Thursday, July 1, 2010

House committee backs easing Cuba travel ban

Elian Gonzalez commemorated the tenth anniversary of his return to Cuba by claiming that he has “no anger” towards those family members in Florida. His return to Cuba came under very unique circumstances but what about the possibility that more visitors could travel to the island?

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…

"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.
Image- New Zealand Herald
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, CNN, AFP, New York Times, Reuters, The Age


Anonymous said...

from de Clermont - at the end of the article Amnesty International apparently implies that the US embargo is wrong. Why? The embargo against apartheid South Africa wasn't wrong. The leadership became reasonable and freed the blacks. Why isn't the same kind of embargo deemed inappropriate for an even more oppressive regime? Why not? HYPOCRISY. Fidel is the poster child for all things vs. the world order, aka the US and free markets. The human rights group should commend the USA for its stand against a totalitarian oppressive state and blast the other democracies for not supporting the embargo. If all the countries that joined in the boycott against apartheid South Africa also boycotted the Castro regime, it would crumble. Amnesty International supported the boycott against South Africa, but not against Cuba. Hypocrites. And the fact that the agricultural committee wants to withdraw the embargo has nothing to do with human rights, it has to do with what the Castros hate - capitalism. The committee just want their constituyents to make money by being able to sell their foodstuffs to the Cubans. They are NOT considering the welfare of the cuban people enslaved under Castro.

Erwin C. said...

The main difference between apartheid-era South Africa (SA) and post-1958 Cuba was a key term you mentioned - reasonable leadership. By the time FW DeKlerk came to power in the late 1980s there were differing factions in the ruling National Party as well as opposition ANC. Hence it was easier for a reconciliation process to occur that would eventually lead to democratic elections in 1994.

In contrast, the structure of Cuba's ruling Communist "party" as well as the tight grip by the Castro regime leaves little room for any moderates to gain power. And despite most of the dissidents on the island unified against the Castro government I don't think they're on the same wavelength as to what should be the most appropriate alternative. Since the political circumstances differ, I respectively disagree with your view that not opposing both embargoes equals hypocrisy. (though I have to admit that I don't fully agree with Amnesty's raationale for ending the embargo).

By the way, your argument on the committee's true motives for backing the bill is similar to the one made by Democratic and Cuban-American legislator Bob Menendez. (See embedded link from Reuters).