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Posted May 15, 2003 by publisher in US Tourism to Cuba

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WASHINGTON (Reuters)—A group of U.S. legislators on Wednesday introduced a bill to eliminate travel restrictions to Cuba, despite a recent political crackdown on the island’s dissidents.

Though the “Export Freedom to Cuba Act” appeared unlikely to win passage, it was backed by members of the U.S. Congress who said it would punish President Fidel Castro by allowing ordinary Americans to travel there.

“We believe that if you want to drive the Cuban government crazy, you should let them deal with Spring Break,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Montana Democrat, referring to college students who often indulge in heavy drinking and carousing during spring vacations.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate frequently introduce bills and amendments that aim to chip away at the travel and trade embargo in place for nearly four decades but this effort came amid rising tensions between Washington and Havana.

On Tuesday, Washington expelled 14 Cuban diplomats from the United States and has expressed concern about recent repression in Cuba, including the imprisonment of 75 prominent dissidents to long jail terms and the execution of three men who hijacked a ferry in a failed bid to reach the United States.

It was unlikely the bill would pass, however, as it lacked the crucial backing of the House Republican leadership and the White House.

The Bush administration has said it will veto any legislation that lifts economic and travel sanctions against Cuba.

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