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Clash intensifies over travel to Cuba

William E. Gibson


Jul 13, 2014


"Pressure from some Florida members of Congress is making it harder to travel to Cuba even as thousands of their constituents line up to fly to the forbidden island.

"The stream of passengers from South Florida to Cuba has slowed slightly since 2011, as some would-be travelers balk at the cost of licensed educational tours and others remain stymied by a ban on casual pleasure trips.

"Now some in Congress are trying to tighten those rules to further discourage travel to Cuba, except for Cuban-Americans visiting their families. At the same time, travel proponents are pressing President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to loosen the rules so that all Americans are free to roam the island on their own.

"Cuban-Americans remain avid visitors, including sugar baron Alfonso Fanjul of Palm Beach, a prominent exile who reconnected with his homeland in 2012 and 2013. But critics of the embargo say the traffic is restrained by tight regulations on educational tours and the ongoing ban on pleasure trips, which discourages casual and repeated visits.

"That lends itself to Americans not being able to freely roam the country as they wish. They have to stick to the agenda, and that includes an official program where you have to see what the Cuban government wants you to see," said Ricardo Herrero, executive director of #CubaNow, a new Miami-based advocacy group that pushes against the travel ban.

His group and other advocates are urging Obama to allow all Americans to visit Cuba as individuals on a general license not tied to a pre-approved itinerary. Herrero points to a poll released by Florida International University last month, which found that 69 percent of Cuban-Americans in support lifting travel restrictions for all Americans."