Safeguard Purposeful Travel to Cuba
June 22, 2011

Washington, DC.,

The Honorable Harold Rogers, Chairman
The Honorable Norm Dicks, Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressmen Rogers and Dicks:

I write to you with respect to the House Committee on Appropriations' debate on the FY 2012 Financial Services Bill. In the context of the bill's markup, Human Rights Watch would like to reiterate its support for OFAC travel regulations that allow for "purposeful travel" to Cuba by academic, religious, and cultural groups, as well as for regulations that allow Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba and send remittances to their families on the island.

A Human Rights Watch report, Families Torn Apart, documented the human cost of tightened US restrictions on travel by Cuban Americans, which were enacted from June 2004 to April 2009. The report found that the restrictions infringed upon the internationally recognized right to freedom of movement, violated the international prohibition on the involuntary separation of families, and exacted a deep emotional toll on Cuban American families.

Removing restrictions to travel to Cuba is a necessary step towards ending a US policy that has failed for decades to improve human rights in Cuba. Efforts by the US government to press for change in Cuba by imposing a sweeping ban on travel and trade have proven to be a costly and misguided failure. The policy has provided the Cuban government with an excuse for its problems and a pretext for its abuses. Rather than isolating Cuba, the strategy has isolated the United States. In addition to being utterly ineffective, the travel ban is an unjustifiable interference with Americans' basic right to freedom of movement, as recognized by the United States in its human rights commitments.

There is no question that the Cuban government bears full and exclusive responsibility for the human rights violations it commits. However, so long as the failed embargo remains in place, the Cuban government will continue to manipulate the policy to garner sympathy abroad and alienate Washington's potential allies. Enabling person-to-person travel to Cuba is a step in the right direction towards fixing this broken policy. I strongly urge the Committee on Appropriations and Congress as a whole to protect purposeful travel categories reestablished in January 2011, as well as the reforms to travel and remittances by Cuban Americans approved in April 2009. I would be very grateful if you would share this letter with the members of your committee.

José Miguel Vivanco

Executive Director, Americas Division
Human Rights Watch

CC: Members of the House Committee on Appropriations

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