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May-28-2010 19:13printcomments

Freedom to Travel to Cuba in 2010

My wife and I traveled "legally" to Cuba in November 2003 on one of the last so-called "People-to-People" tours, visiting Havana, Viñales, and Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba
Salem-News.com

(SAN FRANCISCO) - The week of June 1, 2010, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645) will be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. This bill restores the right of Americans to travel to Cuba and lifts restrictions on agricultural sales to Cuba. It was introduced in February 2010 by Representatives Peterson (D-MN) and Moran (R-KS).

Reportedly, 52 U.S. Senators have agreed to vote for the Bill, but only 205 "yes" votes of the 218 needed are on board in the House. Contact your U.S. Representative urging he or she to vote for passage.

Cuba-U.S. Relations in a Nutshell

The Platt amendment to a U.S. Army Appropriations Bill of 1901 gave the U.S. the right to intervene militarily in Cuban affairs whenever the U.S. decided such intervention was warranted. Cubans were given the choice of accepting the Platt Amendment or remaining under U.S. military occupation indefinitely.

U.S. intervention endowed Cuba with a series of weak, corrupt, and dependent governments. In 1903, the U.S. and Cuba signed the "Cuban-American Treaty," giving the U.S. a perpetual lease of, and absolute control over, Guantánamo Bay, a blatant example of U.S. gunboat diplomacy.

The current Cuban government considers the U.S. presence in Guantánamo to be illegal and the "Cuban-American Treaty" to have been procured by the threat of force in violation of international law.

Even a cursory review of Cuba-U.S. relations reveals that the U.S. has much to answer for. After Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz came to power in 1959, overthrowing the U.S.-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista, the U.S. could have embraced Castro and offered him assistance.

In April 1959, shortly after taking power, Fidel Castro traveled to the U.S. The Eisenhower administration could have embraced him, offering him economic assistance.

But remember this was during the Cold War and Castro smacked of socialism/communism. Eisenhower snubbed him. He met instead with Vice President Nixon for a few hours. No economic assistance was offered. The next year Castro turned to Russia for economic assistance and the rest is history.

On July 31, 2006, following intestinal surgery from an undisclosed digestive illness, Fidel Castro transferred his responsibilities to the First Vice-President, his younger brother Raúl Castro, On February 24, 2008, the Cuban National Assembly elected Raúl Castro to succeed Fidel as the President of Cuba.

It would seem that Raúl is now the undisputed Cuban leader, although the shadow of Fidel will linger over Cuba until his demise and possibly long thereafter. Who will succeed the 78-year old Raúl? And will the U.S. keep its hands off after his death? These are questions for a later time.

Brief History of U.S. Embargo of Cuba


In 1961, the Kennedy administration severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, and in 1962-63, the U.S. imposed an economic and trade embargo and travel restrictions following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by U.S.-backed Cuban exiles.

In 1977, the Carter administration lifted the travel restrictions. In 1982, the Reagan administration re-established the travel restrictions; and in 1989 travelers to Cuba could spend only $100 per day.

In 1992, the Clinton administration, imposed fines on Americans traveling to Cuba from a third country; in 1993, travel was allowed for religious, educational, and human rights groups; in 1994, travel restrictions were tightened in response to a mass exodus from Cuba across the Florida straits; in 1995, travel restrictions were reversed to promote democracy in Cuba; in 1996, all direct flights from U.S. to Cuba stopped because Cuban MiGs had shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes; in 1998, following Pope John Paul II visit to Cuba direct flights to Cuba were allowed for religious pilgrimages; in 1999, people-to-people trips were increased; and in 2000, ended travel for tourist activities 

In 2001, the Bush administration started enforcing restrictions for "unlicensed" travel; in 2003, travel was no longer limited to humanitarian needs, amount of money that could be carried raised from $300 to $3,000; but in 2004, announced the most stringent travel policies in years limiting Cuban-American travel to once every three years, limited to $300 quarterly that can be sent to Cuba, spending in Cuba limited to $50; and in 2005, religious travel reduced to once a year for groups up to 25.

With a Raúl Castro leadership, a Obama presidency, and perhaps just the passage of time, Obama and Congress seem to be taking a fresh look at the 48-year old embargo and travel restrictions. In 2009, Congress removed the Treasury Department's funding to enforce Cuban-American family travel restrictions.

Obama responded by changing regulations to allow Cuban-Americans to visit relatives once a year instead of once every three years. In April 2009, Obama lifted travel and gift restrictions for Cuban-Americans, allowing them to freely visit Cuba and stay as long as they like, and to send financial help to family members.

The U.S. also shut down a ticker atop the U.S. interests section in Havana, Cuba, that had since 2006 scrolled anti-Cuba slogans in 5-foot-high crimson letters.

The rest of the world wants the embargo ended as seen by the October 2009, United Nations General Assembly overwhelming vote -- for the 18th year in a row -- in favor of condemning the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The vote was 187-3, with 2 abstentions. As a security council member, the U.S. vetoed the resolution. In September of last year, the U.S. extended the embargo.

Conclusion

My wife and I traveled "legally" to Cuba in November 2003 on one of the last so-called "People-to-People" tours, visiting Havana, Viñales, and Santiago de Cuba. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Treasury Department stopped issuing "people-to people" licenses.

As the remaining licenses expired — most in November or December 2003— so did those trips. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit. With the passage of the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, we will legally be able to return again. The next step is to formally end the U.S. embargo of Cuba.


Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address stonere@earthlink.net




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Lourdes Quesada June 3, 2010 6:51 pm (Pacific time)

It is about time the lift the embargo it has not serve any purpose.The cuban people and the families are the only ones suffering.Castro has never been hungry in his life.


Anonymous May 30, 2010 9:23 am (Pacific time)

There exists a caste system in Cuba that impacts all aspects of life quality, including healthcare. Does one believe that this type of Cuban economic system can compete with the free enterprise system? Where do you think Cuba get's it's medical supplies, from drugs to diagnostic equipment? The connected people get the advanced care while those in the lower caste get inferior care. Tourists are steered away from these people and just see what these Marxists want you to see. So why do people risk everything to escape? Castro and his brother are about gone, maybe a new power will come in that really wants to allow the people to advance their quality of life via the free enterprise system? Then and only then should we open up unrestricted travel and commerce. American Cubans advocate this, and they know what they're talking about over those who simply have uninformed and usually inculcated opinions.


Netssa May 30, 2010 9:20 am (Pacific time)

If you travel to Cuba you need to have prove of health insurance with you. The most important you policy must be valid in Cuba If not you have to buy Cuban insurance at the airport for $5 a day. More info on the distinctive website devoted to Cuba, its covers all Cuban popular destinations and attractions, as well culture information and events. www.Netssa.com Netssa.com offer plenty of historic info about Havana, also all the Varadero attractions. The website future extensive travel to Cuba info, also all about scuba diving and snorkeling centers, all over island of Cuba. The website presents plenty of striking photos from all over the Cuba island. So if you are planning to visit Cuba, or are just looking for information about Cuba you should check the website: http://www.netssa.com/cuba.html


Amanda May 29, 2010 8:34 pm (Pacific time)

We cannot live in the past forever.Time goes on, and we certainly can learn a lot from Cuba,specifically about health care and education - if a poor country can provide for its people, its sets an example, we can only dream of.


Jose Gomez May 29, 2010 6:37 pm (Pacific time)

Lift the travel embargo Immediatlly. It is time to interract with the cuban and show them what kind and great people the americans can be and that all that the castros mis information is false. What we have done has enpowered the castros and is time for something differnt. havana is by far the most beutiful city in the carrabien and we as americans should have the right to visit.


Ersun Warncke May 29, 2010 12:58 pm (Pacific time)

It is good to see this finally happening, and I hope it goes through. Cuba should be a natural ally and partner of the U.S. We could learn a lot from the Cubans on providing health care and education for the entire population while working with extremely limited resources. Not to mention the Havana Club rum and Cohiba cigars. Bacardi sucks, and they could use some competition.


Humberto Capiro May 29, 2010 12:44 pm (Pacific time)

What about Human Rights? I read nothing on your article! NEW YORK (March 18, 2010) – Seven years after Cuba’s “Black Spring,” when the Castro regime imprisoned 75 independent journalists, underground librarians, and democracy activists, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) urges the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners. http://www.humanrightsfoundation.org/media/031810.html

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