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Posted October 29, 2003 by publisher in US Embargo

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Palm Beach Post Editorial

For reasons ranging from jobs to sanity, the House and Senate have swung the wrecking ball at four decades of failed policy toward Cuba. President Bush has said he will stand in the path of the ball, but if he does it will be for the worst reason—personal politics.

Last week, the Senate voted 59-38 to end, in essence, the ban on travel to Cuba. The legislation would prohibit the government from spending any money to enforce the law that prohibits visits except by family members, journalists and certain private organizations, and even they must obtain permission. It also is illegal for Americans to visit Cuba through a third country, primarily Mexico.

The senators who voted for a Cuba policy acknowledging that it’s no longer 1962 include some of the most conservative and liberal lawmakers. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, voted with Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. James Inhofe, R-Okla., voted with Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, sponsored the bill and voted with Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Sixteen Republicans voted to loosen the travel restrictions even after Mr. Bush threatened to veto the change, which is an amendment to the spending bill for the Transportation and Treasury departments. The House passed a similar amendment last month.

Many farm-state senators see Cuba as a potential market. Kansas Republicans Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts voted to end travel restrictions. So did the senators from Idaho, Nebraska and Colorado. Others understand that engagement, not isolation, offers the best chance to influence a post-Castro Cuba. Leaders of the Varela Project, Cuba’s democratic movement, want more American involvement, not less. Most of the holdouts were ideologues who can’t get past the Cuban Missile Crisis and, of course, Democrats in Florida—Bob Graham, Bill Nelson—and New Jersey—Jon Corzine, Frank Lautenberg—who pander to the vocal minority of Cuban-American voters.

Similarly, President Bush has responded recently to threats from Cuban-American legislators by announcing that he will increase enforcement of the travel restrictions. So Americans can travel to the Axis of Evil—Iran, North Korea—but not to Cuba. The White House said the president would veto the spending bill if the travel ban repeal is included. Even a veto, however, will not alter the changing sentiment toward Cuba. Food and medicine flow more freely to the island. Four years ago, the Senate kept the travel ban in place. The wrecking ball may not strike this time, but the policy will continue to crumble.

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