Political prisoners in Cuba

Cuba travel ban to be discussed in Washington

Posted on Thursday, 11.19.09
Cuba travel ban to be discussed in Washington
BY LESLEY CLARK
lclark@miamiherald.com

WASHINGTON — Proponents of lifting the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba will
make their case Thursday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The hearing comes as proponents of greater engagement with Cuba say
they've got their best shot at success in years. The panel's chair, Rep.
Howard Berman, D-Calif., has already endorsed lifting the ban, calling
it a throwback to the “chilliest periods of the Cold War.''

In a Miami Herald opinion piece, Berman suggested that contact between
Cubans and “ordinary Americans'' could “help break Havana's chokehold
on information about the outside world.''

The list of witnesses reflects Berman's interest: Those testifying in
support of lifting the ban include retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the
former U.S. drug czar and commander of the U.S. Southern Command; Miriam
Leiva, a founding member of the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White;
Ignacio Sosa, a board member of Friends of Caritas Cubana, a
Massachusetts nonprofit; and Phil Peters, a Cuba analyst at the
Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

Those opposed include James Cason, former chief of the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana and president of the Center for a Free Cuba, and Berta
Antunez, the sister of former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez.

Proponents say the hearing is a first — efforts to lift the travel ban
have cleared the House in the past, but only tucked into larger spending
bills. This time, a bill to repeal the decades-old ban has attracted
nearly 180 supporters. The committee won't vote on any legislation, but
supporters said they hope the hearing is a first step.

“A new policy toward Cuba early in 2010 would have an impact well
beyond Cuba; it would send a strong signal to our South and Central
American neighbors that a new day has dawned in the United States in
relation to Latin America as a whole,'' said Mavis Anderson, senior
associate at the Latin American Working Group, which backs lifting the ban.

But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, who supports keeping the ban
until Cuba embraces democracy, said she's confident backers of the ban
have the votes. “I don't think the votes have shifted,'' Ros-Lehtinen
said Wednesday at a briefing she convened to suggest Cuba is a security
threat to the United States. “I feel confident we can beat it back.''

Cuba travel ban to be discussed in Washington – Cuba – MiamiHerald.com
(19 November 2009)
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/cuba/story/1341647.html

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