It's time to end the ban on travel to Cuba

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

As a sponsor of legislation to end the ban on travel by Americans to Cuba, I noted a glaring omission in the July 9 editorial "Cuba's gesture." While recognizing the Cuban government's promised prisoner release as a victory for hunger-striking pro-democracy activist Guillermo Fariñas, the editorial implied support for the travel ban -- even though Mr. Fariñas has called for an end to such restrictions. In fact, many of Cuba's pro-democracy activists, independent journalists and bloggers, including Yoani Sanchez, argue that ending the travel ban would help their efforts and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans.

The U.S. government does not use its citizens' right to travel as a bargaining chip when dealing with repressive regimes such as North Korea, Iran, Sudan or Burma -- just Cuba. Arguing that Americans should not visit Cuba unless the Castro government makes concessions is essentially advocating that the Cuban regime should determine when and how Americans travel. And it ignores the wishes of Cuban pro-democracy activists.

I agree that Havana should immediately release American Alan Gross as well as all Cubans detained for their political views. But, like Mr. Fariñas and others in Cuba's opposition, I believe ending the travel ban will help the Cuban people more than it will help their government.

Bill Delahunt, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts' 10th Congressional District and is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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