Possible New Travel Guidelines for Cuba

By: Daniel Nardini

As the saying goes, you can travel to Hanoi but you cannot go to Havana only 90 miles away. That may soon change (we hope!). The White House is proposing a change in travel guidelines to Cuba. Under the possible new guidelines, Americans can go to Cuba if sponsored by a museum, an academic institution, or a non-profit organization. At present this is in many ways already possible. However, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama wants to make the policy more lenient. This way ordinary Americans can go to Cuba so long as it is within the guidelines of cultural, historical or other such academic or medical programs. And of course if Americans want to have fun in the sun that is all right too as long as the trip is basically a learning one.

How far these changes will go—if any at all—remains to be seen. Sadly, a number of Republicans in the U.S. Congress are against even this change in U.S. policy towards Cuba. Some, like U.S. House Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (Republican-Florida) propose legislation that will put even more sanctions against Cuba and cut off the limited American tourism that could go to Cuba under the possible upcoming guidelines. While it is true that President Obama cannot lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba, recognize Cuba, and allow normal business trade with Cuba without congressional support, he has wide discretionary powers on a number of the sanctions. Cultural and other such programs are possible.

It is doubtful that the Republicans in the U.S. Congress can stop any guideline change on Cuba, but that remains to be seen. Although in my view the changes do not go far enough, I am hopeful that what changes do occur will occur. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The U.S. embargo against Cuba is a leftover from the Cold War. It did not work then, and it does not work now. This embargo is a total failure, and has done nothing but harm U.S. foreign policy and the Cuban people. All other countries recognize the government in Cuba, and it is time the United States recognizes reality. While I applaud this possible change in America’s Cuba policy by Barack Obama, in my view it does not go far enough. We should scrap the embargo altogether, establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba, allow unrestricted travel and contact with Cuba (as we do with all other Communist states with the exception of North Korea), and not punish any American for just having an interest, a curiosity of travel to Cuba.

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