Posts in travel regulations

Will Ily Intimidate Obama on Cuba?

The Minnesota Post reports that Rep. Collin Peterson has acknowledged that his bill to lift the Cuba travel ban and facilitate food exports to the island will die at the end of this Congress.

Asked if his bill still had a hope of passage, Peterson replied, "Nope, they won't bring it up." Peterson has predicted in the past that the bill has the votes on the floor of the House, and although it cleared his House Agriculture Committee, it stalled in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

"They're bringing up all this other stuff that's not going to pass, you know, they found a way to bring up the DREAM act that's got no chance in the Senate, it's crazy," he said.

He’s got a point there.  This bill would have the votes (which the Senate companion bill’s chief sponsor, Byron Dorgan, said he has) to break a Senate filibuster.  But can anyone remember the last actual filibuster to take place in the Senate? Nowadays all you have to do is threaten. 

As this Congress draws to a close, and Peterson’s effort with it, The Miami Herald’s Lesley Clark blogs on who’s got plenty of reason to celebrate – the pro-embargo U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC.  The PAC will hold its annual luncheon, celebrating its allies in Congress, who will now include Marco Rubio in the Senate, and David Rivera in the House (and don't forget, Ily, as Democrat and felllow Committee member Eliot Engel affectionately calls her, will now chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mario Diaz-Balart will land a seat on Appropriations).

"It's a three pronged celebration," said PAC director Mauricio Claver-Carone, noting that Lincoln Diaz-Balart would be thanked for his service and Rubio and Rivera welcomed to Congress. And three? "Having survived the 111th Congress."

At the start of this Congress nearly years ago, embargo fans were indeed staring down the barrel of a gun: a newly elected President who’d been critical of the embargo and won Florida without a majority of its Cuban American votes, flanked by a Democratic-controlled House and Senate, chock full of Cuba policy reformers whose day (you’d think) had finally come. Afterall, hardliners came so close to losing the travel ban battle in the early 2000’s that the near misses inspired creation of the PAC to shore up support for the embargo.  

So where does that leave the reformers? 

Cuban Americans Vote With Their Feet Against The Travel Prohibition.

The flights from Miami to Cuba go full of Cuban Americans.


On Friday, November 5, Foreign Policy published my article “Not Your Father’s Cuba”. In it, I argued that the election of Cuban American Senator Marco Rubio and the rise of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to lead the Committee of Foreign Relations of the House of Representatives did not mean that the Cuban American community, much less the American people, were giving Congress a mandate to implement their ideas about U.S. policy towards Cuba.

Judy Gross Wants Action on Cuba, While Obama Sweetens a Deal for Sudan

Yesterday's Miami Herald featured a plea from Judy Gross, wife of the American USAID subcontractor who has been held in Cuba for 11 months (under investigation and without any formal charges filed yet), to Presidents Obama and Castro to "be different than your predecessors, change the tide of bilateral relations." 

"This is my plea to Presidents Obama and Castro: Be different from your predecessors, change the tide of bilateral relations. I call on President Obama, in whom my husband believes so much, to not forget his pledge of a “new beginning” in relations with Cuba. And I call on President Castro to continue working on improving Cuba’s human rights record. To both, I beg: Do not make Alan’s case an excuse to fall further apart, but rather an example of a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations."
Mrs. Gross's plea marks the family's decision to break from the State Department's ineffective 'don't look at me' posturing. Instead, Mrs. Gross has decided to publicly address the root causes for her husband's detention: namely U.S. intervention in Cuban internal affairs (by contracting people like her husband to enter Cuba on tourist visas and offer sophisticated communications technology  - friends in Cuba tell me he was carrying BGANs - that would raise eyebrows in any country), and the two countries' deeply rooted mistrust for one another. 
Your heart goes out to the family.  Whatever they may or may not have understood about the risks of traveling to a foreign country, funded by the mortal enemy of that foreign country, they surely didn't contemplate Alan Gross missing his 40th wedding anniversary this summer and being away from his daughter in her time of greatest need (the Gross' 26 year-old daughter was just diagnosed with breast cancer).  What's worse is that the U.S. government, which could so easily offer a gesture of good will to Cuba in hopes of encouraging the release of Mr. Gross, has done literally the opposite, seemingly oblivious to the central role it plays in the case.
I've often wondered whether the Obama administration's weakness on Cuba isn't due to something bigger than Miami.  Afterall, post midterm elections, holding off on new rules to encourage academic and cultural travel to the island not only didn't help Joe Garcia win a seat in Congress, it may have harmed him.  Garcia, who repeatedly told supporters new Cuba travel rules were on their way back in August, was obviously swept away by the same anti-incumbent tide as dozens of other Democratic candidates, but on Cuba, he took a bold (for him) stand, and the administration left him looking out of the loop and unable to influence the White House on a signature issue for him.  So I just don't buy that this weakness on Cuba is all about protecting the Joe Garcias out there.
When you take a look at Obama's foreign policy ventures of the past 18 months, most if not all of them (but one) have something in common: a willingness to deal, to engage, to compromise.  There's a willingness to give something up - something that might hurt, that might make the President look less "tough" - in order to get something.  Here's the latest example: