On Wednesday, a congressional committee may vote on a bill that would allow all Americans to travel to Cuba.

There have been over 35 communist transitions. In every one of them, we engaged and helped bring about the gradual changes that eventually brought the Iron Curtain down. Conversely, a policy of isolation, as we apply to Cuba, has no precedent of success anywhere in bringing about the fall of a totalitarian system.

Fidel Castro's strategy has been clear since the very beginning: that the revolution, and the Cuban nation, are one and the same, indistinguishable and indivisible. For nearly 50 years, we have been reinforcing that strategy through our policy and actions. Obsessed with the Castro brothers, we've forgotten the people.

No wonder the vast majority of Cuban dissidents on the island, the virtual who's who of Cuba's opposition, have asked for free travel. These range from Yoani Sanchez, Cuba's famous independent blogger, to Guillermo Fariñas, whose recent hunger strike forced Cuba to release political prisoners.

American taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to break the Cuban government's information embargo. Yet, we refuse to send our best carriers of information — our own people and our rich and diverse civil society. Why keep them at bay?

Travel opponents will repeat arguments of the past: Europeans have traveled to Cuba for years and have failed to bring about change. Ironically, they fail to explain how keeping Americans away has equally failed to do so.

They miss that there is no silver bullet. Change is never brought from the outside. Only the Cuban people can cause change. While we cannot cause change in Cuba, we can certainly help create a more enabling environment for change to occur.

Cuba is now implementing the early steps of meaningful reforms. More is needed, but this is the time to step in and facilitate a climate of change — best accomplished by increasing the rewards of change, diminishing its cost, and helping, engaging and empowering the Cuban people.

The best-known human rights organizations argue for the end of the travel ban. With their vast experience promoting human rights across the globe, they know that their work is greatly facilitated with ease of travel. In the end, Congress will have an opportunity to side with the Cuban people, in their quest for freedom and change. Will they help the Cuban people, or will they succumb to politics as usual?

Carlos A. Saladrigas is co-chair the Cuba Study Group in Washington, D.C.

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Comments 1-1 of 1

  • Gabriel Banfi

    09/29/2010 09:57 AM

    I think is the way to effect change in Cuba and the House should vote in favor of this initiative

Our Opinions

Date Title
9/28/10 Current Record
9/22/10 U.S. Should Take Steps to Encourage Reforms in Cuba
Tomas Bilbao, The Havana Note
9/15/10 U.S. Foreign Policy Should Not Be Controlled by the Cuban Government
Tomas Bilbao, America's Quarterly