Last week a blog run inside the island by the independent organization Convivencia Cuba lead by Dagoberto Valdez released a letter authored and signed by 74 members of Cuba’s civil society calling on Congress to approve a bill that would lift the ban on travel by Americans and that would facilitate agricultural exports. The unprecedented letter highlights and important fact that is too frequently ignored about U.S. policy toward Cuba: that while its objective is to help empower Cuba’s civil society, it fundamentally ignores the opinions expressed by it.

The importance of this letter cannot be overstated. Its signatories --all in their personal capacity-- include former political prisoners, religious figures, masons, member of the ladies in white, independent journalists and many others, and represent a broad cross-section of Cuba’s pro-democracy movement. In an atmosphere in which the Cuban government has created fear and distrust making cooperation among individuals and organizations so difficult, this letter stands as a shining example of the growing power of Cuba’s civil society and its member’s desire to influence policy that effect their lives.

While the outcome of H.R. 4645 if far from certain and special interests advocating for maintaining the status-quo maintain a significant influence in Congress, this letter goes a long way toward increasing the cost to policymakers of ignoring the very people their policies proclaim to help. Policymakers can no longer afford to claim the policies they promote help the Cuban people while systematically ignoring them when they voice their opinions.

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