Travel to Cuba
by Marc Becker
On October 10, President George W. Bush announced a strengthening of increased restrictions on travel to Cuba. He stated that these and other initiatives were “intended to hasten the arrival of a new, free, democratic Cuba.”
Only two weeks later, on October 23, 19 Republican Senators joined Democrats in voting to bar the use of government funds to enforce these travel restrictions. On September 9, Republicans in the House of Representatives had passed the same legislation, as they have done every year since 2000. If enacted, this would essentially end a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba that has been in place since 1962. Unfortunately, in a subversion of the democratic process, on November 12 congressional Republican leaders removed this language from the appropriations bill (conference committees are only to reconcile differences in bills, not to remove identical language as they did in this case).
Bush’s rhetoric, while far from being empty, was a pandering to the Miami vote in order to shore up his support in Florida which is key to his strategy for wining the 2004 presidential elections. Pundits commented on the split within the Republican Party between Bush’s electoral interests and the imperial commercial interests of conservative representatives such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) who wish to relax trade restrictions with Cuba so that agribusinesses like ADM and Cargill can export grain to the country.
The issues at stake here, however, go beyond the debate whether the best way to recolonize Cuba is through starving the country (a policy that has failed for the last 40 years and undoubtedly will continue to fail) or through flooding the country with U.S. capital (something that led to the Cuban Revolution in the first place).
In addition to travel restrictions, Bush announced measures “to break the information embargo that the Cuban government has imposed on its people.” But, one must ask, what does the Bush administration fear in preventing U.S. citizens from discovering firsthand what is happening in Cuba? Bush lets us know: “repressive governments fear the truth.”
The truth that George Bush does not want U.S. citizens to know is that in Cuba everyone is guaranteed universal health care, and that it has one of the best health care systems in the world. If a poor, third-world country can do that, why can’t the richest, most industrialized country in the world provide for its own citizens? He does not want us to know that Cuba enjoys full employment, or that the highest paid employee in a company only earns four times more than the lowest paid employee (and not 12 times more as at Truman, for 400+ times more as in many U.S. corporations). These are concrete measurements of equality that continue to elude us.
As Bush said on October 10, “This country loves freedom and we know that the enemy of every tyrant is the truth.” The best way to find out the truth about Cuba is to challenge the will of an unelected and repressive tyrant and join the tens of thousands of U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba every year. After all, this is what Colin Powell encourages us to do when on the first page of our passports he states “The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance.”
In thwarting the will of congress, one senior Republican staff member noted a refusal “to put a bill on the floor that potentially embarrasses the president.” It is time for us to demand our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms before a repressive tyrant deprives us of the remaining remnants of our democracy.