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, 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.