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Washington, D.C. – "If you keep on doing what you have always have been doing then you are going to wind up getting what you have already got."

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said his father's saying nicely sums up what the U.S. is accomplishing with its Cuba policy.

Enzi and Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., Larry Craig, R-Idaho, Mark Dayton, D-Minn. and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., introduced a bill today that would make a simple, but vivid change to an important aspect of U.S.-Cuban policy.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, S. 950, would allow Americans to travel to Cuba free of the draconian restrictions in place now.

Enzi outlined the merits of the bill and spoke about why now was a good time to introduce such a bill in a statement he gave on the Senate floor this morning.
Click on this link to read the text of the bill.

Statement on Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act
Senator Michael B. Enzi
April 30, 2003


In a few moments I am going to send a bill to the desk that will make a very small change in Cuba policy. It deals only with travel provisions to Cuba.

I've been watching Cuba since the 1960s. I went to college here at George Washington University and was there at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. I've had the opportunity to watch what's happened with Cuba through the years and I'm reminded of something my dad used to say - if you keep on doing what you have always been doing, you're going to wind up getting what you already got. -more-

That's kind of been the situation with Cuba. We've been trying the same thing for 40 years - over 40 years, and it hasn't worked. So I'm suggesting a small change to maybe get a few more people in there to increase conversation for people that understand the way the United States works and the way Cuba works and how they ought to drift more rapidly towards where we are.

In recent weeks, as we shared the joy of the Iraqi people as they were liberated from the ruthless regime of Saddam Hussein, we also felt the pain of those in Cuba who had dared to speak out in a vain but valiant effort to demand those same freedoms for themselves. As they did, 75 Cuban citizens were arrested and received harsh sentences, some for more than 20 years, all for the crime of yearning to be free. Once again, Castro has shown himself to be his own worst enemy when it comes to Cuba's image overseas, and so, when faced with an outcry from around the world about his actions, he quickly tried to blame the United States for his own actions. It was a hard sell at best, and given the reactions we've seen from all sides of this issue, I don't think anyone is buying it.

Still, Castro's cruelty might tempt us to tighten the already strong restrictions on the relations between our two countries, but I hope we will not do that. If we increase the diplomatic pressure on the Cuban government that is now emanating from every corner of the world, we might be successful in bringing about a better way of life for the Cuban people.

If, however, we stop Cuban-Americans from bringing financial assistance to their families in Cuba, and end the people to people exchanges that have been so successful, and stop the sale of agricultural and medicinal products to Cuba, we will not be hurting the Cuban government we will be hurting the Cuban people by 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 more and freer travel to Cuba, if we increase trade and dialogue, we take away Castro's ability to blame the hardships of the Cuban people on the United States. In a very real sense, the better we try to make things for the Cuban people, the more we will reduce the level and the tone of the rhetoric used against us by Fidel Castro.

As I mentioned before, it seems foolish to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. In a way, that is what we are doing in Cuba. We are continuing to try to exert pressure from our side and, as we do, we are giving Castro a scapegoat to blame for the poor living conditions in his country in the process. It's 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 goals in that country.

Today, Senators Dorgan, Baucus, Bingaman and I are introducing the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.

Our bill is very straightforward. It states that the President shall not prohibit, either directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or transactions incident to such travel.

In 1958 the Supreme Court affirmed our Constitutional right to travel, but the U.S. government then prohibited Americans from spending money in Cuba. We simply said, okay, you have a right to travel, but try traveling without spending a dime.

Most of us know that certain people can and do continue to travel to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can apply for a license to travel for humanitarian reasons to visit ailing family members and such, but this is not always convenient. One of the reasons I became involved in this issue is because a Cuban-American from Jackson, Wyoming, had been in Cuba visiting his family, doing his one visit a year. As he left and was on the plane coming back to Wyoming, one of his parents died. He couldn't go back there for a year. This is not a good situation for any family. Educational groups can apply for licenses to travel for scholarly reasons like educational opportunities and conferences. Members of the U.S. Government can travel for fact-finding reasons. But for the average American, the process is too complicated.

Even with the proper licenses, the regulations on where you can go and who you can talk to are confusing, misleading, and frustrating. Each year the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) levies fines on travelers who followed the law to the best of their ability. Fines and punishments are imposed without guidelines and seemingly at the whim of a nameless bureaucrat.

I must ask my colleagues why we are continuing to support a policy that was basically implemented 40 years ago. Why are we supporting a policy that has had little effect on the government we oppose? Why don't we improve our policy so that it will improve conditions for the Cuban people and their image of the United States?

The bill we are introducing today makes real change in our policy toward Cuba 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. Or 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. One thing we should not do is to play into Castro's hands by enacting stricter and more stringent regulations and create a situation where the United States is easy to blame for the problems in Cuba.

Unilateral sanctions will not improve human rights for Cuban citizens. The rest of the world isn't doing what we're doing. They're being supplied by the rest of the world for everything that they need. Open dialogue and exchange of ideas and commerce can move a country toward democracy.

What better way to share the rewards of democracy than through people to people exchanges! We cannot stop that program. If the U.S. government continues on its current course to put an economic stranglehold on the Cuban government, the people of Cuba will surely suffer. 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.

Some may ask why we want to increase dialogue right now, why open the door to Cuba when Castro is behaving so poorly. No one is denying that the actions of Castro and his government are deplorable, as is his refusal to provide basic human rights to his people. But if you truly believe that Castro is dictator with no good intentions, how can you say we should wait for him to behave before we engage. He controls the entire media there. The entire message that is coming out unless we have people interacting is his message. Keeping the door closed and hollering at Castro on the other side does nothing. Let's do something, let's open the door and talk to the Cuban people.

Travel and our other policies that deal with Cuba will continue to be a top priority for those of us in the newly formed Senate Cuba Working Group. The Working Group members have expressed their support for changes in our policies toward Cuba and we will continue to be a part of the dialogue on that.

I encourage all of my colleagues to take a look at this bill that has been introduced today. I know that there are people looking at it. I expect many more cosponsors on it. This is the most reasonable provision dealing with Cuba that has been presented during the six years that I've been here.

We've tried some bigger bites of the apple. They haven't worked. So we're moving back to the travel restrictions, a bill that is very limited. It allows you to travel and to have those things that are necessary for travel. For instance, you can't cut off the right to take baggage with you to Cuba. That's another way that the law can be subverted. It is a very straightforward travel policy that will get Americans into Cuba to talk to Cubans to promote the ideas that we believe in.

I ask my colleagues to join me in this effort, and I yield the floor.

-end-