Rep. Lee joins 56 NGO’s urging Obama to improve relations with Cuba

Dawn Gable

Barbara Lee.  Photo: daveyd.com
Barbara Lee. Photo: daveyd.com

HAVANA TIMES — California Congresswoman Barbara Lee has delivered a personal letter along with a letter signed by 56 organizations to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry expressing appreciation for the changes the President has made in U.S. policy toward Cuba since taking office in 2009 and appealing for further steps to be taken.

In particular the letters calls on the President to use his executive authority to:

  1. Initiate direct high-level dialogue with Cuba’s government.
  2. Remove Cuba from the State Department’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list.
  3. Lift all restrictions on permissible travel to Cuba by anyone under U.S. jurisdiction.

The letters also stress that all signers, and the vast networks they represent, support full normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Emily Chow of the Latin America Working Group, who collaborated with Rep. Lee to send this message to the White House says that the action shows that “there is a broad and deep level of support that exists in this country to change our failed policy towards Cuba.”

Chow points out that today “the majority of Cuban Americans are in favor of engagement, as well as the majority of U.S. citizens.” Indeed several of the organizations endorsing the missive represent hundreds of Cuban Americans: Cubapuentes, Cuban Americans For Engagement (CAFÉ), Progreso Weekly, Cuban American Alliance, and FORNORM.

Ben Willis of CAFÉ explains that his organization signed the letter because it “conveys the collective desires of our members to bring about positive, productive change in U.S.-Cuba relations. A change that will benefit both nations and their citizens.”

11 thoughts on “Rep. Lee joins 56 NGO’s urging Obama to improve relations with Cuba

  • Rep. Lee and the NGO letter (which I signed) define clearly what the White House needs to do. Some comments about the comments:

    1) A substantial majority of Cuban Americans, according to polling, want to end all restrictions on travel, i.e. for every American, not just for themselves.

    2) I am not aware of poll data from Cuba, but doubt that any significant portion of the population favors travel or trade restrictions, regardless of their attitude about their country’s system. For some reason neither Freedom House nor the International Republican Institute asked that question in their surveys.

    The overt dissidents split on the issue. For example Yoani Sanchez and Oswaldo Paya favored ending the embargo and travel restrictions while Berta Soler and Guillermo Farinas adhere to the Miami hard line position.

    3) Permissible travel is not mass tourism. Commercial sun and sand holidays which are the goal of most Canadian and European visitors will still be barred to Americans. Freeing Americans from OFAC’s bureaucratic limit of people to people travel to group tours will significantly reduce costs and permit more authentic spontaneous encounters with a smaller portion of revenue going to the State.

    Logically the Castro haters should be all for opening travel in this way, but they fear any opening. They know that virtually every American who goes to Cuba comes back convinced that the economic and diplomatic embargo is destructive to both nations, regardless of their opinion of the economic and political system in Havana.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *