Washington, DC.,

Chairman Howard L. Berman
U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
2170 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman,

I write you in advance of the markup of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645) on Wednesday, September 29. Human Rights Watch would like to reiterate its strong support for the legislation, which would make it possible for all Americans to travel freely to Cuba, and remove obstacles to legal sales of US agricultural commodities to the island.

Ending the travel ban 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. Ending the travel ban and restoring Americans' full right to freedom of movement is a step in the rights direction towards fixing this broken policy.

I applaud you for bringing this legislation to a vote, and urge the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Congress as a whole to act swiftly to approve it. 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