Cuba Travel Ban Holding Firm

By Circles Robinson

Scenes like this are off-bounds to most US citizens. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 9 — Inaction on Capitol Hill and a White House so far unwilling to do what it takes to break the ice for restored US-Cuba relations, has the lifting of the travel ban forbidding ordinary US citizens from visiting Cuba at a standstill.

Bills submitted a year ago in the House of Representatives (HR 874) and the Senate (S428)  currently have 181 and 38 co-sponsors respectively.   However, interest seems null to bring the issue to the full bodies for discussion and voting, reported Reuters on Tuesday.

A website that tracks legislation states on pages for both the House and Senate bills to allow travel to Cuba:  “This bill is in the first step in the legislative process.  Introduced bills and resolutions first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate.  The majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee.”

“Support has not waned but it’s clear that the debate over healthcare has consumed the first year of the (Obama) administration and has had a similar impact in terms of congressional action,” Representative Bill Delahunt, a Democrat and one of the authors of the bill, told Reuters.

Co-sponsor Jeff Flake, a Republican representative, told the news agency: “The votes were there to pass the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act this year but the Democratic majority in the House was divided over whether to take it to the floor for a vote.”

Flake further noted: “This is not an issue that is at the top of their agenda or anywhere close and it’s also an issue that splits part of their [the Democrats] caucus.  I still think it could happen this year.”

When Barack Obama was elected president some proponents of renewed diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba, as well as the US Travel industry, thought they had an ally in the White House to open up trips to Cuba.   Now in his second year of office, such hope is beginning to wane.