End The Cuba Travel Ban

In a Montreal bookstore I saw something I’ve never seen in the United States: shelf upon shelf of Cuba guidebooks. That’s because Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, is a forbidden land for American citizens.

When the U.S. travel ban on Cuba is mentioned, literal-minded people are quick to point out that it’s not a travel ban – it’s an economic embargo. So they argue that there’s nothing to prevent  Americans from traveling to Cuba, only a law forbidding them to spend money there. But let’s examine this supposed distinction.

From the U.S. Department of State website:

The Regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any travel-related transactions related to travel to, from, and within Cuba.  Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable.

So you need a license to go to Cuba and it won’t be granted for leisure travel. In fact, the circumstances under which a license will be granted are very limited. And, it turns out, subject to fraud.

So, I think it really is a travel ban. And it is unique.

There is no other nation on earth that our government forbids us to visit. Not North Korea, not even Iran. Those countries may or may not let us in, but our government does not forbid us to go. And that’s an important distinction.

I’m no fan of Fidel Castro, who has 24 of my fellow journalists in prison for the crime of disagreeing with him. For that reason alone, I would probably not visit Cuba. That’s between me and my conscience. Other Americans may examine their consciences and reach a different conclusion.

That’s why I like being an American – it comes with the freedom to follow my conscience. That’s the freedom that Fidel Castro denies Cubans. It’s the freedom that our government denies us, ironically, only in relation to Cuba.

After 44 years, it’s time to end the ban.


5 thoughts on “End The Cuba Travel Ban

  1. Carlos Orta

    The US Embargo and travel ban has never and will never cause change in Cuba. It on exists because Cuban Americans don’t like the idea of providing funds to the Cuban government, not because they think the policy will ever work and the politicians want to please them. America has to realize the only chance for the US to have influence in the future in Cuba is through engagement and not isolation.

  2. L G

    I totally agree and pray daily for this ban to be lifted. I do travel to Cuba and have been there 8 times in the last 1 1/2 years. I do have a “Religious License” but it will expire in a few months and now our Government has tightened up it’s restrictions and I just pray I can get it renewed.
    Cuba is an incredibly beautiful island and it’s people are, as well. It’s so sad that 90%, if not more, Americans don’t have a clue about Cuba or what it’s all about outside of Fidel.

  3. LatAm

    The travel ban infringes on our right to travel. But there’s more to the blockade than the travel ban. The blockade seeks to strangle the Cuban economy in order to create misery and chaos enough to force people into an uprising or even a civil war. After that, the ultra-conservatives in Miami would take over and create a model neoliberal economy such as Paul Bremer sought to create in Iraq: privatize all state holdings and sell off the best pieces to US corporations with the help of government cronies, who become instant millionaires for their cooperation. Your tax dollars at work.
    It’s not about achieving “free” elections. The US recognizes constitutions and elections only insofar as the results are to its liking; otherwise, “regime change” is in order. Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Brazil, Chile, and so on are examples of this. At the same time, the worst kind of dictators become friends, so long as in their countries the dollar can reign: Trujillo, Batista, the Duvaliers, Somoza, Stroessner, and the variety of military juntas in the Southern Cone and Central America are examples.
    For Latin America, poverty, illiteracy, illness, homelessness, inequality, and the exploitation of native peoples are OK with the US, as long as neoliberal economics rule, providing resources, markets, and cheap labor to transnational corporations. As far as the US is concerned, Cuba’s hard-headed independence sets a dangerous example, and that’s one reason why the government has decided that US citizens must be quarantined from exposure to it.
    Let’s not stop with the travel ban. Let’s look at the full US policy towards other countries in the region.

  4. Jorge

    I find your statement “I’m no fan of Fidel Castro, who has 24 of my fellow journalists in prison for the crime of disagreeing with him.”
    rather unconvincing.
    Did you know that the U.S. government pays “journalists” to write stories that spread lies about the Cuban government?
    Have you ever written a column about that?

  5. Jeanne Leblanc

    I blog about travel, and this discussion is probably as close as I want to get to any political issues. In fact, I was a bit reluctant to blog on this topic because I don’t want to start a political argument.
    I simply believe that all Americans should have the right to go where they choose, including Cuba. So far, the comments have been in support of that idea.
    I added my own reservations about Castro because I want to make it clear that I’m actually kind of neutral on this topic. I’m not advocating going to Cuba. I’m not advocating not going to Cuba. I’m advocating my right to make that choice.
    So, no, I won’t blog about the Radio Marti scandal, although I know about it. But I’d certainly advocate anybody’s right to read about it and, especially, to travel around and talk about it.


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