[Sun 30 Sep, 17:52]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
The freedom to travel - (12 replies)

I have been to Cuba more than 150 times. It has been a remarkable experience. The Cuban people are among the nicest in the world. The first five years were without problems as President Ford had signed the Helsinki Agreements and then in about March of 1977, President Carter amended the passport act so that Americans could travel to Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam and North Korea. On May 15, 1982, the Reagan-Bush Administration announced Treasury Department travel restrictions (515.560) regarding spending money in Cuba in spite of the fact that in 1962, the Supreme Court had ruled that travel was a Constitutional Right.

I have battled the US government in about 15 courts in an effort to try to get these most precious of liberties restored...but have not been successful so far. In fact, fighting the government's lawyers and judges is pretty much a stacked deck in my opinion.

Back when these restrictions were announced in May of 1982, only about 4-5,000 Americans were visiting Cuba. Last year, 76,898 Americans (other than Cuban Americans) visited Cuba. Only 29,000 licenses were issued by the Treasury OFAC. Now, with the recent crack down by the Bush Administration, travel to Cuba, may be off as much as 70% according to some figures. Of course, the events of September 11 must also figure in.

Isn't it time that Americans stand up and take back their "freedom to travel"? Didn't George W Bush say on September 27, "we will not surrender our freedom to travel"?

When all of these travel restrictions began, the government suggested to the courts that not to worry about the freedom to travel....that this was a one time, one country situation? Since that time, other travel restrictions have been added to more than a dozen different countries.

Isn't it time for all those who post on the LP board about their trips or planned trips to Cuba to discuss how to take back this most precious of liberties?


[Sun 30 Sep, 18:17]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
1. Travel to Cuba

I believe I know who you are. Some friends of mine went on a bass fishing trip with you about 15 years ago. You are more familiar with the fight than I am but don't you think that the most effective way of overturning the OFAC regulations is through lobbying Congress? My representative voted to repeal the travel ban this summer and if it wasn't for the unfortunate events of 11 September there would probably be some proposed legislation floating around the Senate now. Bush's comments about the freedom to travel were indeed ironic and I hope when things settle down we will see a repeal of the restrictions. Your efforts are admirable and should be commended.


[Mon 1 Oct, 05:03]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
2. The Freedom to Travel

To Altahabana

Thanks for your comments. As I see it, there are several problems with regard to the House of Representatives and the Senate. First and foremost, these people are far too busy raising money for their re-election to pay proper attention to the real problems facing this country. When they accept money from an individual or a special interest group....promises are made. Not the fault of those in the Congress but the fault of all of us who have allowed this shameful situation to continue to exist.

This same Cuba travel legislation or similar is presented year after year....always with the same results....it doesn't pass in the end.

Even if the House and Senate both pass it....getting it signed by President Bush is very unlikely. He is too deeply committed to the right wing of the Cuban American Community.

If Americans truly want the "freedom to travel" in times of peace....they will simply have to take it back and show the government of the United States that we want travel rights equal to are broader than the rest of the free world.

A march by Americans down the Malecon in front of the US Interest Section would be a good start.


[Mon 1 Oct, 08:49]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
3. Freedom to help a bloody Dictator

One thing is the concept of freedom to travel to a free country and a much different concept is to travel to an island-prison-bordello in order to prop up a crumbling Communist tyranny with a Dictator at the helm filled with a sick, paranoid hate for this country.
Sorry, amigo, but you're out of luck on this one: your 'crusade' to help fill Fidel's coffers with American tourists dollars is bound to produce no results whatsoever. In fact, it's prospect for success have never been bleeker than today.
By the way, have you done the math on the percentage of Americans travelling to the Cuban Gulag? Wouldn't you agree that it's a miniscule, tiny minority of individuals mostly with a sexual or political agenda to fulfill....?


[Mon 1 Oct, 09:49]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
4. I'm in

I often thought of the same thing (rallying on the malecon). Can we get the ball rolling? I am in to rally or support something new, because I know what is being done now is getting nowhere.


[Mon 1 Oct, 10:06]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
5. Out raising money?

On any given 2 year election cycle there are 30-60 competitive House seats up for grabs, and most of these are "open" seats.


[Mon 1 Oct, 10:13]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
6. Tyranny of the majority

This is a bad time to disagree with the powers that be. They feel like they have a overwhelming mandate and woe to those who are not on board. I feel like Cuba has slipped a notch in the enemies list but since the bar is being raised all over, its unlikely we will see any freedoms restored. More likely we will see them taken away. We are heading for a time of more isolationism.

Thats the short term- in the longer term we will see our freedom to travel to Cuba restored. Its inevitable as polls show all segments of the US population other than the first generation Miami Cubans favor normalization of relations. But as dansnow said the politicians focus on the money, and the first generation Cubans in Florida have been very smart in focusing their contributations and sticking to a litmus test. Myself I would probably NOT vote against my local Senator or Representive for the SOLE reason of their opposal of lifting Cuba sanctions. Although it is a big issue to me and would have some bearing.

As to the time frame of the lifting of sanctions and the ability to travel to Cuba... I think Fidel will live a long time. His parents did and he is very stubborn:) I think it has to do with the age and energy of the first generation Cubans. As they lose it to some degree their influence will slip and common sense will win. And our cold warriors are heading out to pasture as well.

I think one of the main obstacles to normalizing realations will be Fidel. I believe he has used the US as a convenient bogy man to blame and bring the Cuban people together at oppurtune times. He may resist because he will lose a lot of that potential retoric if Cubans are presented with millions of US citizens on their doorsteps every day. And as a practical matter he will become dependent upon our dollars very quickly and will have to resist the impulse to instigate a crisis whenever the spirt calls.

So my guess is we will have slowly unthawing relations in the next several years with the freedom to travel being among the first to be restored. I think this is a issue that easily crosses partisan boundries. Especially when one frames it in terms of "freedom to travel" Rightwingers, leftwingers and especially the sheep in the middle respond to this retoric.

Politicians follow the money, but they also want to vote similarly to what the the people in their district believe. (unless it will hurt their chances to be re-elected)

Bottom line is- this is not a real big issue to most people, so it will be at the mercy of those who feel strongly(First generation Cubans who vote and contribute consistantly) So until they fade away...


[Mon 1 Oct, 12:55]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
7. #3

I find it strange that CANF and it's supporters are doing everything possible to make sure the embargo stays in place yet Cuban Americans contribute more money to Fidel's coffers by remittances and travel to the island than any other group. You can't have it both ways. Well I guess you can.


[Mon 1 Oct, 13:00]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
8. Having it both ways, and then some!

Per capita (per island resident and by immigrant stats), and in actual dollar amounts, Cuban-Americans send back in remittances about HALF of what the Dominicans do.

Half the money - to make their kin starve twice as much? Greedy gusanos do have it both ways, Greslogo. Arent they always bragging about how succesful they are, too?


[Mon 1 Oct, 13:34]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
9. dansnow

In response to #3, I have been to Cuba almost 160 times, about 1600 days. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about Cuba....you have yours....I have mine. In my 24 years of traveling to Cuba, I have heard these same "dictator", "prison" and "Gulag" comments about a zillion times.

The Cuban people I know are among the most delightful I have ever met in my life. I have opened fishing operations in 10 of Cuba's 14 provinces. I am not a communist and have no desire to become one. I was never asked to be. Somewhere between 50 and 100 Cubans were hired as fishing guides, interpreters, drivers, mechanics, cooks, bartenders, waiters and waitresses, etc., in each of these 10 provinces. Most of these Cubans loved it and many still work on these same jobs. They earn tips and are among the highest paid Cubans. On the other hand, some moved to the United States. Some actually moved here, didn't like it and moved back to Cuba.

These Cubans loved the American fishermen and women. The Americans loved them. $millions in humanitarian medicines and food were delivered to the Cuban people by these Americans. Lifetime friendships were established, a few marriages. Life and love are the same everywhere. Some Americans went as many as 40 times....hundreds more than 10 times.

1.774 million tourists visited Cuba last year. About 100,000 Cuban Americans visited. 76,898 Americans other than Cuban Americans visited. We are but a small number compared to the overall number of tourists going to Cuba.

We should all remind ourselves from time to time that more Americans are in prison than citizens of any other country. Amnesty International has about 5 human rights cases they are investigating in Cuba....about 50 in the United States. This is not a perfect world.

I have traveled to many places....many go for the thrill of sex....no matter whether it is Mexico, Costa Rica, Las Vegas, Panama or a downtown topless bar.

Cubans never try to force political talk on Americans. There are 11.3 million Cubans. Those living in the US for the most part originated from the Batista Regime, Mariel and the rafters crisis. Beyond that, about 20,000 Cubans enter the United States legally each year from the immigration lottery. Several hundred others come with the people smugglers and take advantage of our "wet foot-dry foot" policy.

On the other hand, thousands of Ameicans leave the United States every year and renounce their citizenship.

In reality...there are two sides to every story. Lots of Americans want to move to Cuba...many Cubans want to move to the United States.

If we really want to improve the lives of Cubans....it can be done by one million Americans visiting Cuba every year. The policy we have used in the past 40 years is a total failure. Some polls say 12 million Americans want to go. That would work and changes would come about quickly, in my opinion.


[Mon 1 Oct, 13:55]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
10. I think

we met briefly in Havana last year at Partagas. We have some mutual friends.

All the best in your endevours.


[Mon 1 Oct, 19:08]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
11. Thanks Dan

It's been a long time since we've had such an informed commentary as yours on the Thorntree Dan. I have no doubt that the TT has never had one by a person as well informed about all aspects of Cuba and the Cuban culture as yourself.

As I read your post, I found myself agreeing with everything you said. Specially your comments abut the Cuban people and what a remarkable experience traveling to Cuba has been.

I would like to thank you for information you provided to me a few years back directing me to the Center for Constitutional Rights for assistance with my problem with OFAC.

The lawyer to whom you directed me was Gabor Rona. He was extremely helpful, and the CCR lost a terrific person when he left for a new job in Geneva, Switzerland.

It's certainly a plesant surprise to see you offering your thoughts and commentary to the readers of the Cuba branch of TT. I hope that I and others are fortunate enough to see more of your posts here in the future.

I would send these thoughts to you in an email rather than a public forum, but I seem to have lost your email address somehow over the past few years.

Thanks again for your kind and generous assistance in the past with my problem with OFAC. I wish you continued success in every aspect of your life. Su amigo de la red.


[Tue 2 Oct, 11:13]
PST (Gumly Gumly -17)
12. freedom of travel

I think a good way to put it is that the current policy isn't much of an attack on Cuba, whatever your feelings toward the current government is, but IS an attack on the freedom of american citizens. I hope you suceed in overturning the ridiculous travel embargo.