Author: Sarah Stephens
If you believe in ending the embargo against Cuba, please take a look at this video about Senator Rubio and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, and sign the petition. We really believe that the moment is upon us – the stars are aligned as they say – to end the outdated and hypocritical Cuba policy once and for all. This petition is part of that alignment, an added push toward a new way of thinking. Please add your voice!
Last month, when President Obama used his executive authority to make long-overdue immigration reforms, he heartened those of us working for big changes in Cuba policy. As readers of this blog know, the President has expansive powers to open up travel, end Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror, and engineer the release of Alan Gross and the three remaining members of the Cuban Five. All these actions would set the stage for progress on U.S.-Cuba relations. So, when the President acted as he did on immigration he gave our hopes for meaningful action on Cuba a second wind.
The President has used his executive power on Cuba policy before. In 2009, the President ended all restrictions on the rights of Cuban Americans to visit and support their families on the island. He used his authority two years later to encourage travel, by restoring people-to-people licenses, and to encourage engagement, by allowing all Americans to send remittances to the island. These changes, while modest, gave many more Americans the right to see Cuba, and generated meaningful economic activity that benefits every day Cubans.
These are all good things, except if you’re hardline supporters of U.S. sanctions on Cuba. Members of Congress, like Senator Rubio and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, called these reforms “appeasement” by our government to Cuba’s government. They tried to pass legislation to stop family and people-to-people travel. They even asserted that travel to Cuba by Americans made human rights conditions there worse.
So, when the Tampa Bay Times broke the story that Senator Rubio and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen allowed top members of their staffs to visit China and let the Chinese government pick up their expenses, this really caught our attention – especially when human rights demonstrators were being confronted in Hong Kong. How could they explain such inconsistent approaches on human rights? How could they stand for barring all of us from visiting Cuba, while allowing the Chinese government to pay for their staff’s trips to China?
Those demonstrations in Hong Kong are still going on. At the same time, President Obama is pondering a new set of reforms to our nation’s Cuba policy that he can also implement by using his executive authority. Is it really possible that if he moves on Cuba now as he did before, that Senator Rubio and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen will condemn the new reforms as they did before? Isn’t it time to end the double-standards on human rights when it comes to China and Cuba?
The Center for Democracy in the Americas – which leads fact-finding delegations to Cuba, publishes research, proposes solutions to problems that United States and Cuba face together, and shares what we learn with U.S. policy makers and the general public – works to reform U.S. policy and normalize relations with Cuba.