By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 13 – Orbitz Worldwide travel company continues to campaign for an end to the US ban on its citizens from visiting neighboring Cuba. The OpenCuba.org campaign started by the firm has to date received 100,000 signatures from people trying to send a message to Washington.
On November 18, the House Foreign Relations Committee holds an open hearing on the travel ban on Capitol Hill. Legislation known as the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (HR 874) would do away with the prohibition. The bill currently has 180 co-sponsors and similar one in the Senate has 32 co-sponsors.
“Never before in the history of the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba has there been such an upwelling of popular support for change,” said Barney Harford, president and CEO of Orbitz Worldwide.
Cuba is the only country in the world that the US government prohibits its citizens from visiting. It’s been that way for nearly a half century except for a brief interlude during the Carter Administration in the late 1970s.
Orbitz notes that since launching their campaign Open Cuba.org has received support from several Cuban-American groups “including the Cuban American Alliance Education Fund, the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights and Friends of Caritas Cubana.
“U.S. lawmakers and President Obama have a historic opportunity in front of them to restore the right and freedom of all Americans to visit Cuba,” said Jake Colvin, vice president, National Foreign Trade Council. “This is a strong reflection of the grassroots support that exists for the complete removal of U.S. travel restrictions.”
Travel agents on both sides of the Florida Straight believe an end to the travel ban would bring a much needed boom to their trade.
The other major issue between the US and Cuba, and by far the biggest for the Caribbean island, is the nearly five decade long US economic blockade on Cuba. The blockade, which some call the embargo, has succeeded in stifling the country’s development but not managed to topple the government, the main objective.