Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Facts on Cuba Travel

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By U.S. Senator George Lemieux of Florida in The Sun-Sentinel:

U.S. tourist dollars would only tighten Cuba's grip on power
The recent Sun Sentinel editorial, "Lifting ban on travel to Cuba best way to push democratic ideals," fails to consider the most important facts regarding U.S. Cuba policy.

First, tourism travel to Cuba represents the Castro regime's foremost source of income — akin to the energy industry being Iran's foremost source of income and thus the main target of sanctions. Few would disagree that Canadian and European tourists have financed the existence of the Castro regime, and therefore their repression of the Cuban people. For the United States to create a tourism bonanza for the regime at this time would provide the dictatorship an economic lifeline.

Second, to argue that U.S. tourists are going to stir the winds of political and economic change by spreading democratic ideals is unrealistic and insensitive. What could tourists do to surpass the efforts of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Guido Sigler Amaya and other courageous Cubans currently spending decades in prison for advocating democratic ideals?

What change could tourists inspire above that of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died this year after an 85-day hunger strike? What economic or political pressure will tourist dollars bring beyond the five pro-democracy activists who stood on the stairs of the University of Havana last week and demanded freedom for the Cuban people — three of whom are now facing lengthy prison terms? It seems the world could learn a great deal from the inspiring courage and resilience of Cuba's pro-democracy movement, not vice-versa.

Finally, to argue that allowing tourism to Cuba would prevent the Castro regime from "cherry-picking" for travel only "those who are neutral and harbor sympathies towards the regime" is completely misguided. What the Castro regime wants are apolitical and uninformed tourists they can contain in isolated, all-inclusive resorts. Such "easy income" would reduce the regime's reliance on, and likely the frequency of, humanitarian travelers.

Cuba is not a tourist paradise. Behind the curtain of white sandy beaches are people held captive by a brutal regime. U.S. tourist dollars would only serve to tighten the regime's grip on power.

Rather than concede human rights and the rule of law, we should align with pro-democratic movements, instead of giving the Castros the fodder and means to crush them.
S: Capitol Hill Cubans

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