Travelers to Cuba beware
Posted on Saturday, 02.12.11
Travelers to Cuba beware
By Mauricio Claver-Carone
On Jan.14, the Obama administration announced the further easing of
"purposeful" travel to Cuba. The stated intent of this policy is to:
"increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba;
enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban
people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities."
On Feb. 4, the Castro regime announced that it would seek a 20-year
prison sentence against an American development worker, Alan Gross, for
"Acts Against the Integrity and Independence of Cuba" – a catch-all
"law" against anything the regime perceives as a threat.
Indeed, this "law" is so arbitrary that anyone traveling to Cuba under
the administration's new measures would be ipso facto in breach of it.
After all, the expressed intent of the new policy, as noted above, is to
weaken the control of the Cuban dictatorship over its people –
presumably a mortal threat to any dictatorial regime.
So, according to the administration's rationale, Americans traveling to
Cuba on "purposeful" academic and religious travel will (hopefully) take
with them copies of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, iPads loaded
with uncensored literature and subscriptions to foreign press, smart
phones for Cubans to connect with the free world and engage in
conversations with dissidents (or discuss current events with regular
Cubans on the street).
Faced with this presumed threat, the Castro regime will surely seek to
blunt the intended effect of the new policy and make fresh examples of
any would-be Alan Gross who gets in its way.
Bottom line: Without legal guarantees and respect for basic human
rights, any American traveling to Cuba under the administration's new
policy can be whimsically arrested for an indefinite period. Indeed,
recent Iranian actions against three U.S. hikers show how the arrest of
American travelers can become a favorite past time for cruel dictatorships.
Therefore, the State Department should issue a clear travel warning to
Cuba. Or better yet, the administration should revert its new policy
until Cuban laws are transparent and, hopefully, more humane. Otherwise,
the administration's new policy amounts to nothing more than a tourist
measure, which would not only be in contravention of congressional
intent, but of U.S. law.
Mauricio Claver-Carone wrote this view in his blog
capitolhillcubans.com. He is the executive director of Cuba Democracy
Advocates in Washington, D.C., a non-partisan organization that promotes
a transition in Cuba toward human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
He serves on the board of U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC.