WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
19 Nov 2009

U.S. Congress takes major step forward in reshaping U.S. policy toward Cuba

"Today, the U.S. Congress takes a major step forward in reshaping U.S. policy toward Cuba," said Geoff Thale, Program Director at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).  "It has been more than a decade since the House has held a hearing on travel to Cuba.  Finally, under the leadership of Chairman Howard Berman, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will discuss the question ‘Should all Americans be able to travel to Cuba?'"

Travel to Cuba was banned by executive order in 1962.  While many U.S. Presidents have exerted their limited Executive Authority to modify the travel regulations, the vast majority of Americans still cannot travel to Cuba without a special license. In 2001, Congress codified these regulations into law. 

President Obama recently ended restrictions on travel for Cuban Americans with relatives on the island.  Now the House of Representatives will take up the question of whether that freedom to travel should extend to all Americans. 

"We look forward to the day when the Congress will replace this failed and counterproductive policy with a more sensible approach. That starts by restoring this fundamental freedom to all Americans," said Thale.

Polls show that a majority of Americans want the freedom to travel to Cuba.  "This is an issue that most Americans decided a long time ago," said Thale.  "It appears Congress and the Administration may finally be catching up to the American people." 

WOLA believes that engagement, beginning with lifting the travel ban, and dialogue over human rights issues, is more likely to open political space in Cuba than is a continued policy of isolation. "Travel and engagement aren't a magic fix; but they will lay the groundwork for progress on human rights and democracy issues," said Thale. 


Geoff Thale, Program Director
(202) 664-7887

Photo by flippinyank via Flickr Creative Commons.