Freedom to Travel to Cuba

April 1, 2009 | Print Print |

By Dawn Gable

Havana’s Hotel Nacional, photo: Joyce Corbett

HAVANA TIMES, April 1 – The US Senate officially rolled out a bill Tuesday that would allow all Americans to travel to Cuba without restrictions. The bill, S 428, introduced by Democrat Senator Dorgan, and originally co-sponsored by Democrat Senator Dodd and Republican Senators Enzi and Lugar, now has 20 co-sponsors.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives will present to the press their version of the bill HR 874, which now has 122 cosponsors. The tremendous support for the legislation in both chambers is expected to cause the bill to be eventually brought to a vote. A similar bill, introduced during the last congressional session, also received a large numbers of co-sponsors, but the threat of a White House veto insured that it died in committee.

Times have changed. Obama is not beholden to the Miami ultra-right, as evidenced by the fact that he won the presidency on a platform that included easing restrictions on Cuban-American travel to the island and on reviewing ways to improve US-Cuba relations. It is a given that, if the bill passes congress, Obama will sign it into law.

In addition to the Senators, today’s press conference featured representatives from the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Human Rights Watch.

Organizers distributed letters of support from two Cuban-American groups, The Cuba Study Group and the Emergency Network of Cuban-American Scholars and Artists for Change in US-Cuba Policy (ENCASA), as well as a letter signed by leaders of 45 national Cuban-American organizations.

Fishing on the Malecon seawall, photo: Bill Hackwell

Fishing on the Malecon seawall, photo: Bill Hackwell

The business community also showed its support with letters from the American Farm Bureau Federation, US Chamber of Commerce, National Foreign Trade Council, National Retail Federation, Organization for International Investment in the United States, US Council for International Business, USA*Engage, National Wheat Growers, US Wheat Associates, National Tour Association, Port of Corpus Christi, US Dairy Export Council, and the National Milk Producers Federation.

Even Amnesty International and Freedom House-both long time critics of the Cuban government- found themselves joining with the National Council of Churches, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, World Church Service, and a coalition of 17 other national religious and ecumenical organizations to call for an end to the bad neighbor policy.

With pressure from every country in the hemisphere including his own, Obama will have to step up to the plate soon and show some leadership. Otherwise, he will find himself lagging behind the tide of change instead of being the tide of change he promised in his campaign. The up coming Americas Summit (April 17-19) will give him an opportunity to show us what he’s made of.


What's your opinion?

  • http://None Robert Cowdery

    Dawn Gable

    Thank you very much for your splendid article. I am looking forward to visiting the Cuba I have learned so much about in the Havana Times. Once I lived parts of 3 years in Cuernavaca, MX. This gave me enough time to enjoy many of the things that were important to my Mexican friends.

    I hope to be able to spend enough time in Cuba to tour the island, and meet some of the people who write articles for the Havana Times

    Hasta Luego

    Robert

  • yosvany

    We do hope Obama can at least send 200 000 Americans / year to check for themselves what Cuba is like, and Cubans will take care of the rest :-)
    A big hug for all the Americans that make that nation so great :-)

  • http://www.ffrd.org John McAuliff

    Travel to Cuba is not a done deal. Opposition (and the Miami money behind it) will be fierce in both the House and Senate and the bills may not come to the floor until after the summer.

    People who want to regain the right to travel should be urging their Representative and Senators to cosponsor or at least pledge to vote for HR 874 or S 428.

    A more immediate prospect for change is a decision by the President to allow non-tourist people to people travel (educational, religious, humanitarian, cultural, sports, etc.)

    However, that too is contested and active support for change is vital.

    See http://thehavananote.com/2009/03/obama_on_the_verge_of_opening.html

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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