It's Time to End the Cuba Travel Ban (the Embargo Too)

There's a new bipartisan push to finish the dumb law.


By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Might there finally be movement on getting rid of the inane, archaic embargo of Cuba? Senators and House members from both parties are introducing legislation that would blow a pretty big hole in the embargo by allowing U.S. citizens to travel to our southern neighbor.

To be clear: The trade embargo would still be in place, but tourism would be good to go. So a company couldn't do business in Cuba, but any of us could fly down there and flood the place with dollars. It's a start, and I'll take it.

Speaking of floods of dollars, the L.A. Times cites a 2002 study that estimates lifting the travel ban would produced between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion annually and create as many as 23,000 new jobs. I'll take that too.

Of course, much like their nemesis, the anti-Castro hard-liners in Congress hold on:

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) strongly opposes the measure. He warned that flooding Cuba with tourists and dollars would only sustain the Castro regime. ... Martinez accused the Chamber of Commerce and business interests of seeking profits at the expense of freedom and democracy.

"They are not acting from a moral standpoint," he said. "They are simply acting from an economic advantage standpoint."

Three points here: The embargo does more to help the Castro regime than hurt it, by giving the Cuban government a standing excuse for whatever troubles the country has and an enemy against which to rally their citizens.

Second, since Senator Martinez is so concerned about morality of international trade, I assume that he plans to introduce legislation imposing a similar trade and travel embargo on China, right?

Third, speaking of oppressive governments, Kevin Drum makes a great point about the travel ban:

The trade embargo against Cuba has long outlived whatever usefulness it might have had. It accomplishes nothing and has turned us into an international joke. Still, it's well within the bounds of normal international relations. I don't like it, but it's not fundamentally antidemocratic or an assault on basic freedoms.

The travel ban has always been in a separate class. Autocracies and dictatorships control the movements of their subjects, but free citizens of a liberal democracy should be able to travel wherever they want. So whatever happens with the trade embargo, removing the travel ban should be a no-brainer. This is America, not North Korea.


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