Proposed bill would lift travel ban to Cuba

thF31JXFL6WASHINGTON — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would lift the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba.

Senate Bill 299, the Freedom to Travel in Cuba Act, would remove the 50-year-old prohibition on travel to the Caribbean island nation and also remove restrictions on transactions related to that travel.

In its letter this week to Leahy and Flake, the Chamber said Cuba is the only country where “the U.S. Government restricts travel by American citizens, who are free to travel even to Iran and North Korea.”

The business organization, with more than 3 million members, said current travel restrictions put U.S. companies at a disadvantage when attempting to export to Cuba. (Currently, U.S. businesses can only export food, agricultural products and medical supplies).

The Chamber also argued that lifting the ban would boost the travel and tourism economies of both countries.

“An increase in U.S. citizens traveling to the island would create a demand for more and higher quality American food products for tourists,” R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, wrote in his Feb. 3 letter to Leahy and Flake.

Josten said an increase in American tourists would lead to an improved standard of living for Cubans and would further the move toward democracy.

“Lifting the travel ban would allow the American people the opportunity to serve as ambassadors of democracy and freedom and American businesses to spread the values of entrepreneurship and free enterprise,” he said.

Efforts to lift the travel ban and trade embargo are opposed by Cuban-American lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. They argue that normalizing relations with the Castro regime is a one-way street that will only further entrench the repressive regime.
Times Argus
February 6, 2015

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