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Posted November 17, 2009 by publisher in US Embargo

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BY RICHARD G. LUGAR and HOWARD L. BERMAN | lugar.senate.gov

U.S. law lets American citizens travel to any country on earth, friend or foe—with one exception: Cuba. It’s time for us to scrap this anachronistic ban, imposed during one of the chilliest periods of the Cold War.

Legislation to abolish restrictions on travel to Cuba has been introduced in both chambers of Congress. And on Thursday the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing examining the rationale for the travel ban.

This ban has prevented contact between Cubans and ordinary Americans, who serve as ambassadors for the democratic values we hold dear. Such contact would help break Havana’s chokehold on information about the outside world. And it would contribute to improving the image of the United States, particularly in Latin America, where the U.S. embargo on Cuba remains a centerpiece of anti-Washington grievances.

While opponents argue that repealing the travel ban would indicate approval of the Cuban human rights record, many human rights organizations—among them Freedom House and Human Rights Watch—have called for abolishing travel restrictions.

There is no doubt that Raúl Castro’s government continues to ban most political activity not controlled by the Cuban Communist Party. Opposition parties are illegal, virtually all media remain state controlled, and Cuba has the highest number of political prisoners of any country in the Americas. But isolation from outside visitors only strengthens the Castro regime.

U.S. travelers’ dollars, furthermore, could aid the underground economy and the small self-employed sector permitted by the state, strengthening an important foundation of independence from Cuba’s authoritarian system.

Travel ban defenders view sanctions as leverage over the Cuban government and their abolition as a concession. But over the last five decades, it has become clear that isolation will not induce the Castro regime to take steps toward political liberalization. Conditionality is not leverage in this case.

Our current approach has made any policy changes contingent on Havana, not U.S. interests, and it has left Washington an isolated bystander, watching events on the island unfold at a distance.

Finally, while travel restrictions are contrary to our foreign policy interests, they also impede the right of Americans to freedom of speech, association and to travel. Sometimes a travel ban may be necessary, but nothing about the Cuba situation today justifies such an infringement on our basic liberties.

The Obama administration has already made a move in the right direction by lifting restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban-Americans and opening the way for greater telecommunications links with the island.

It is now time for the Congress to take the next step for all Americans.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


There is a full committee meeting this Thursday regarding Cuba.

Steve Clemons, publisher of the Washington Note writes a great piece on this issue.

“The companion Senate bill has 34 Senate cosponsors. Informal whip counts put the House bill at 205 votes—within striking distance of the 218 needed, and between 61-64 in the Senate.”


“Berman and Lugar state flat out with regard to the notion that restricting US travel to Cuba generates any leverage at all after five decades of failure on this track: “Conditionality is not leverage in this case.”

The White House National Security Council staff reading this really should articulate a believable counter-point to Senator Lugar’s and Chairman Berman’s compelling argument if it is going to continue to ‘cling to conditionality’ before making further moves. What is the empirical basis for believing that putting Cuban responses before American interests will have any impact or makes sense?

Others who Barack Obama respects—including former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Secretary of State and Treasury George P. Shultz—have said that both the travel ban and the embargo make no sense as foreign policy. Shultz has called the travel ban “lunacy”.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 22, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Hope this is not just wishfull thinking. http://thehavananote.com/2009/11/obama_signals_berman_leads_pel.html#more

  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 23, 2009 by paul

    - Capitalist vultures with agriculture lobbyists are likely pushing this.

    - Tourists don’t bring democracy. Europeans and Canadians go there all the time, and the country is exactly the same.

    - Cuban Socialism is much more of a Cold War Relic than our credit blockade.

    - We are already Cuba’s largest trading partner.

    - Pipefitter and Marekon know that tourism won’t change Cuba, as they are faithful obedient socialists. They wouldn’t advocate something that would destroy their worker’s paradise.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 23, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    They are not in favor of lifting the travel ban as a way to change Cuba. They want to lift the travel ban on Americans so our freedom of travel is not restricted.

    Lifting the travel ban is an American issue, not a Cuban issue.

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  4. Follow up post #4 added on November 23, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Exactly, I never could see how the U.S. could restrict your right to travel were you want when you want. From info relayed from relatives in the U.S. they also restrict Cuban relatives from coming to visit in the U.S. as there is over a 2 year waiting list.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on November 23, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    The U.S. doesn’t trade with Cuba it SELLS them food.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on November 23, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    I feel that the embargo is a nonsense policy. The fact and the matter is that the embargo has been the only policy the US has used with Cuba and did nothing.
    Fidel Castro has seen several Presidents come and go from the White House and he is still there.
    Therefore the embargo has done nothing to the Castro government. It only limits the rights of the American citizens to travel freely wherever they want.

    I feel that the opening the traveling would allow a flux of tourist but also the flux of democratic ideals that slowly can influence the Cuban people to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Pipefitter, the US sells over 500 millions a year not only in “food” but wood products, agricultural products and derivates, food equipment and other. Additionally Cuba buys a lot of equipment and technology (that is normally not allowed by the embargo) directly in the US using companies set in third countries like Canada and Mexico.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on November 23, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    The U.S. doesn’t allow anything to be bought from Cuba into the U.S.. The U.S. doesn’t allow ships that have come from Cuba to come to U.S. ports without applying for permission way in advance. They won’t let them dock in the U.S. for a period of I think of 90 days after visiting Cuba. This makes it very difficult for shipping companies and deters them from putting Cuba on their routs. The U.S. does’t allow any products produced in Cuba to enter through customs even as gifts. The U.S. trading with the enemy act prevents Cuba from buying parts etc. from foreign companies for equipment manufactured outside the U.S. using the threat of not letting these companies operate in the U.S. if they do. Fortunatly, some companies like Canadian Sherritt have told them to go to hell and have done so anyways.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on November 23, 2009 by paul

    Publisher, you seem like a fencewalker. I don’t know if you realize it, but every time you push for the credit blockade to be lifted, you are unintentionally siding with pipefitter, castro and leftists worldwide.

    We have plenty of freedoms, and this “freedom” to travel to Cuba, is hardly anything close to what I’d call a limitation.

    Traveling to Cuba= Feeding the dictatorship.

    I’d take your point of view more seriously if you were equally vocal about Cubans being able to travel freely. Seems like you and many others just care about having a good time in Cuba, rather than seeing a free Cuba.

    Tourism doesn’t bring democracy. Whoever is selling you that snake oil is probably in the tourism sector or just trying to make a buck in Cuba. Cuba is flooded with Europeans and Canadians, and that’s not bringing ” a gushing flood of democracy” LOL.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on November 23, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    When did I ever push for the credit blockade to be lifted? I may have suggested it and if so it was so American businesses could choose to do business or not with Castro, not because I want to make buying easier for Castro.

    “Traveling to Cuba= Feeding the dictatorship.”

    How about the failed “Plan A” is feeding the dictatorship. The Embargo has been a constant for 50 years and Castro is still there.

    Of course I would love to have Cubans travel freely but I have no control over that. I am an American citizen living in the US and I want my rights respected.

    Tourism may or may not bring democracy. The right wingers kept bringing that up at the Hearing. The Hearing was not about making the point that Tourism bring democracy.

    The point of the Hearing was to lift the travel restrictions on Americans. The Hearing nor the Bill has any language about Castro, regime change or even intentions.

    The Bill will give Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba. MY RIGHT to travel. Period.

    So, don’t try to make the Bill into some “Plan B” for regime change.

    Not about that all.

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  10. Follow up post #10 added on November 23, 2009 by paul

    Lifting the credit blockade, along with Americans traveling to Cuba, is basically a victory for Fidel and his idiotic minions worldwide. He’ll have the billions in American tourist money, the country will stay the same (again, tourists don’t bring democracy lol), he’ll have credit access to rip American companies off again, and you’ll have your daiquiri at a beachside resort.

    There is no failed plan “A”. Castro chose that path for Cuba, and rightfully bitter Cubans climbed America’s political ladder and made sure that Castro wouldn’t have a chance to leech off of the United States.

    I’ll say again…if Castro would allow Cubans to travel and have THEIR rights respected, I’d be all for it. What you and many others are asking for, is essentially a failed plan “B”.

    Since you and many others aren’t stakeholders, or have had some sort of emotional grief because of Cuba, you’ll never truly understand why we despise Cuban socialism so much.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on November 24, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    There is no socialism in Cuba. Fidel Castro has used the words Socialism and Communism to scare the world and move on his agenda.

    The system in Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship and in fact is closer to capitalism than to socialism. The problem is that Castro has twisted the system so much that is difficult to understand what it is exactly.

    I do have lot of grief regarding Cuba. I lived in Cuba many years and have lots of family still there but I oppose the embargo/blockade because is a proven failure. Castro continues buying US stuff while using the embargo as excuse for all the Cuban people miseries.

    If the embargo is removed at least Castro would not have more excuses on that end and I consider that the human to human contact promotes democracy. It may not come in two weeks but it would slowly change the way of thinking of the average Cuban people. At the end of the day the fact and the matter is that the embargo has been there for over 40 years and has done nothing else than help Castro and bias the world against the US in regard to Cuban matters.

    By the way removing the embargo does not means that the US and US Banks have to give credit to the Cuban government. They may continue the way they are operation until now, they are buying around 400- 500 millions a year.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on November 24, 2009 by paul

    Think about it…IF lifting the credit blockade would promote “democracy”, does it make sense that the Castro mafia promotes it so much? they know it won’t change a thing, other than giving their garbage system a lifeline.

    And again, the rest of the world, and even some Americans, already travel to Cuba. Average Cubans already have human to human contact with tourists, and that doesn’t “promote democracy”.

    The real Cold War relic is the absurd military government in Cuba. Watching what it does, is like watching a piece of Cold War history.

    Bootlickers like Pipefitter and Marekon are the types that would have been praising and defending the German “Democratic” Republic. Cuba is their last glimmer of socialist hope, and they’ll blindly ignore every fascist thing it does.

  13. Follow up post #13 added on February 06, 2010 by dasha

    What is the difference in communism between Cuba and China? We go to China, we kiss their ass, we gave them all of our money and technology. What could little old Cuba possibly do?????? Our egos need to take a step down!

  14. Follow up post #14 added on February 06, 2010 by paul

    LOL “little old Cuba”.

    After being a USSR pawn, now it’s just “little old Cuba”. Little Old authoritarian fascist government…why do peace and freedom loving liberals defend authoritarianism? confused? hypocrites? wtf?

    More played out “david vs goliath” rhetoric please.

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