By Dawn Gable
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.
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.