A bill quietly introduced last week while Congress was mired in stimulus debate could end the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba.
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, introduced by nine House lawmakers on Feb. 4, would allow American citizens unrestricted travel to Cuba for the first time since 1963. Sponsored by Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and eight co-sponsors, it would also lift limits on travel by Cuban exiles living in the United States.
The bill was first described in a story by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Tuesday. It also designates that the president would not be able to regulate travel to the island unless an armed conflict or armed danger arises.
"It's a betrayal and it's not going to resolve anything," said Jose Lopez, president of the Broward County (Fla.) Latin Chamber of Commerce, who left Cuba in 1961.
"It's improper and should not be allowed until the Cuban government makes some reforms," 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, he said.
Both men fear that 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.
As a candidate for the presidency, Barack 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.
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