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Posted May 12, 2003 by publisher in US Embargo

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New York Times | Opinion

WASHINGTON - The long prison terms handed to nearly 80 Cuban dissidents and the summary execution of three hijackers of a Cuban ferry have led to calls for a new get-tough policy with the Castro regime. Which raises the question: short of calling in the Marines, what would constitute a get-tough policy with Cuba?

We’ve not had normal diplomatic relations for decades. We’ve had an economic embargo against the island for more than 40 years. It is illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba without express permission from Washington.

Where do we go from here? The options the Bush administration is considering ending all flights to Cuba and cutting off family remittances would respond to Fidel Castro’s latest outrages by penalizing American citizens and Cuban families whose livelihood depends on help from relatives abroad.

The implicit assumption of United States policy on travel to Cuba is that Americans are not intelligent enough to know what constitutes a “good” visit to Cuba as opposed to a “bad” one. License applications to travel to Cuba must be approved by both the Treasury Department and the State Department. And though the administration says it encourages humanitarian aid, Americans who want to make donations to churches in Cuba are required to get two separate federal licenses, one from Treasury and one from Commerce.

To be sure, lifting the ban is not without its risks. Some American travelers will go to Cuba and buy the Cuban government canard about the three “successes” of the Cuban revolution education, health care and science. But far more Americans will notice the Cuban revolution’s three most obvious failures breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A genuine get-tough policy with Cuba would export something Americans know a little about: freedom. Let’s get rid of travel license applications altogether. Recently, Oswaldo Paya, Cuba’s leading democracy activist, repeated his opposition to the United States embargo and issued an invitation. “We appeal to all foreigners who come to our country as tourists to show solidarity, to take part in demonstrations,” he said. “To support the opening up of Cuba.”

We should heed this advice and end the American policy of Soviet-style travel controls. All Americans should be free to go to Cuba without government interference. Cuban officials would then have to determine which are the “good” visits and which are the “bad” ones, which Americans are sunbathers and which are pro-democracy demonstrators. Cuba would be flooded with American visitors and American ideas. For Fidel Castro, that would be the toughest policy of all.


Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, is a member of the House International Relations Committee.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on May 16, 2003 by I-taoist with 213 total posts

    Mr. Flake,

    I applaud your enlightment.  I invite your reading of my recent dialogue in the “Havana Journal”.  This editorial ran as a featured piece in last Sunday’ “Perspective” section of our state-wide newspaper. 

    Thanks for your help,  John Bomar


  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 06, 2004 by Peopleof Arizona

    Why should the people of Arizona care about Cuba when Cubans in Florida don’t even care?  This is not an Arizona issue and Congressman Flake represents the people of Arizona. He should focus his time on issues that the people of Arizona care about and leave Cuba issues to the Congressmen of Florida where the majority of Cuban people are.


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