By Alexia Campbell
South Florida Sun Sentinel, February 10, 2009
While most of the nation focused on the stimulus bill winding through Congress, nine representatives introduced a bill calling for an end to the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba.
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4 would allow American citizens unrestricted travel to Cuba for the first time since 1963. The bill by Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and eight co-sponsors would also lift limits on travel by Cuban exiles living in the United States. The president would not be able to regulate travel to the island unless an armed conflict or armed danger arises. The bill has gone too far, said Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation. Cuban exiles should visit their families whenever they want, but tourists shouldn't spend money in resorts that Cubans are barred from. "It's improper and should not be allowed until the Cuban government makes some reforms," he said.
That's not the case for Jose Lopez, president of the Broward County Latin Chamber of Commerce and a staunch supporter of the trade embargo. "It's a betrayal and it's not going to resolve anything," said Lopez, who left Cuba in 1961. Tourism dollars spent in Cuba will inject more oxygen into the dying Castro regime, he said. Lopez also thinks Cuban exiles who want to return to the island whenever they please are abusing their refugee privilege. Many expect President Barack Obama to back a change in the policy. As a candidate for the presidency, Obama spoke in favor of reducing restrictions on remittances and travel to the island. Co-sponsors to the bill include representatives Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Ron Paul, R- Texas.
Alexia Campbell can be reached at apcampbell@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4513.
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