Now, there is hope on the horizon for normal travel to Cuba with the election of a Democratic-controlled Congress and with Cuban President Fidel Castro showing fraility after six-and-a-half decades in power. Things finally appear to be shifting. HR 654, submitted on January 24 by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel, states, “The President shall not regulate or prohibit, directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents, or any of the transactions incident to such travel.” It has reportedly gained bipartisan co-sponsorship from more than 60 Representatives, and a similar bill is to be considered by the Senate at the end of this month.
The limited travel currently permitted requires US travel agents booking trips to Cuba, to have a license as a “Travel Service Provider” — and that seems to go just to organizers of medical or religious travel and trips for various other approved purposes. The new legislation, if approved, would also permit the use of US credit cards for travel to Cuba. It does not, however, lift the trade embargo, so don’t expect to see Cuban cigars at US tobacconists in the near future.
America’s obsessive blacklisting, blackballing and isolation of Cuba is a case of this country going it largely alone. Many countries (and most who count, economically) already have normal relations with Cuba. Their citizens happily vacation at resorts along the Cuban coast. American citizens who wish to do so take the risk of punishment by our government. Americans who want to travel there do so via Mexico, as my friend did, Canada or even Spain. The US public does seem to seems ready to resume normal relations with our neighbor to the south, with some two-thirds of Americans in favor of a major policy shift, according to CNN, Gallup and Associated Press polls. About half of all Cuban-Americans, painted by politicians with an agenda of continued isolation of Cuba, reportedly support ending all travel restrictions.
The Travel Committee on Cuba (TICC), a group of travel agents, lusts after the opening of a new tropical destination so close to American shores. No longer totally put off by government accusations of being unpatriotic, travel professionals now are talking about “direct contact between people,” “understanding” and “goodwill.” Most In truth, hordes of American tourists carrying American plastic and American greenbacks do more to “open” a country than any political posturing about “anti-Communism.” Vietnam and even China prove that tourist and trade dollars are the most effective way of “opening” a country considered to be hostile.