Sunday, August 22, 2010

Editorials on Travel

The Boston Globe

Cuban Travel Restrictions
Still fighting the Cold War

August 20, 2010

IF THE impoverishing, repressive regime of the Castro brothers in Cuba has degenerated into a sad mockery of its romantic-revolutionary origins, America’s embargo of Cuba has taken on the mindless rigidity of a tribal vendetta that continues to be pursued no matter how stultifying it may be to new generations. So reports that the Obama administration is preparing to loosen some restrictions on travel to Cuba for academic, cultural, and religious groups merit only tepid applause.

This adjustment to a counter-productive travel ban would merely undo restrictions that the George W. Bush administration added to Bill Clinton’s people-to-people liberalization of the draconian travel ban imposed in 1967. Obama, who has already made it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit the island, can extend the exception to academic and religious travelers without a need for congressional action.

He should exercise that presidential prerogative. But he should also push for congressional abolition of the more encompassing embargo on Cuba. At this point, the embargo only serves to prolong the material deprivation of Cubans, allowing Fidel Castro, 84, and his brother Raul, 79, to go on claiming that all Cuba’s miseries are caused by the yanqui embargo. If American tourists and US products were allowed to pour into Cuba, the economic effects would be positive for the Cuban people and American businesses, and a revolution of rising expectations could be set in motion.

There are no more Soviet missiles going to Cuba. Cuban troops are no longer fighting in Angola. The Cold War has long since vanished into the mists of history. America, no less than Cuba, needs to catch up with the 21st century.


The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

Lifting ban on travel to Cuba best way to push democratic ideals

THE ISSUE: Obama mulls easing Cuba travel ban.

The Obama administration is expected to announce further easing of travel restrictions to Cuba. It's a step in the right direction, even if it has a same-old, same-old feel to it.

The White House is expected to give a green light to Cuba travel by religious groups, academic institutions and cultural groups. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the type of "people-to-people" exchanges advocated by the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

During that era, baseball teams, orchestras, researchers, you name it, traveled to Cuba in the name of evangelizing democracy through contacts between individuals rather than governments. Considering the icy relationship between Havana and Washington since the early 1960s, the program seemed logical.
The freer approach to come and go with Cuba ended with the Bush administration. A get-tough approach in Washington and a contemptible crackdown on dissidents by the Castro regime brought the much tighter restrictions that Obama is now expected to roll back.

The restrictions imposed by the Bush administration didn't weaken the Castro regime. In fact, when Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006, power was seamlessly transferred to his brother. The restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba from the United States only further isolated ordinary Cubans, making them more dependent on the Castro government.

The Obama White House deserves credit for taking this next step. But advocates for open travel to Cuba — as well as opponents of unfettered travel — can't celebrate much.

Proponents must take into account that past experience has shown that limited travel to Cuba, as will exist even under the expected easing, can quickly be tightened by the next administration. They must continue pushing for a complete lifting of the travel ban, which would lead to a more permanent travel policy for all.

Opponents of Cuba travel must also understand the counterproductive nature of their argument. As long as a general prohibition exists, the only people who will travel to Cuba are those who are neutral or harbor sympathy for the regime.
The way to truly support democratic ideals in Cuba is by removing the general ban on travel. Allow travel to Cuba by all, not just those in permissible categories or those cherry-picked by Havana.

BOTTOM LINE: Lift the whole ban.


Louisville Courier Journal

Travel to Cuba

August 21, 2010

The Obama administration seems poised to
announce the easing of some restrictions on
Americans who wish to visit, study in or even do
business with Cuba. This would particularly apply
to academic and cultural groups and institutions.
If this pans out, it would be a good and long
overdue development, even if it won't play well
with some Cuban Americans, especially in
Florida, where anti-Castro sentiment remains
strong and politically charged.

Actually, this nation's Cuban travel and trade
embargoes have been slices of diplomatic and
legal Swiss cheese for some time. Thousands of
Americans have slipped in and out of Cuba
illegally through second countries — Mexico, the
Bahamas and Canada, for example — and the
Cuban authorities accommodate them by not
stamping their passports.

But now, a House bill to lift the travel and trade
bans has cleared the Agriculture Committee.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who has
visited Cuba and who supports changing the U.S.
-Cuba policy, has said, “What we've done doesn't
work, and it's clear that it doesn't work, so we
need to try something new.”

Actually, a new approach ought to be to
eliminate travel restrictions, not simply
moderate them. Americans are permitted to
travel to most other totalitarian and
undeveloped countries around the world. The
Cuban embargo reflects a failed effort to
dislodge Fidel Castro's regime and pandering to
Florida voters who oppose any relaxation in U.S.-
Cuban relations.

More exposure to Americans might well fuel the
Cuban population's desire for political and
economic change.

In any case, the Cold War is over. Cuba's
government is a threat to no one, except
perhaps its own people. It's time to move on.

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