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Your Opinions Are Needed

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Happy New Year! Things are starting to get back into swing in DC after the holidays – the House came back into session this week, the Senate comes back next week, and, of course, the presidential election primaries are on everyone's mind.

Please give your attention to this message – we need your feedback in three areas. Thanks!

Constituent Input Requested (THAT'S YOU!)
At this time last year Cuba policy advocates were gearing up for the hard work of educating a congressional freshman class of 65 new members (55 in the House and 10 in the Senate) and preparing long-time supporters of policy change for accomplishing something on Cuba policy. Key allies had taken over important committee chairs and were in the position of pushing legislation through the Congress to ease the embargo. Expectations were high.

Needless to say, we have been disappointed multiple times this year. The combination of a leadership tired of the Cuba issue (and a "missing-in-action" Cuba Working Group in Congress), a long laundry list of legislative priorities, and (probably most importantly) a mobilized and well-funded pro-embargo opposition have prevented any positive changes in policy from being passed—or even considered. As you can imagine, we are frustrated and we know you must be frustrated too!

Unfortunately, the prospects for passing significant legislation—and signing it into law—that would change policy toward Cuba under the Bush Administration are small. This is a congressional and presidential election year. Members of Congress are focused on the election and on constituents worried about the economy and the war in Iraq. We continue to face obstacles within Congress – an organized and moneyed opposition (in alliance with certain members of the Florida and New Jersey delegations).

But, we cannot give up and yield to our opponents!  With a new President and new members of Congress in 2009 comes another real chance of change in policy. We should also not give up on 2008; we could all be surprised at what possibilities may arise. That's why we need to increase our efforts and ramp up our educational activities with Congress and the public. We need your partnership!

We would like your ideas and suggestions for activities that would keep you engaged and help bring about change to this inhumane and out-dated policy. What would you suggest that we encourage the grassroots to do? You're tired of calling Congress regarding legislation that never even gets considered. What would be some alternatives? You're impatient with a media that ignores the importance of Cuba policy in the U.S.'s relationship with Latin America. How can we get their attention? You're exhausted and disillusioned by a policy that moves in the wrong direction. What activities would give you energy and optimism? You're bored by the same old message. What should be the new spin on why we should change policy? If you have ideas, send them our way! We can be reached at manderson@lawg.org.

As you know, Washington is obsessed with the "transition" in Cuba and is determined to hold off any policy change until Fidel has passed from the scene. Please give us your ideas for actions and advocacy that will debunk this position and make the case that policy change is needed NOW, regardless of the role that Fidel plays in Cuba in the near or distant future. Parliamentary elections are going to be held in Cuba on January 20 (this Sunday). Fidel is on the ballot for membership in the National Assembly; it is unknown whether he will consider continuing to hold the title of President.

Cuba Consultation 2008 in Washington, DC

This spring (exact date to be determined very soon) there will be a Cuba Consultation 2008 in DC, where we would love to see you and other energetic leaders for change in policy. We will strategize on how to continue our public education efforts, how to influence members of Congress, how to communicate to the presidential candidates the message that NOW is the time for change in our Cuba policy, and how to impact the media. Your suggestions for advocacy activities will be welcome additions to our planning for the consultation, and your presence at the consultation is important.

Book Parties for Love, Loss, and Longing
Finally, we are looking to ramp up our efforts on distributing our new publication, Love, Loss and Longing: the Impact of U.S. Travel Policy on Cuban American Families. (If you haven't seen it already, check it out here and order your own copy here. Remember, activists can have the book for half price; just identify yourself on the order form by typing the words "activist discount" in the "Organization" field in the online-order form. We are looking for bookstores in your area that would want to sell the book from their store and/or host book parties. Can you help us? Do you know local bookstores that might host a book party? If so, be in touch with them as a local customer, and send us their contact information so we can be in touch to see if they would be willing to carry the books in their store (as a regular offering, or on consignment) and if they would host a book party. We'll try to travel to as many of the book parties as we are able—to meet with local activists and to promote the book.

Thank you for your patience with the length of this alert! We look forward to hearing back from you.