Cuba Travel Ban Losing Steam

HAVANA TIMES, March 31 (IPS) – A bipartisan group of twenty-two U.S. senators and interest groups is backing a bill that would end the travel ban on US citizens wishing to visit Cuba.

The ‘Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act’ was introduced Tuesday by Senators Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat and Senate Democratic Policy Committee chair, and Michael Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming. They were joined by 20 cosponsors, including influential Senators Christopher Dodd and Richard Lugar, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“The people of Cuba ought to be free,” said Senator Dorgan, pointing to the U.S.’s failed Cuba policy in achieving this. The nearly 50-year-old embargo on Cuba is only “punishing American people,” he said.

If passed, the bill would prohibit the president from regulating or prohibiting travel to or from Cuba by U.S. citizens or legal residents or any of the transactions ordinarily incident to such travel, except in time of war or armed hostilities between the United States and Cuba, or of imminent danger to the public health or the physical safety of U.S. travelers.

The Cuban embargo, introduced in 1961 and subsequently tightened further, prohibits travel to and business dealings with Cuba for all U.S. citizens. Many have argued that this policy actually thwarts U.S. interests and further strengthens the government there.

“For the first time in almost a decade, Congress is acting to loosen the Cuba embargo and send these modest reforms to a president who has promised to change the policy rather than issue veto threats or keep things as they are,” said a joint statement by several groups, including the Centre for Democracy in the Americas and the Washington Office on Latin America.