Cuba Travel Bill Before House of Representatives

Help Open Cuba To Travel for U.S. Citizens

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Today I received an email from a staffer at the Washington Office on Latin America, informing me about HR 4645, a bill that would eliminate the travel ban to Cuba for U.S. citizens and increase U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba. The bill is currently in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives but is expected to go to the floor for a vote within two weeks.

One-page summary of Bill to open Cuba to travel for U.S. citizens

Normally, I don’t discuss politics on this blog, but this subject is extremely timely for me, so I’m making an exception. Why is it timely? I’m currently in the Yucatan of Mexico and I discovered that I could go to Cuba for 4-5 days for as little as $500, including airfare, hotel, and all meals. I salivated at the prospect; going to Cuba has long been at the top of my travel wish list. Cuban immigration officials don’t stamp the passports of U.S. citizens entering or leaving the country, so there would be no way for the U.S. government to know I’d been there, since I would have flown in and out of Cancun. But in the end I decided against going because I couldn’t have written about my experience in Cuba and that would have killed me. So, like thousands of others, I decided to wait until the ban was lifted.

This could happen soon if the bill is successful, but our help is needed. If you agree with lifting the ban, please contact your State Representatives, tell them you support HR 4645, and ask them to vote for the bill. I’ve provided a one-page overview of the bill above. Click on the image to download it in a PDF format.

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19 Comments on “Help Open Cuba To Travel for U.S. Citizens

  1. Hi Barbara, Although I’m not an American, I have travelled to Cuba twice, and saw many US citizens there . I was so busy having dance lessons, watching amazing bands play and meeting people, my only regret is I didn’t take many pictures. With your skill with a camera, you’d never leave!! Just fly through Mexico, Carta Turista processed at a little table in the departure lounge, voila! You’ll be in Heaven. If you look at my Cafe Havana Ubud Bali FB I have several references on how US citizens can legally travel to Cuba. Keep Travelling.

    • Hi Janet: I’ve actually had two opportunities to go to Cuba, one some years ago on a legally approved tour from the U.S., and a second time, when I was n Mexico. But for one reason or another, it just never happened. I think in part it was because I knew I couldn’t write about it – if I had I would have risked stiff fines. It would kill me to have all that material/photos and not be able to write about the experience. I’ll definitely get there, though. It’s very high on my travel wish list, for all the reasons you stated.

  2. This is REALLY good news! Cuba has been on my bucket list for a very long time. I’m excited that this could become a reality very soon!

    *~*~*

  3. These kind of bans an embargoes only help those in power keep a firm grip by closing off contact and perpetuating the threat of “the enemy”. Hopefully this ineffective policy will be reversed sooner rather than later.

  4. I am so excited. Hubby and I are planning on being down in Central/South America at the end of the year. If the ban is lifted… omg.. I would have to go.

  5. We are free to move anywhere in the world, and no political boundaries cann’t take away or freedom of travel. I hope that bill will get its approval and there won’t be any blockade.

  6. As we Europens are free to travel to Cuba any time we find it very strange this ban – it is really wierd in this day and age, hopefully the bill will get passed and not be blocked by some political horse-trading

  7. This was one of the things the current government in the US said they’d get behind – so let’s hope they can do it and get it passed. If the medical bill was passed – one would think this would be much easier! :)

  8. The ban on travel/spending in Cuba belongs back in the Cold War era where it came from. It’s such a shame that Americans can’t freely enjoy the beauty of Cuba. We Canadians travel there all the time :)

  9. if the issues is about spending money – you would legally be spending mexican pesos – you are leaving from mexico

    • Pia: Sorry but you are wrong about the Mexican pesos. The deckhand on the boat was an American citizen sailing under a foreign flag. He didn’t spend ANY of his own money – the captain paid all the costs for anchoring in Cuba in foreign funds. But even so he got into trouble because this constituted accommodations for him, which cost money. I changed American dollars to get Mexican pesos – I can’t get around it that way.

  10. i’m not sure i understand why you won’t go – you are a writer and all the more reason to go. many thanks

  11. Yes, the whole situation is bizarre. A word of warning,though. Although Cuba doesn’t stamp passports, some other countries do.
    When I visited Cuba, I travelled from Miami to Kingston, Jamaica since (obviously)I couldn’t get a direct flight from the US. No stamp from Cuba; a massive “in transit to Havana” stamp from Jamaica.

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  13. I don’t understand. I know that there is a travel ban as far as travelling directly from the US, but I’d thought that Americans do visit Cuba via other destinations, as you proposed to do. Ry Cooder is American, isn’t he? And he helped make and “starred” in Buena Vista Social Club. There didn’t seem to be any attempt to disguise his visits? Right at the beginning of the film he mentions that he has been there before?

    • Hi Islandmomma: Yes, it is confusing. The law does not technically ban “travel” to Cuba, it bans spending money in Cuba. Even U.S. citizens who have been deckhands on foreign boats entering Cuba have gotten into trouble because the boat captain paid for mooring, which amounted to accommodations for the U.S. citizen. You can appy for a cultural visa to visit Cuba from the U.S. Government. Because the ban is actually on spending money, this visa is managed by the U.S. Treasury Department. I don’t know specific the details about the Ry Cooder situation, but most likely he was able to get approval from Treasury to travel to Cuba to make the film because it constitutes a “cultural” exchange. Baseball players travel to Cuba all the time as a “cultural exchange,” yet for the common citizen it is nearly impossible to get a visa, unless you carry critical medications or have family in Cuba. Yet Americans do travel there all the time, via Canada, as Donna indicated. Canadians make up the lion’s share of Cuban tourists and there are many charter flights from locations all over Canada. Others travel from Mexico and the Bahamas, but I have heard tales of U.S. Customs officials meeting planes in the Bahamas that were inbound from Cuba and checking to see if there were any U.S. citizens on board. Of course, that all happened during the previous administration and I hardly think it is still happening with President Obama at the helm. Frankly, the whole thing is Byzantine and the ban needs to be repealed ASAP.

  14. I don’t understand. I know that there is a travel ban as far as travelling directly from the US, but I’d thought that Americans do visit Cuba via other destinations, as you proposed to do. Ry Cooder is American, isn’t he? And he helped make and “starred” in Buena Vista Social Club. There didn’t seem to be any attempt to disguise his visits? Right at the beginning of the film he mentions that he has been there before?

    • > I don’t know specific the details about the Ry Cooder situation, but most likely he was
      > able to get approval from Treasury to travel to Cuba to make the film because it constitutes
      > a “cultural” exchange.

      Apparently you’re not aware that Ry Cooder was in fact sued by the U.S. government and paid a fine of $25,000 (probably in settlement of an originally much larger fine).

  15. I would love to visit Cuba, sooner rather than later. Once U.S. tourism becomes a reality, and it will, Cuba will change. I have U.S. friends who traveled to Cuba by entering via Canada (sounds a bit strange, I know). Of course they weren’t writing about the experience.

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