December 2008
Position Papers

Lifting Restrictions on Travel and Remittances to Cuba

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The Cuba Study Group recommends that the United States unilaterally lift all restrictions that limit the ability of U.S. persons (citizens and residents) to travel to Cuba. We also recommend the elimination of restrictions on remittances to Cuba in order to authorize all U.S. persons to freely and without limitations send remittances to individuals on the island, with sensible exceptions. We believe such steps are not only consistent with the values of the United States, but also that they will allow U.S. nationals to help the long-suffering people of Cuba and will strengthen the internal pro-democracy movement.

Current U.S. restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba are principally designed to deny income to the Castro government with the hopes of furthering regime change. Not only has this strategy infringed on the rights of U.S. persons, but it has also isolated the United States from the Cuban people and the international community. Additionally, these policies have further isolated Cubans living on the island today from the world, the United States and, in particular, from their own family and friends within the Cuban-American community.

Policies that restrict contact between Cubans on both sides of the Florida straits contribute to the division of Cuban families and make necessary processes of national reconciliation more difficult. For these and other reasons, restrictions on family travel and remittances enacted by the Bush administration in 2004 have proven unpopular within the Cuban émigré community in the United States. A poll conducted in March 2007 by the Florida International University demonstrated that 60.2 percent of Cuban-Americans support returning to the pre-2004 rules that governed Cuban-American travel and remittances.1 Even more important, almost all leading democracy advocates and civil society leaders in Cuba today—even those who have been most supportive of U.S policy in the past—have asked the U.S. government to lift travel and remittance restrictions applied to Cuban-Americans. Ultimately, families on and off the island are suffering the consequences of these measures.

Perhaps even more fundamentally, the 2004 restrictions on travel and remittances enacted by executive order of the President—in addition to the restrictions in effect before—infringe on the rights of U.S. persons and their families. The U.S. government does not restrict travel to any other country in the world, not even to those on the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.2 Only in Cuba’s case does the U.S. government regulate the rights of persons to visit their families. U.S. persons can serve as meaningful ambassadors of U.S. values and culture. They can help empower civil society networks by transferring technology, information and resources and can help dispel 50 years of Cuban government propaganda aimed at vilifying the United States and its values. Therefore, the United States should unilaterally remove travel and remittance restrictions on all U.S. persons and not only Cuban-Americans.

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