September 9, 2003 | 8:30 p.m. | Latin America Working Group
Dear Cuba Advocates:
Greetings. We come to you with good news! All three amendments on the Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill that sought to ease the embargo on Cuba passed the House of Representatives tonight. Here are the vote counts:
Flake/McGovern/Emerson/Delahunt on travel, won 227-188
Delahunt/Flake on remittances, won 222-196
Davis on educational travel, won 246-173
We don’t yet have the roll call breakdown but will let you know tomorrow how your representative voted.
Thank you for all that you did to make this possible. Below is the press release that LAWG and WOLA are sending out tonight.
Latin America Working Group
PS: Support our efforts to forge a new US policy towards Cuba by contributing to the Latin America Working Group! Only with your help can we keep providing the resources to build a better foreign policy. Give online at http://www.lawg.org/pages/new%20pages/Misc/Donations.htm or send a donation to LAWG, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Box 15, Washington,
DC 20002 (for a tax-deductible donation, give to the LAWG Education Fund).
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Mavis Anderson, (202) 546-7010
Rachel Farley (202)797-2171
House Votes to End Cuba Travel Ban Congress’ Resolve to Ease Embargo Unchanged
The House of Representatives voted to end funding for enforcement of the travel ban to Cuba Tuesday evening by a vote of 227-188. They also voted to reinstate legal people-to-people travel to Cuba, 246-173, and to permit US citizens to send money to Cuba without restrictions, 222-196.
This is the third consecutive year that the House has voted to end restrictions on travel to Cuba and the second year it has voted to allow unrestricted remittances to the island. The Senate is expected to approve identical travel provisions on the Senate version of the bill.
The provisions were amendments to the Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill. The travel amendment was offered by Reps. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), and Bill Delahunt (D-MA); the remittance amendment by Reps. Delahunt and Flake; the educational travel amendment by Rep. Jim Davis (D-FL).
The votes again showed strong bipartisan support for changing US policy toward Cuba. Rep. McGovern commented, “The House tonight recognized that for forty years, US-Cuba policy has violated the right of every American to travel freely. Now we move to the next stage in the process. For three consecutive years, the House has voted overwhelmingly to lift the ban
on travel, only to have a small group of Members undermine the will of the House in Conference Committee. I hope that the House Leadership will respect democracy, respect tonight’s vote, and join us in working to end the travel ban.”
Rep. Flake commented, “I join in determination with those on the other side of this debate to see the current Cuban regime replaced with a free and democratic system for the Cuban people. We differ, however, on the means to reaching the same objective. The U.S. policy of the last 40 plus years has failed the citizens of this country and failed to achieve the stated
Rachel Farley, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, noted, “The wave of arrests in Cuba this spring appears to have reinforced many members’ belief that the current policy is doing nothing to improve the situation in Cuba. They believe that travel, trade and engagement are likely to have more of an impact than isolation.”
In recent years, bipartisan votes to ease the embargo have been stripped out of bills through parliamentary maneuvers because of pressure from House Republican leadership and the White House. Today’s Cuba vote took place under a veto threat from the White House, which is under pressure from hard-line Cuban American voters in Florida.
Many agriculture, business, humanitarian and religious organizations were pleased by the passage of the amendment. Some 116 organizations representing all of these sectors sent a letter to Congress days before the vote calling for an end to all travel restrictions.
Mavis Anderson of the Latin America Working Group, a coalition of over 65 national religious and grassroots organizations, said, “Congress has spoken out yet again about the embargo on Cuba: members clearly recognize the failure of the current policy and the need for change. We cannot control the events outside the United States, but we should be consistent and fair in our foreign policy. And we should grant US citizens their right to travel.”
Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America added, “An overwhelming majority of Americans, including the majority of Cuban-Americans, now support easing the outdated embargo against Cuba, and today’s votes in the House reflect this sentiment. We hope the White House will also recognize that engagement with Cuba would be a more effective approach to Cuba.”