I enjoyed Michael Barnes' commentary ("Time for a new Cuba policy," March 4) in The Sun. I have just recently returned from a "people-to-people" trip to Cuba and found it to be a wonderful opportunity to better understand what is going on in Cuba today.

The country has a long and proud, although often bitter, history, but the people were uniformly warm and welcoming. Unlike the Cuban government, they seemed to have extremely positive attitudes toward America and Americans. They would like to see changes in their government and better relations with us but are understandably wary of seeing another American takeover of the island, as happened in the 1950's. There has clearly been 50 years of blame on both sides.

After the visit, I could not find any rational reason for our government to continue to make it difficult for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. More interaction between Cubans and Americans will only put more pressure on Cuba to change. The embargo at this time seems largely symbolic, mostly to appease Cuban-Americans in Florida who cannot get over their hatred of the Castro brothers. However, as Mr. Barnes points out, this demographic is dying out and their children and grandchildren seem less opposed to reconciliation.

It should also be noted that the Cuban government uses the embargo as a phony excuse as to why many goods are not available in Cuba. The main sticking point in potential negotiations seems to be the imprisonment of American Alan Gross, who is being unjustly held hostage by the Cubans for the release of five convicted Cuban spies now held by the U.S. It would be a useful start for the two countries to settle this issue and get on with the meaningful engagements that Mr. Barnes suggests.

Beryl Rosenstein, Baltimore

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