Cuba Travel Restrictions To Continue

Hardbeatnews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Thurs. June 30, 2005: A plan that would have eased restrictions on American travel to Cuba was again rejected by the U.S. Senate yesterday even though a large percentage of the senators did vote to open travel to Cuba in cases of humanitarian concerns.

Even though a vote of 60-35 approved the plan, a Senate agreement that requires 67 votes to pass the measure, ensured the restrictions remained.

The legislation came up for a vote again after it was introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, to help Sgt. Carlos Lazo travel to Havana to visit his 16-year-old son. Lazo, an Iraqi veteran, is being prevented from visiting the land he fled on a raft by the Bush administration rule that last year got tighter as it ruled that Cubans here can only visit their homeland once every three years instead of annually.

This means Lazo will not be able to travel to Cuba until April, 2006.

Senator Dorgan called it unforgivable but Republican Sen. John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, said it’s “a good thing.”

Lazo, however, remains optimistic, telling Reuters he still hopes that the U.S. House of Representatives would come to his aid.


Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee yesterday gave the thumbs up to the U.S.-Central American & Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, after the Bush administration pledged to support more funding to promote workers’ rights in the region.

Full Senate approval is expected today or after the Fourth of July break.

The Bush administration has been pushing the House to pass the measure, which will eradicate tariffs on U.S. exports to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic and expand duty-free access those countries already enjoy.

But critics say it lacks worker and environmental protections and is modeled after the failed 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. –