Monday, August 23, 2010

Obama Administration Facing Critical Decision on Cuba Travel Policy

Obama Administration Facing Critical Decision on Cuba Travel Policy

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y., Aug. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "Time Magazine
poses the right question, 'Will the White House Fight to End the Cuba
Travel Ban?'" said John McAuliff, founder and executive director of a
twenty-five-year-old non-governmental organization, the Fund for
Reconciliation and Development.,8599,2012476,00.html?xid=rss-topstories#ixzz0xQrh1qvI

"The Obama Administration must choose quickly how much to enable travel
to Cuba for non-tourist people-to-people purposes. It has obligated
itself to respond to Cuba's ongoing release of 'Black Spring'
prisoners. Half of those who were still imprisoned since 2004 have
already been freed," McAuliff observed.

McAuliff added, "the White House could take a minimalist approach and
simply reinstate President Clinton's policy, which required time
consuming and costly case-by-case applications to the bureaucratic and
politicized judgment of the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the
Treasury Department. Or it could implement its pro-dialogue values and
grant general licenses to the remaining eleven categories of non-tourist
travel, just as it did for the category of Cuban American family visits
more than a year ago."

"Under general licenses, travel could be freely organized by schools,
cultural institutions, Chambers of Commerce, religious bodies, World
Affairs Councils, humanitarian organizations, advocacy groups and other
not-for-profit organizations. Tens of thousands of seriously interested
Americans can meet their Cuban counterparts and create mutual
understanding and trust, needed in both countries," McAuliff argued.

McAuliff urged the Administration to resist pressure from the exile
mind-set of five Cuban Americans in the House and Senate. "Polls
demonstrate that they no longer represent their own community, much less
the two-thirds of Americans who support freedom of travel to Cuba. On
Saturday they wrote to the President distorting the clear intent of the
law, which gives him complete authority to allow non-tourist travel."

"They opposed even family travel and will denounce any and all reforms,
so there is no reason for the White House to be constrained by their
misleading statement that they, 'are deeply troubled that such changes
would result in economic benefits to the Cuban regime.' At peak in 2003
only 80,000 people-to-people visitors went to Cuba, a drop in the bucket
compared to the 2.4 million foreigners in Cuba last year, including
300,000 Cuban Americans."

McAuliff said, "What really troubles the old guard is that personal
contact between diverse Cubans and Americans will puncture their
isolationist balloon and contribute to reform in both countries,
including the end of all U.S. and Cuban travel and trade restrictions."

(The Fund for Reconciliation and Development was founded in 1985 to
foster normal U.S. diplomatic, cultural and economic relations with
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Its focus for the past decade has been the
same objective with Cuba.)

Additional resources:

"As a first step to changing our policy toward Cuba, the president
should issue an executive order to lift as much of the travel ban as
possible. The travel ban penalizes U.S. businesses, lowers our
credibility in Latin America and fuels anti-U.S. propaganda. Lifting the
ban would also be a reciprocal gesture for Cuba's recent agreement,
negotiated among the Catholic Church, the Spanish government and
President Raul Castro, to release political dissidents. Obama has taken
significant steps to loosen restrictions on family travel, remove limits
for remittance and expand cooperation in other areas such as expanding
the export of humanitarian goods from the United States into Cuba.
Loosening travel restrictions is in U.S. interests and would be a bold
move toward normalization of relations with Cuba."

Washington Post Op Ed by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (currently
in Cuba)

A new report from the Brookings Institution recommends general licenses,
"Seizing the Opportunity to Expand People to People Contacts" by Dora
Beszterczey, Damian F. Fernandez and Andy S. Gomez

Special issue of Right to Travel, the on-line newsletter of the Fund for
Reconciliation and Development

SOURCE Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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