Sunday May 19, 2013
Freedom to Travel to Cuba in 2010Ralph E. Stone Salem-News.com
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.
(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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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