Bush’s new hard-line policy restricting travelers to a single visit every three years “punishes and isolates the Cuban people and harms the Cuban Americans with relatives on the island while leaving Castro unharmed,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has told the Miami Herald.
According to the report, Kerry would encourage “principled travel” to the island and lift the cap on gifts to its people.
Although embracing the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and support for dissidents, Kerry was critical of Bush’s restriction of travel and cash gifts to Cubans on the island as a “cynical and misguided ploy for a few Florida votes.”
“Selective engagement, not isolation, is the best way for the American people to send real, not just rhetorical, hope for a better future to the Cuban people,” he added in a phone interview with the Herald.
Kerry wants to ease travel restrictions in Cuba, saying he would lift only the ban on Cuba travel that is not “pure tourism,” noting that democracy efforts in Poland, Russia and China were aided by similar “political travel.”
“It’s travel that is engaged between families, travel engaged for culture and advancement. I think you want to begin a process that engages on a principled, measurable goal rather than just going to the Hemingway bar somewhere and spending some money.”
Kerry said he would also lift the restriction on remittances to allow gifts to “households and humanitarian institutions.” Current U.S. policy is to restricted gifts to only “immediate family members.”
Kerry told the Herald that money can be a “powerful tool” to help Cubans on the island start small businesses “and thereby gain a measure of autonomy.”
However, a spokesman for the Bush campaign suggested that Kerry’s remarks were pandering “from a candidate who, every time he had the opportunity, voted against restrictions on Castro.”
“Sen. Kerry’s talk is always tough, but his votes always go easy on Castro,” said the spokesman, Reed Dickens. “His policy proposals for the people of Cuba are policies that are already in existence. They show a lack of understanding of the existing policy and a total disconnect with his entire voting career.”
Kerry argues that he supported the embargo, but voted against the final version because it included a controversial provision to allow Cuban Americans to sue foreign ventures using property confiscated by Cuba.