...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Thursday, October 23, 2003
      ( 11:54 AM )
Hellloooooo Cuba!

Looks like the Senate got some brains somewhere and just voted with the House to end the 40-year ban on travel to Cuba. I know, I know - I can barely believe it myself. And the amendment to the Transportation funding bill was sponsored by a Republican!

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who co-sponsored
the amendment to the spending bill with Dorgan,
said the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign
Asset Control, a key office in the fight against
terrorism and drug trafficking, shouldn't be devoting
resources to American tourists going to Cuba.

What? Was that logic I just saw being used in Congress? Defying a threatened veto, the vote was 59-36. The Reuters article explains further the ramifications:

Travel ban opponents say the fact that both
houses of Congress have the same language
makes it harder to strip out the measure, an
amendment included in a larger Transportation
and Treasury appropriation bill, once it goes
to conference committee.

The White House has vowed to veto the
overall spending bill if it contains language
on Cuba.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat
and one of the amendment's sponsors, said
the administration should focus on catching
terrorists, not travelers. He cited a Homeland
Security Department memo which said it would
use "intelligence and investigative resources"
to identify travelers to Cuba.

"That's Byzantine. It makes no sense," Dorgan
said during the debate on the Senate floor.

This is a major blow to the George-Jeb Bush powerhouse in Cuban policy. Of course, all logic points to the fact that decades of sanctions and travel restrictions have not meant an end to Castro, or even had any influence on that country except to keep needed supplies from its citizens. In a strange dichotomy, the US governments through the decades have insisted on opening trade with Communist China so that the natural forces of the market would work to break down the totalitarian nature of that country, while at the same time restricting all trade and capitalist influence on Cuba. The political power of the Florida and New Jersey Cubans may be waning, which is good news for everyone. The federal government does not need to be spending millions of dollars on pursuing and prosecuting Americans who visit Cuba, it does not need to be spending millions on that stupid radio broadcast that is blocked by Castro and heard by no one.

Even Republicans in Congress can see what a useless, futile exercise the trade restrictions and travel bans have been. There will be more sunshine shone on that country's dark sides, more western influence than there ever has been since Castro came to power, and there will be more opportunity for meaningful assistance to the people of Cuba, not to mention the ability for their families in the U.S. to visit them. The time for the travel ban AND the trade restrictions is over.

I don't often have cause to applaud Congress. But darn it, they done good today.

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