Travel to Cuba may get easier

An impressive array of interest groups have joined a group of senators and representatives in backing bills to re-move the ban on travel to Cuba. They are open in their intention to eliminate travel restrictions first and then junk the 50-year-old trade embargo. President Barack Obama appears to favor both reforms although he still supports using the embargo as a bargaining tool.
Sen. Richard Lugar from Indiana is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is a leading supporter of the reforms and a co-author of the bill that would lift the travel ban.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, gave the legislation his name and bluntly assailed the ban as “a failed policy that has failed for 50 years.”
His assessment ap-pears accurate. The purpose of isolating Cuba has been to undermine the Castro regime, en-courage the Cuban peop-le to overthrow their government and become a democracy. Perhaps our Cuban policy has set an all-time record for failure. The Castros, Fidal and Raul, have lasted through nine U.S. presidents. The “revolution” still stands. The one-party government remains without organized resistance.
The travel ban and the trade embargo have helped keep Cuba among the poorest of nations but have also served the Castros as a demonstration of U.S. enmity and allowed them to persuade the people that they need the dictatorship to protect them from an economic and cultural invasion by the American monster.
The Cuban people have no way of knowing that the Castros’ politics of fear have no rational basis because U.S. policy keeps them from the contacts with Americans they need to learn the truth.
An identical bill in the House has 120 sponsors and was written by a Republican and a Democrat. The House and Senate bills are backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau, associations representing rice, wheat and dairy industries and by human rights groups.
It is opposed by Cuban-born Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican, who continues to believe that a belligerant anti-Castro policy will succeed.
The large Cuban-American population in Florida has strongly supported U.S. policies that isolated Cuba and prevented change. Second generation Cuban-Americans are less convinced and responded positively when Obama promised while campaigning last year to lift travel restrictions and restrictions on the amount of money that could be sent to Cuban families by their American relatives if he was elected.
He has kept part of that promise by executive order. The Dorgan bill will allow him to keep the rest of it when it gets his signature.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.