Continuing the thaw in US-Cuba relations, representatives from each government recently met in New York, New York.

"The two sides used the one-day meeting on Monday to reaffirm their commitment to promote ‘safe, orderly and legal migration’, according to statements by the US state department and the Cuban foreign ministry."

Though the Cuban rep called the meeting "fruitful," one suspects the waters between Havana and Miami will be populated with makeshift rafts for some time to come. Cubans still require explicit government permission to leave the country, and the highly selective granting of such permission is seemingly all that prevents an exodus to the US; those not digging the austerity implied in revolutionary solidarity are legion.

In late June the US Office of Foreign Asset Control deigned to bestow upon me permission to travel to Cuba and to spend my hard-earned money there. In my many conversations with Cubans, beef with their government was near ubiquitous, and the vast majority spoke of the United States with moonbeams in their eyes and manna on their breath. It’s easy to forget, but oftentimes even those we oppress see us as the promised land.

Upon the arrival of my return flight, the attendant got on the horn and wished a hearty congratulations to two of my fellow passengers – Cubans who had received their government’s permission to immigrate to the US (no small feat). The whole plane erupted in applause and, seated next to the dewy-eyed immigrants, I was touched, to say the least.

But laying aside the thornier issue of immigration, there is good reason to believe that leisure and business travel will become much more common in the near future. In the upcoming issue of Americas Quarterly, a Western Hemisphere policy publication (my day job, hitting news stands and the intertubes Monday), Dick Lugar, the Ranking Minority Member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the most senior Republican in the US Senate, says that the travel ban to Cuba could be lifted before the end of this session (!).

His reasoning against the travel ban is water-tight:

Senator Lugar: Economic sanctions are a legitimate tool of U.S. foreign policy and they have sometimes achieved their aims, as in the case of apartheid in South Africa. After 47 years, however, the unilateral embargo on Cuba has failed to achieve its stated purpose of “bringing democracy to the Cuban people,” while it may have been used as a foil by the regime to demand further sacrifices from Cuba’s impoverished population. The current U.S. policy has many passionate defenders, and their criticism of the Castro regime is justified. Nevertheless, we must deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests. Trade and travel are at the core of effective reform.

AQ:?What do you believe is the likely schedule for the discussion and vote on either of these bills (Senate bill S.1089 and S.428, to lift travel restrictions on U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba and facilitate U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba)?

Lugar:?I hope during this session of Congress.

The end of one of our most persistent wrong-headed and counterproductive policies may be at hand. It’s about damn time.

Lance Steagall

Lance Steagall

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