By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, May 6 — Portland, Oregon resident Dr. Charles Grossman, 94, has traveled to Cuba, willing to take on the system in Washington that wants to keep him from visiting a friend.
Grossman has mounted his challenge to the Obama administration because he believes all US citizens should have the right to travel to Cuba, and not just Cuban-Americans, notes The Willamette Week Online in an editorial on Wednesday. http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3526/12525
The US has maintained a 50-year stranglehold on Cuba with a stifling economic blockade and also prohibits ordinary US citizens from visiting the neighboring island country.
The blockade and the travel ban are considered by detractors as relics of the Cold War similar to the occasional islander found in the Pacific that didn’t know World War II was over.
The new US government is now the eleventh to enforce such draconian measures against a little underdeveloped country with barely a thirtieth its population.
Grossman, who apparently has maintained excellent health, didn’t retire until 2008 from his medical practice as a general practitioner at a downtown Portland medical clinic, notes Willamette Week.
“I want Obama to lift the ban now, not when I’m dead” said Grossman before leaving for his trip via Vancouver, Canada. He is expected to return on Sunday.
“If I don’t get arrested, I hope many more people will follow the example,” Grossman said. “Give the government trouble. If they have a thousand tourists going to Cuba then they’ve got problems,” the Willamette Week quoted in its editorial.
Stiff Punishment Possible
Grossman could face a six figure fine for traveling to Cuba without special US government permission, although most caught violators are usually levied a $7,500 sanction as well as being hounded for information about their trip.
The Obama administration says it wants to open a dialogue with Cuba, but so far the unilateral concessions that Washington demands for such talks are unacceptable to Havana, which wants negotiations based on mutual respect with the nation that has been its aggressor since the beginning of the Cuban Revolution.
Thousands of US citizens are forced each year, like Grossman, to break the time-worn law and risk stiff fines, if they want to travel to Cuba. However, they usually do it silently instead of mounting a public challenge like the 94-year-old.
Currently the US House of Representatives has a bill before it (HR 874) that would repeal the travel ban on Cuba; the only country Washington maintains off-bounds for its citizens.
HR 874 currently has 134 co-sponsors. To read the bill and see who is on board click on: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-874
For additional information on the bill to repeal the US travel ban on Cuba see this post: http://havanatimes.org/?p=7059