WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
21 Aug 2007

U.S. Candidate Dodd Calls for Loosening Cuba Travel Ban

Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democratic presidential candidate, called last week for a loosening of the U.S. government’s travel ban on Cuba, calling it “simply un-American” to prohibit U.S. passport-holders from visiting foreign countries such as Cuba.  WOLA applauds Dodd’s stand on this issue.

I have long supported the freedom to travel to Cuba,” the Connecticut senator said in a written statement. “Americans are currently free to travel to both Iran and North Korea, two countries which pose far more serious threats to American national security than the government of Cuba” Current U.S. policy prevents ordinary citizens from traveling freely to the island. 

WOLA, the research and advocacy group, has long supported lifting the travel ban so that U.S. citizens can travel freely to Cuba and strengthen people-to-people contacts between the two neighboring nations.

“Senator Dodd should be applauded for his support for Americans’ right to travel to Cuba,” said Elsa Falkenburger, WOLA’s Associate for Cuba. “By supporting exchange between the Cuban and American people, Senator Dodd demonstrates his fresh, forward thinking approach to one of our country’s most long-standing foreign policy failures.”

A poll by Florida International University released in February of this year shows that the majority (55.2%) of Cuban-Americans living in Florida support unrestricted travel to Cuba. When polling Americans more broadly across the United States, the percentage of people in favor of travel to Cuba rises to 66%.

Dodd noted that prospects for a political transition have increased in Cuba since leader Fidel Castro became ill last year and that current policy makes it almost impossible for the United States to have any influence over such a process.

“Cuba is in the throes of a transition to a post-Castro Cuba,” he said. “A U.S. policy of staying the course leaves us on the sides as the future of Cuba is being written. It is time to engage before it is too late to have a positive influence on the political landscape which is rapidly taking shape there.”

Dodd recently became a cosponsor of S.721, “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act,” which would restore U.S. citizens’ right to travel to Cuba. The bill currently has 21 cosponsors and is expected to come up for consideration in Congress sometime in the fall.

WOLA hopes that other presidential candidates will follow the senator’s lead and support an opening toward Cuba, bearing in mind that most U.S. voters — and a majority of Cuban Americans — now oppose the travel ban.

To read Dodd’s complete statement, please click here: http://chrisdodd.com/node/2127