End the Travel Ban on Cuba

Tell President Obama to Take Action on Alan Gross

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Tell President Obama to Take Immediate Action to Secure Alan Gross' Release

Alan Gross has been a name related to any talk about Cuba on Capitol Hill since his incarceration in December 2009. He was arrested in Cuba for attempting to establish a military-style satellite internet connection for Cubans on the island without permission from the Cuban government.  At the time, Alan Gross was working for Development Alternatives Inc, a company that received a grant from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), for “democracy promotion” programs in Cuba. The Cuban government charged Alan with committing crimes against the state for carrying out the “subversive USAID program” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. In light of the most recent “Cuban Twitter” fiasco with USAID’s Cuban democracy promotion programs, it only remains clearer that democracy promotion programs in Cuba are unsuccessful and a waste of tax-payer dollars.

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What is Wrong with the White House’s Plan for Democracy in Cuba?

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ZunZuneo
or the “Cuban Twitter” continues to dominate headlines as details regarding U.S. Agency of International Development’s (USAID) failure to inspire a “Cuban Spring” through a “discreetly” funded social networking platform remain unclear. The Associated Press (AP) first broke the story on April 3, 2014 outlining the parameters of the USAID and Creative Associates International program to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cell phone text messaging to evade Cuba's strict control of information and its restrictions of the internet. The idea behind the development of the social media platform, according to AP, was to create a credible news source for Cubans on the island. ZunZuneo drew more than 40,000 followers and gathered data (such as location, cell phone numbers) on its users which was hoped to be used for political purposes. According to the AP, the social network managers hoped to use this information to trigger “smart mobs” that would protest the current Cuban government and generate a “Cuban Spring,” head nodding to the “Arab Spring,” a series of protests and uprisings that swept through a handful of Arab countries from 2010-2013.

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USAID’s Cuban Twitter: “Democracy Promotion” Does More Harm than Good

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Hours after Vice President Joe Biden welcomed famed Cuban blogger and social media political activist Yoani Sánchez for a high profile photo op and meeting, the Associated Press broke a story about a clandestine U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program that reportedly stole thousands of phone numbers of Cuban cellphone users in an elaborate attempt to inspire social unrest in Cuba.
 
According to the AP, in 2010 the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives and contractor Creative Associates secretly created a Twitter-like cell phone platform that allowed U.S. information technology contractors to gather private data on its 40,000 Cuban users and blast out text messages to the subscribers. The platform, called ZunZuneo, also allowed Cubans to communicate via text message with people who subscribed to their feed.

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From Miami: Cuban Americans Call for Change in Outdated Cuba Policy

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The buzz in Miami on March 15th could probably be heard all the way in Cuba. Last weekend, Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE), FORNORM (Foundation for the Normalizations of Relations with Cuba), Generacion Cambio Cubano and Cuba Educational Travel hosted a conference to highlight the growing majority of Cuban Americans that are in favor of normalizing relations with Cuba.

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Rev. Raúl Suárez: "Cuba is not the Kingdom of God but We Have Had Many Achievements"

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Rev_Suarez_wfp_panel
Reverend Raúl Suárez, the founder and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Havana, Cuba, visited the United States this past week as part of a delegation of religious leaders speaking about religious life and freedom in Cuba. Rev. Suárez was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Cuba from 1971 to 2005 and was the president of the Council of Churches. On February 28, 2014 Rev. Suárez spoke on a panel organized by Witness for Peace, to talk about his trip, religious freedom in Cuba as well as the future of U.S.-Cuba relations. This is what he had to say:

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Cuban and U.S. Churches Work Together; Our Governments Should Too

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On Feb. 26 and 27, the two of us — Reverend Joel Ortega Dopico, a Presbyterian minister and elected president of the Cuban Council of Churches, and Reverend John L. McCullough, a United Methodist minister and President of Church World Service — are meeting in Washington to talk about our work together.

It may surprise many people to know that there is a Cuban Council of Churches, and that there is a thriving, growing faith community in Cuba. While many outside Cuba imagine that religious life has been stifled, there are in fact a wide range of churches active in the country, and religious membership and participation has been growing for twenty years. The Cuban Council of Churches has 54 member organizations. Church World Service and many of its 37 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member communions work closely with churches in Cuba and with the ecumenical Cuban Council of Churches.

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Senator Sanders Visits Cuba and Calls for End of the Embargo

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Last week a U.S. Senate delegation headed to Cuba to discuss human rights, trade and health care issues. They also made a trip to Guantanamo Naval Base which Sanders supports closing. The delegation also met with Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor arrested in 2009. Gross was arrested when the Cuban government discovered he was smuggling sophisticated military-style internet equipment into Cuba. His arrest has become an obstacle to normalization between US-Cuba relations.

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Overwhelming Support of Cuba Policy Change Reflected in New Poll

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Atlantic_Council_US_CUBA_2014_POLL
Today the supremacy of Florida in U.S.-Cuba policy and in national politics has been debunked. With the release of a new Atlantic Council national poll the following findings were made:

(1)    56 percent of Americans and over 60 percent of Floridians and Latinos favor changing U.S. policy toward Cuba;
(2)    Not only are Floridians more willing than a supportive nation for change, but they strongly favor normalization by eight percentage points more than the country as a whole;
(3)    Support for engagement is strongest among Democrats (60 percent), but the majority of Republicans also support change (52 percent);
(4)    More than six in ten people want all economic restrictions lifted;
(5)    61 percent nationally and 67 percent of Floridians favor removing all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens; Latinos weigh in at 66 percent;
(6)    77 percent of Americans favor diplomatic coordination between the United States and Cuba on issues of mutual concern; 82 percent of Floridians favor this;
(7)    61 percent of U.S. citizens nationally, and 67 percent of Floridians, do not think Cuba belongs on the U.S. terrorism list.

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Leave a Message for The President: Change our Cuba Policy!

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Atlantic_Council_US_CUBA_2014_POLLUse the following call script below to leave your message for President Obama. You can leave a message on either the comment line phone number or by contacting the switchboard. Make the Call: Comment Line: 202-456-1111/Switchboard: 202-456-1414 

Hello, I would like to leave a message for the President regarding our current Cuba policy.

Mr. President, I’m a citizen of this country. I’m among the strong majority asking you to change our policy toward Cuba by doing all that is within your authority as President. A recent Atlantic Council poll found that profound changes to U.S. Cuba policy would be well received by U.S. citizens, and even more so by Floridians. Take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Expand travel by granting general licenses for all purposeful travel to Cuba. Sit down and talk with the Cubans about the major issues that divide us. Do it now, Mr. President.

If you would prefer to contact the President via e-mail copy and paste the message below into the e-mail form on the White House Website

Dear Mr. President,

I’m a citizen of this country. I’m among the strong majority asking you to change our policy toward Cuba by doing all that is within your authority as President. A recent Atlantic Council poll found that profound changes to U.S. Cuba policy would be well received by U.S. citizens, and even more so by Floridians. Take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Expand travel by granting general licenses for all purposeful travel to Cuba. Sit down and talk with the Cubans about the major issues that divide us. Do it now, Mr. President.

 

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Today the Embargo on Cuba Turns 52 years old

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On February 7th, 1962 President John F. Kennedy laid the groundwork for the infamous economic embargo on Cuba. As a result of the Cuban government nationalizing some U.S. companies and becoming buddies with the former Soviet Union, President Kennedy slapped trade sanctions on Cuba prohibiting the importation of any Cuban goods. The following year, 1963, the embargo was tightened to include penalties that prohibited foreign companies that traded with Cuba to also trade with the United States. The ban on travel for U.S. citizens was also implemented that year. While a whole lot has changed since 1962, the embargo on Cuba remains the same.

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