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US Congress May Overturn the Cuba Travel Ban by the End of the Year

  • 23-Sep-09 11:52
  • Cuba
  • Holiday Industry

According to Sam Farr, a California Democrat, the legislation needed to end the ban for Americans travelling to Cuba has enough support in the U.S. House of Representatives to win approval by the end of this year.

US Congress May Overturn the Cuba Travel Ban by the End of the Year

California Democrat and U.S. House Representative Sam Farr, has very high hopes for the US ban on Cuba travel for American citizens finally coming to its end very soon. As soon as by the end of year he expects that the legislation needed to pass to lift the ban will have enough support in the U.S. House Representatives to win the majority approval needed.

The bill that will let U.S citizens resume travel to Cuba and be able to enjoy Cuba holidays already has 181 votes in the House and needs 218 to pass, said Farr who is also a co-sponsor of the legislation. The plan to promote the end of the Cuba travel restrictions is backed by travel groups such as the United States Tour Operators Association and the National Tour Association. The movement also has support from human rights groups such as the Washington Office on Latin America and has been helped by President Barack Obama’s election, Farr explained.

“It is believed we can get to this before the end of the year,” Farr, 68, said in an interview in New York. “We haven’t had a policy about Cuba. We’ve had policies about getting votes in Florida and Obama changed that by getting those votes.”

“If you are a potato, you can get to Cuba very easily,” he added “But if you are a person, you can’t, and that is our problem.”

Obama already is under pressure from many Latin American leaders who demand change in the U.S. attitude towards Cuba and plead for the end to the trade embargo to help improve relations in the Americas. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will ask Obama to end the embargo during the United Nations General Assembly this week, spokesman Marcelo Baumbach said on 17 September.

Obama already took the first step in easing the U.S.-Cuba relations by ending the restrictions on Cuba travel for Cuban-Americans and allowing money remittances to their relatives in Cuba. The new rules also allowed U.S. telecommunications companies to provide service in Cuba for mobile telephone, satellite radio and television.

Pushing forward the Cuba holidays appeal for U.S. citizens, a group of House and Senate lawmakers proposed in March the end to the restrictions that banned all U.S. citizens and residents to travel to Cuba. Farr said the legislation, known as the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act,” also has enough votes to clear the Senate, where Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Republican Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming introduced the legislation.

“There’s a lot more openness in the Congress,” Geoff Thale, program director in the Washington Office on Latin America, declared during an interview in New York. “Support is building. The travel industry and business community are not just formally in support but actively engaged. That’s why I think we’re going to see a difference.”

Ending the Cuba Travel ban for Americans is expected to motivate as many as over 1 million U.S. citizens to take Cuba holidays every year, declared Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association.

Thale added that Obama’s administration has been showing a “gradual relaxation and diplomatic opening” He continued to cite the government’s decision to reinitiate talks on migration and direct mail, and also to put down the billboard operated by the U.S. government outside its special interests section in Havana, which he said often displayed anti-Cuba messages.

So far, all we can do as spectators is wait and see, but it looks as though the dream of Cuba holidays for Americans may soon become a much awaited reality.

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