Some politicians who have tried to ease the U.S. travel ban on the island scored a very important victory on Wednesday. By a 25-20 vote the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee approved lifting the decades-old ban on travel to Cuba as well as other export restrictions. “This is a great opportunity to expand trade,” said Committee Chairman Collin Peterson on the bill that would also permit U.S. goods to be sold directly to Cuba. Hence, business and farm groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Farmers Union back the proposal.
The bill awaits numerous hurdles in Congress including pivotal votes by other committees followed by the full House and Senate. Furthermore, the plan faces staunch opposition from some legislators including Cuban-American politicos on both sides of the aisle.
On the same day as the committee vote Amnesty International issued a report blasting the woeful human rights situation in Cuba. The study harshly criticized the Castro regime for creating "a climate of fear that stifles and criminalizes dissent":
According to the report, which was released on Wednesday, Cuban laws are so vague and arbitrary that any act of dissent can be deemed criminal…Image- New Zealand Herald
"No matter how detrimental its impact, the US embargo is a lame excuse for violating the rights of citizens, as it can in no way diminish the obligation on the Cuban government to protect, respect and fulfill the human rights of all Cubans,'' the report said.
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, CNN, AFP, New York Times, Reuters, The Age