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Floor Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi  

Introduction of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act
March 1, 2007

Mr. ENZI: Mr. President, today I am pleased to introduce the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act with Senator Dorgan and a number of Senators.  This legislation addresses only the travel provisions of our Cuba policy. 

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act is very straightforward. It states that the President should not prohibit, either directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens.

I have had the opportunity to watch what has happened with Cuba through the years and I am reminded of something my dad used to say - if you keep on doing what you have always been doing, you are going to wind up getting what you already got.

That has been the situation with the United States policy on Cuba .  We have been trying the same thing for over 40 years, and our strategy has not worked.  I am suggesting a change to get a more people in Cuba to increase the dialogue.  

Most of us know that Fidel Castro’s health is not good and that he ceded power to his brother Raul last year.  I have heard arguments that now is not the time to change our policy toward Cuba , and that by changing policy, we could strengthen Raul’s grip on the nation.  This is the same argument we have been hearing for the last 40 years, simply a new verse.

When we stop Cuban-Americans from bringing financial assistance to their families in Cuba, end the people-to-people exchanges, and stop the sale of agricultural and medicinal products to Cuba , we are not hurting the Cuban government – we are hurting the Cuban people.  We are further diminishing their faith and trust in the United States and reducing the strength of the ties that bind the people of our two countries.

If we allow travel to Cuba, if we increase trade and dialogue, we take away the Cuban government's ability to blame the hardships of the Cuban people on the United States .  In a very real sense, the more we work to improve the lives of the Cuban people, the more we will reduce the level and the tone of the rhetoric used against us by the Cuban government.

It is time for a different policy – one that goes further than embargoes and replaces a restrictive and confusing travel policy with a new one that will more effectively help us to achieve our goal of sharing democratic ideas with the people of Cuba .

The bill we are introducing today makes real change in our Cuba travel policy toward that will lead to real change for the people of Cuba . What better way to let the Cuban people know of our concern for their plight than for them to hear it from their friends and extended family from the United States .  Let them hear it from the American people who will go there.  The people of this country are our best ambassadors and we should let them show the people of Cuba what we as a nation are all about.  If we want to give the Cuban people real knowledge of the truth about America , we need to have Americans go there to share it. 

Unilateral sanctions stop not just the flow of goods, but the flow of ideas – ideas of freedom and democracy are the keys to positive change in any nation.  The rest of the world is not doing what we are doing.  Countries around the world are trading with Cuba, investing in Cuba, and allowing their citizens to visit Cuba .  China, Venezuela, and Iran are becoming the largest investors on the island.  These nations are in a position to directly influence the future of Cuba .  Americans are nowhere to be found.

Keeping the door closed and yelling at the Castro government on the other side does nothing to spread democracy and does nothing to help the people of Cuba . Let us do something, let us open the door and talk to the Cuban people.
I encourage all of my colleagues to take a look at this legislation and join me in this effort.  I yield the floor.