TODAY is your chance to participate in Cuba Action Day. Today IS Cuba Action day. Make your calls today. Get your friends, family, colleagues, and students to make calls. Pass the cell phones around the room. Flood the capitol switchboard with calls.
Here’s the number: Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121. Ask to be connected to your member of Congress. OR look up your senators’ or representative’s number at http://www.senate.gov or http://www.house.gov and call them directly. Especially today, calls are better than emails.
Here’s how to do it: Ask to speak with the foreign policy aide. Speak slowly. Start by giving your name and saying you are a constituent. Leave a message if you don’t get them directly.
Here’s the message: End the travel ban to Cuba NOW. Co-sponsor and actively support the newly introduced “end the travel ban” bills: Senate, S 894 (Enzi bill); House HR 1814 (Flake bill). Complete talking points are below.
“Join the Majority, Change the Policy!”
Thanks, and we’ll send you a report on how Cuba Action Day went. Please make those calls.
The Cuba Central Team
Cuba Call-in Day: Talking Points
Senators Enzi (R-WY) and Baucus (D-MT) and Representatives Flake (R-AZ) and Delahunt (D-MA) are gathering co-sponsors for bills they will soon introduce to end the Cuba travel ban. The Export Freedom to Cuba Act has already won bipartisan support and previously earned passage in the House and Senate for these core reasons:
Ending the travel ban is about freedom. America’s cherished belief in personal freedom should lead us to limit freedom of travel only when travel could somehow damage national security interests. That is not the case with Cuba today. Instead of using our greatest asset, the American people, to speak directly to Cubans about our values and ideas, the United States operates a heavy-handed licensing process that restricts travel, cash assistance to families, and even humanitarian donations. Americans are routinely fined by the Treasury Department for “unlicensed travel,” and some Cuban Americans are barred permanently from visiting the island.
The travel ban offends family values. The Administration tightened travel restrictions last year to limit family visits by Cuban Americans to once every three years. This rule allows no exceptions for humanitarian emergencies. The definition of “family” was narrowed so that Cuban Americans can no longer visit, wire money, or send packages to aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, or nephews. The travel ban is now an assault against the Cuban-American family and their kin on the island.
Lifting the travel ban would help average Cubans. Families would benefit. Employees in the travel and tourist sector would benefit. Even Cuba’s small entrepeneurs-especially private restauranteurs, taxi drivers, artisans, families that rent rooms in their homes-would benefit from American travelers using their services. Greater travel by Americans will expand their numbers dramatically, they will gain independence, and their families will have better livelihoods.
Lifting the travel ban will increase demand for U.S. products in Cuba. Current agricultural sales to Cuba, which in 2004 alone totaled nearly $400 million, would increase substantially, benefiting American farmers, exporters and shippers.
The current restrictions on academic travel to Cuba inhibit learning and cross-cultural exchange. Because of the rules implemented in 2004, over 90 percent of academic exchange programs to Cuba were cancelled. In the Free Trade in Ideas Act of 2004, Congress asserted that the President should NOT prohibit or otherwise restrict foreign travel undertaken for educational purposes.
Focus on terrorism, not policing travel to Cuba. The Treasury Department office that governs Cuba travel, the Office of Foreign Assests Control (OFAC), is also a key part of Treasury’s effort to break al Qaeda’s global money network. Its resources should be dedicated fully to anti-terrorism, not to duties such as licensing, investigating, and fining travelers to Cuba or seizing rum and cigars.
Cubans, even Cuba’s political dissidents, support ending the travel ban. The Cuban Catholic church opposes the embargo, as do Cuba’s mainline Protestant Churches. Even leaders among Cuba’s political dissidents support lifting the travel ban. “Just as we insist on the right of Cubans to travel, to leave and return to our country freely, a right now denied us, so too do we support the right of Americans to travel freely, including travel to Cuba.”—Human rights activists Elizardo Sanchez and Vladimiro Roca in a statement to the Center for International Policy, May 14, 2003
April 27th is Cuba Action Day. Participants from across the country, representing business, agriculture, Cuban Americans, academics, the religious community, and ordinary Americans who want to travel to Cuba, all have an interest in promoting contacts with Cubans. They will be visiting their representatives in Congress to discuss these issues and the legislation to end the ban on travel.