Saturday, September 4, 2010

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page" - Saint Augustine

Please take a few minutes of your Labor Day weekend to send a letter to President Obama at the White House and Arturo Valenzuela at the State Department expressing your support for an end to the travel ban and an expansion of all kinds of people-to-people contacts between Yumas and Cubanos.

Our policy should aim to empower the Cuban people even if that opening may aid the Cuban government too; instead of our current policy which aims to harm the Cuban regime even if that inflicts collateral damage on the Cuban people.

This just in from John McAuliff.

Not long ago 758 of us sent a letter to President Obama saying "Don't Wait for Congress to Open Travel to Cuba".

Much has changed since the letter was drafted.  News stories have confirmed that the Administration is actively considering new regulations for non-tourist people to people travel.

The reports disagree about when the announcement will be made, who will be included and whether licenses will be given on a specific application case-by-case basis or as a general license that will not require an application by qualified persons or organizations.   The variation in stories may reflect contending positions within the government and in the media, or trial balloons to see what flys best.

My guess is that the President will act in the next ten days, before Congress returns from recess, most likely in the week after Labor Day.  However he will have to ignore intense opposition from the Cuban American quintet in the House and Senate and cautious political advisers who prefer to wait until after the mid-term elections in November.

My hope is that President Obama will not be satisfied simply to return us to Clinton era specific licenses and will follow the general license model he used for family reunion travel and US agricultural producers. 

In response to this dramatic development, we posted a second letter, urging the President to "Be Bold on People to People Travel to Cuba". If you have not already seen it, please take a look:

Modify the text however you wish and send it immediately to the White House.  After that please send the link to personal and professional lists today. Time is of the essence!

Two points in the letter may not be as familiar to you.  Feel free to eliminate them, but here is why they are included:

* Ending the special licensing of Travel Service Providers (TSPs) speaks to the interests of the larger US travel industry but also would have a dramatic impact on the speed, breadth and geographical distribution of people taking advantage of non-tourist travel opportunities.   The TSP license was designed  by OFAC to constrain and surveil travel to Cuba.  Businesses that obtained TSP status because of their committment to use any available legal channel for people to go to Cuba played an essential and often couragous role. They will benefit from their knowledge and experience in a more open market.

* The final point is to address the real frustration of non-governmental organizations that struggle to overcome politicized licensing barriers to greatly needed medical, educational and humanitarian assistance for Cuba.

The Cuban American quintet are so extreme they opposed family travel and will object  to each and every step which empowers people to people contact.   It is in the self-interest of the White House to contend with them only once rather than each time it wants to liberalize travel.   By using the full extent of its power now it will also create a large and energized national consituency for further dialogue and change.

One Miami blogger predicted easing travel, "could have Cuban exiles in Miami rioting fairly soon"  and made clear that no "non-military American presence in Cuba would help speed things up on the road to a Cuban democracy."   Such craziness is as unrepresentative of today's Cuban American community as the more judicious but equally disingenuous words of the quintet when they wrote the President.  

We are deeply troubled that such changes would result in economic benefits to the Cuban regime and would significantly undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives. However, we are also concerned that the reported changes could run contrary to statutory requirements and prohibitions.
   --Senator Robert Menendez, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Dizz-Balart, and Albio Sires

Three leaders of the campaign in Congress to end all restrictions on travel also sent a letter to the President

We want to express our strong support for such changes and encourage you to make the regulations on travel as flexible and broad as existing law allows. We know you have heard from opponents of such action who claim you do not have the authority to make such changes; clearly this is a foolish assertion since no such objections were raised or found valid when these regulations were put in place by President Clinton, nor were any similar objections raised when definitions of travel were altered by the previous Administration.
  --Representatives James McGovern, Jo Ann Emerson and Rosa DeLauro

Take a few moments to have an impact when it counts by writing to the President now: <>

Spend one more multiplier minute by copying and pasting your letter to Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs <WHAAsstSecty@State.Gov>

Thanks for your involvement.  This is a real turning point.
John McAuliff

PS: Stay on top of the debate in Washington on

My most recent post was <>

PPS: Subject to the new regulations, we plan to offer every signer of our letters an opportunity to legally visit Cuba in coming months.


John McAuliff
Executive Director
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
145 Palisade Street, Suite 401
Dobbs Ferry, NY  10522

917-859-9025 (mobile)

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." - Saint Augustine

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