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We Have Things to Share with Cubans: LAWG Briefs House on New Bill on Travel (and Ag Sales) to Cuba

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While some historic snowstorms and the President’s Day recess sidetracked our congressional advocacy work in the first couple weeks of February, the introduction of the Peterson-Moran Cuba bill (HR 4645) has helped us regain our “travel for all” momentum and represents our best chance to end the travel ban on Cuba in 2010.

On Capitol Hill today, LAWG Senior Associate Mavis Anderson spoke at a briefing for House staff members on HR 4645, which was introduced in the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday with 33 original co-sponsors. Click here to read Ms. Anderson’s briefing presentation.

HR 4645 would end the ban on U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba and facilitate U.S. agricultural sales, approved by Congress in 2000 via the Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA). The bill would allow for travel for ALL to Cuba, help supply food for the Cuban people, and create jobs here at home.

Some loud voices in Congress and beyond continue to make anything but the failed status quo in U.S.-Cuba policy seem controversial, but the reality is that allowing U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba is broadly supported by 67 percent of Cuban Americans and 70 percent of U.S. citizens; a bi-partisan majority in the Congress; political dissidents and the internal opposition on the island, including Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez; and every major U.S. human rights organization, including Freedom House and Human Rights Watch.

In calling on House members to co-sponsor HR 4645, Ms. Anderson shared personal stories from her visits — all legal — to Cuba and asked that this fundamental right to exchange with the Cuban people be extended, at long last, to all U.S. citizens:

“I’ve had Cubans talk to me proudly about the gains they have experienced in free healthcare and free education, and in decreased sexism, for example. I’ve experienced the vibrancy of their culture in music and dance. I’ve also had Cubans complain to me loudly and without reservation about shortages, the need for two or three jobs to make ends meet, their desire to open a business or travel the world.”

The tragic death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo (see statements from WOLA and Amnesty International) — a political dissident who’d been jailed by the Cuban government for years — after an 85-day hunger strike, serves as a stark reminder of what human rights groups have been saying for some time: “encouraging [people-to-people exchange]… with Cubans is something that human rights advocates… believe will be beneficial to ordinary Cubans,” said Ms. Anderson during her presentation.

For more information on HR 4645, please see our recent action alert.