Wednesday, May 31, 2017

U.S. Lawmakers Want to End Cuba Travel Restrictions, But May Face Trump Opposition

U.S. Lawmakers Want to End Cuba Travel Restrictions, But May Face Trump
Reuters • Newsweek May 26, 2017

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators reintroduced legislation on Thursday
to repeal all restrictions on travel to Cuba, this time attracting far
more co-sponsors in a sign of growing support for U.S.-Cuban detente
even as its future looks uncertain.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act was introduced in 2015 by eight
Republican and Democratic co-sponsors but never made it to the floor.
The latest measure attracted 55 co-sponsors.

While efforts to ease the decades-old U.S. embargo against Cuba have
been gathering strength and 55 votes would be a majority in the
100-member Senate, that number falls short of the 60 needed to advance
the legislation. There was no indication the chamber's Republican
leaders would allow the measure to come up for a vote.

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Republican President Donald Trump threatened during his 2016 election
campaign to reverse a normalization of ties with the Communist-run,
Caribbean island initiated in 2014 by Democratic President Barack Obama.
Trump's administration is reviewing U.S. policy toward the country's
former Cold War foe.

Obama eased trade and travel restrictions, fueling a boom in American
visits to Cuba, although tourism was still not officially allowed.

Cubans walk near the Manzana Kempinski Hotel, the first luxury five star
plus tourist facility in Cuba, on May 22. Former U.S. President Barack
Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, but President Donald Trump has
threatened to reverse the move. YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty

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On Wednesday, more than 40 U.S. travel companies and organizations urged
Trump not to roll back expanded U.S. travel to Cuba.

"It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban
government," said U.S. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who with
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy led the group that co-sponsored the bill.

Flake added that lifting the ban would give Americans more freedom but
also benefit the Cuban people.

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"This is certain to have positive benefits for the island's burgeoning
entrepreneurial and private sector."

The number of U.S. visitors rose 74 percent last year, boosting business
for Cuban hotels, BnBs, restaurants and taxis but also U.S. cruise
operators and airlines that entered the market over the past year.

"We applaud Senators Flake and Leahy for their leadership in supporting
the American and Cuban people by eliminating archaic, outdated policy,"
said James Williams, president of the Washington-based Engage Cuba group.

There is still strong congressional opposition to any ending of Cuba's
isolation, led by anti-Castro Cuban-American lawmakers including
Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

They say the United States should not make travel to Cuba easier before
the Havana government moves toward democracy.

Source: U.S. Lawmakers Want to End Cuba Travel Restrictions, But May
Face Trump Opposition -

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