U.S. Senate overwhelmingly votes to lift the Cuba travel ban

Posted: 17-Jun-16 16:19

Yesterday a ground-breaking move was made toward ending the nearly 60-year-long travel ban on Cuba for American tourists. A U.S. Senate panel got together to sign a bill of amendments that would mean the end of the Cuba travel ban. In an unprecedented sign of Republican support, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 22 to eight to ease the rules on the Cuban embargo, including one that would mean the definitive end of the travel ban.

U.S. Senate overwhelmingly votes to lift the Cuba travel ban

A move that has everyone on the travel industry buzzing, a U.S. Senate panel yesterday voted in favour of passing a legislation that would signify the end of the ban on Americans travelling to Cuba as tourists.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to lift trade restrictions on Cuba part of the infamous, nearly 60-decades-long embargo, which according to President Obama it’s past its expiry date and should be finished once and for all. Still, the passing of four separate amendments related to travel and trade with Cuba having a majority of Republican voters calling in favour is a major step. Nothing of the likes has been seen before in the long history of the U.S.- Cuba feud.

The amendments, easily approved by the vast majority of the panel members (22 out of 30) sought to remove some key elements of the unsuccessful U.S.-imposed trade embargo on Cuba and will mean total freedom for American travellers to visit Cuba as tourists instead of having to tick one of the 12 categories of approved travel to Cuba under the last reforms to the ban, which were conducted by Obama’s administration and which have been a resounding success among American travellers as many have immediately taken action and flocked to Cuba in large numbers.

The Boozman-Tester Amendment would remove a key barrier to U.S. competitiveness in Cuba through the use of approved private credit for the sale of U.S. agricultural goods to Cuba. It would also repeal a current requirement for any vessel to load or unload freight in the U.S. after passing through Cuba or having travelled to Cuba within 180 days without having to hold a license. This amendment also eliminates logistical disadvantages for agricultural producers, shipping companies and ports.

The Leahy-Moran Amendment would completely remove the current travel restrictions to Cuba for one year by prohibiting the use of funds to restrict U.S. citizens from tavelling to Cuba. Adopted by a voice vote this last amendment does not eliminate the authority of the President to restrict travel for national security purposes.

What do these amendments mean when applied?

They mean that Americans for the first time in half-a-century will be able to freely travel to Cuba and book stays at beach resorts as well as engage in any form of touristic activity in the country with no restrictions. They mean that international flights travelling to or from Cuba would now be able to refuel in the U.S. instead of taking a longer detour and heading to Canada instead, as many airlines flying to Cuba have been doing for the past 57 years or so.

They also mean further engagement in Cuba and laying the groundwork for even more business negotiations among the two countries.

The move comes days after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it had approved routes to Cuba for six different U.S. air carriers, which will start flying to Cuba this coming autumn. Senator Dick Durbin said on an official statement:

“Reopening travel relations with Cuba is about more than just restoring the freedom to travel there for all Americans—it’s about opening Cuba to new ideas, new values, and improved human rights that our 50-year-old policy of isolation could not achieve. While we have to be realistic about the prospects of this Congress fully lifting the embargo on Cuba, today’s committee votes were solid steps in the right direction.”

What needs to happen now? Well, the next step is on the hands of the House of Representatives, which is in charge of pushing on to pass similar language for it to be finally signed into law.


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