President Obama, having made important but incremental changes in Cuba policy, picked up two crucial allies this week, if he were to move more forcefully in the direction of reform.
Governor Bill Richardson, the former U.S. representative to the United Nations, and a veteran diplomatic trouble-shooter, interrupted a trade trip to the island and called for repealing the travel ban to free all Americans to visit Cuba.
Reaffirming previous commitments, a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, visiting Cuba to monitor how hurricane assistance provided by the church had been distributed on the island, called on President Obama to end the embargo and speed the pace of reform.
We hope the White House heard these passionate and principled calls for change.
Substantively, the case for President Obama moving further and faster on Cuba policy reforms has been made by experts and advocates from across the political spectrum.
You know the arguments well.
Ending the travel ban would restore to Americans their full constitutional rights to travel. It would increase interaction between Cubans and Americans. It would put money in the pockets of average Cubans. It would create jobs here in the U.S. It would improve our standing in Latin America. It would make our policy consistent with our allies in Europe and the region. And it would create political space and incentives for the Cuban government to move more quickly on its own program of reform.
These ideas and others like them have been expressed and endorsed before – by leaders like Senator Richard Lugar, respected institutions such as the Council on Foreign Relations and Brookings, groups in civil society such as The Cuba Study Group, Freedom House, and Human Rights Watch, and a growing coalition of economic interests from agriculture to travel and beyond.
Now, the President can take even greater comfort from the blanket of political cover that dropped from the sky this week to strengthen and surround him.
When a respected former Member of Congress, a veteran diplomat, and renowned Hispanic leader like Bill Richardson urges action on the travel ban, and is joined by the principled voices of the U.S. Catholic Conference calling for much more vigorous changes in policy, one might be tempted to ask: What greater encouragement does the President need in order to move decisively to change the policy?
In the coming weeks, Congress will reconvene and we will be able to report additional support among Members of the House and Senate for ending the travel ban. We look forward to September 30, when delegations from across our country will descend on Washington armed with a simple and clear message – travel for all Americans – that they plan to bring to legislators from key states and districts.
The indispensable element for all of this is Presidential leadership. The substantive case, the popular support, and the political cover are all in place. It is our hope that the President’s voice will soon be heard.
Now, this week in Cuba news…