- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

There is much anticipation that President Obama will use the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas to announce the lifting of Cuba travel and family-remittance restrictions for Cuban-Americans.

Although a welcome step toward crafting a common-sense U.S. policy toward Cuba, it is not enough. As a Cuban American, I benefit from the removal of these restrictions but am uncomfortable that my fellow Americans are denied the right to travel to Cuba by virtue of not having relatives living on the island.

Moreover, Cuba is the only country to which our government restricts travel by American citizens, a policy that makes little geopolitical sense.

One might think Cuban-Americans oppose lifting travel restrictions for all Americans, but the evidence suggests otherwise. A December poll by Florida International University showed that 67 percent of all Cuban-Americans support unrestricted travel to Cuba by all Americans. This is a substantial increase over the 55 percent who favored removing such restrictions when the same question was asked by the university in March 2007.

Congress appears to be listening. The House and Senate have each introduced legislation titled “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act,” which proposes to lift all restrictions on travel to Cuba by American citizens. The proposed act has garnered an impressive 121 co-sponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate from across the ideological spectrum.

Passage of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act would be an important step in lessening the isolation of the Cuban people at a time of change on the island. Isolation is also a two-way street, and the current travel restrictions have isolated the United States from Cubans likely to play leadership roles in a post-Castro Cuba.

We do not know how the Castro regime will respond to a unilateral lifting of American travel restrictions. However, such a move, at minimum, will heighten existing pressure on the Cuban government to grant greater freedom for its citizens to travel abroad.

The Cuban government's response is not as important as ensuring that U.S. policy on Cuba is consistent with our values and possessive of common-sense objectives.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act is an important opportunity to end the isolation of the American and Cuban people from each other and bring new thinking to our relations with Cuba. All Americans should support passage of this important legal initiative.

Ignacio Sosa serves on the board of directors of several Cuba-related charities.

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