Do Not Lift Cuba Travel Restrictions (Sen. Mel Martinez)

The effort to promote U.S. tourist travel to Cuba is the wrong legislation at the wrong moment in time. Promoting tourism to Cuba only serves to prop up a tainted regime with U.S. dollars. Having American tourists on Cuban beaches will not in any way create a climate for a democratic change on the island.

Cuban democratic activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known by the name Antunez, has been on a hunger strike in Cuba for 44 days. All he wants from the Cuban regime is the promise of an end to the torture of political prisoners, an agreement to respect human rights, and adequate housing for all Cubans. The Cuban regime’s police have surrounded Antunez’s home allowing no one to enter or leave. As Antunez bravely fights for basic human rights, another organization, Human Rights Watch, endorses rewarding the Cuban regime. This is especially perplexing as Human Rights Watch was one of the foremost groups opposed to the U.S. Colombia Trade Agreement citing Colombia’s human rights record as the basis for its opposition. I don’t see how it can criticize the human rights record of Colombia, a democratic country struggling against narcoterrorists while attempting to establish the rule of law, and at the same time seek to reward the Cuban Regime with its appalling and real record of denying its citizens the most basic liberties.

As we look at the situation in Cuba and support efforts that would foster democratic change, policy decisions need thoughtful deliberation. The unelected leaders of Cuba should prove to the world, through concrete actions, that they will respect fundamental human rights and allow true democratic change as reflected in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Until that happens, the U.S. Government should be supporting and showing solidarity with those Cubans who are peacefully fighting for democracy. We should be siding with those who are oppressed, not the oppressors.

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