An excellent opinion piece in Pittsburgh’s TRIBLive on those “people-to-people” contacts lobbyists keep trying to sell:
Going to Cuba?: The wrong itinerary
Americans pondering a jaunt to Cuba this year under relaxed travel restrictions won’t be able to pop in and say “hello” to Alan Gross. Nor will they find him in the isle’s nightclubs or smoking one of its famous stogies in a comfortable chaise longue.
No, Mr. Gross, 61, a Maryland subcontractor, is doing 15 years in a Cuban prison on trumped-up charges of conspiring against “the integrity and independence of Cuba” for illegally importing computer gear. The Obama administration’s crack foreign policy team has been entirely ineffectual in securing his release. Even Jimmy Carter, on a trip to the communist island in March, couldn’t liberal up a pardon — although an appeal reportedly is pending.
Yet despite Cuba’s latest flagrant nose-thumbing, the U.S. is moving ahead with a new travel policy that’s supposed to bring everyday Cubans and Americans together, supposedly for mutual understanding.
Even if Mr. Gross is released tomorrow, lifting the travel ban won’t sow the seeds of democracy, free enterprise and liberty in the hardened concrete of Cuban communism.
“The only thing it does is provide hard currency for a totalitarian regime,” says U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who grew up in a Cuban-exile family.
In fostering “better understanding,” we doubt any travel itinerary will include Cuba’s despicable accommodations for political prisoners.