One Party, One Agenda.
In the first effort from Congress to end the embargo against Cuba since President Barack Obama started to lobby against it, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation Thursday that would allow U.S. citizens to vacation in Cuba.
Under Obama’s new rules, tourism remains prohibited and only congressional action can lift the embargo. U.S. citizens are allowed to travel to Cuban only if they fit one of the 12 approved categories, which include educational and humanitarian trips.
If the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 passes, tourists would be able to just book their flights and hotels legally online.
The exchange of ideas and values via people-to-people travel can have a far greater, positive impact than the decades-old failed policy of isolation,” the bill proposal’s summary says.
The eight senators — half Republicans and half Democrats — backing the lift of the tourism ban are Jeff Flake, of Arizona; Jerry Moran, of Kansas; Michael Enzi, of Wyoming; John Boozman, of Arkansas; Patrick Leahy, of Vermont; Richard Durbin, of Illinois; Tom Udall, of New Mexico and Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island.
“We have tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” Flake said. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.”
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Mark Sanford and Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern plan to introduce a similar bill next week. The legislation would also allow tourism-related banking transactions.[…]
The change in policy defies Sen. Marco Rubio and other Cuban-Americans who support the embargo and fear that U.S. tourism will strengthen the repressive Castro regime and hurt dissenters.
With a bit of mistrust, Fidel Castro approved. “El Che” Guevara’s daughter said that if her father was alive, he would too approve of the talks. The sole mention of their names can still be explosive in Miami’s Little Havana.
The Wednesday announcement of the lawmakers’ plan to unveil the bill came hours after Cuban President Raul Castro mentioned his list of demands during a speech in front of Latin American heads of state attending a summit in San Jose, Costa Rica.[…]
Mastercard plans to lift the ban on transactions in Cuba March 1. And American Express is preparing to do the same.
Airline executives from American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue were preparing to add more flights to Cuba from Miami International Airport.
In Cuba, the unofficial tourist guides known as “Jineteros” expect good times. Like hustlers, they make their money from wrestling tips, selling counterfeit goods, drugs and sometimes from prostitution.
There is fear among some tourism industry experts, who are concerned that the current infrastructure won’t be able to keep up. Old plumbing, air conditioners, washcloths, taxi cabs and Wi-Fi can be unreliable.