corporations and NGOs.

Promote agricultural exchange studies between U.S. based NGOs and private cooperative farms in Cuba.

Authorize the sale of telecommunications hardware in Cuba, including cell towers, satellite dishes, and handsets.

Authorize general travel licenses for the research, marketing and sale of telecommunications equipment.

Authorize telecommunications hardware transactions to be conducted through general license in the same manner as existing transactions for agricultural products.

Prioritize principled engagement in areas of mutual interest

The Obama Administration should engage in serious discussions with Cuban counterparts on mutual security and humanitarian concerns, such as national security, migration, drug interdiction, and the environment, among others. The United States should leverage these talks to press Cuban officials on matters such as the release of Alan Gross and on-going human rights concerns.

The Obama Administration should take steps to assure financial institutions that they are authorized to process all financial transactions necessary and incident to all licensed activities.

The primary failing, from my viewpoint, is that it remains a Washington institutional-centric approach.

The door needs to be opened to grassroots spontaneity -- for example, a general license for purposeful travel so that families and friends can visit Cuba independently, plus an end to the monopoly on bookings by licensed travel service providers. (Both are essential for more reasonable costs of trips.)

Perhaps President Obama will also be encouraged to act by President Mujica's call to end the embargo and free Cuban prisoners.