Thursday, November 19, 2009

Human Rights Watch Supports End of Trade and Travel Bans

HRW: We favor an end to the travel ban

On the eve of a House committee hearing on the U.S. travel ban to Cuba, a Human Rights Watch official went on record as saying that his organization believes "lifting the travel ban represents an essential step towards ending a U.S. policy that has failed for decades to have any impact whatsoever on improving human rights in Cuba."

In a letter to the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Ca.), José Miguel Vivanco, director of the HRW's Americas Division, pointed out that HRW had just issued a report critical of the Cuban government and then made the following points:

"Efforts by the U.S. government to press for change by imposing a sweeping ban on trade and travel have proven to be a costly and misguided failure. The embargo imposes indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban population as a whole and has done nothing to improve the situation of human rights in Cuba.

"Rather than isolating Cuba, the policy has isolated the United States, enabling the Castro government to garner sympathy abroad while simultaneously alienating Washington's potential allies.

"There is no question: the Cuban government bears full and exclusive responsibility for the abuses it commits. However, so long as the embargo remains in place, the Castro government will continue to manipulate U.S. policy to cast itself as a Latin American David standing up to a U.S. Goliath, a role it exploits skillfully.

"Ending the travel ban is a step in the right direction toward reforming this failed policy, and Congress should act swiftly to pass the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.

"...Human Rights Watch recommends that the U.S. government replace its failed embargo policy with a more effective, multilateral approach. Our report lays out a proposal for the United States to work with allies in the European Union, Canada, and Latin America to forge a new coalition that will exert targeted pressure on the Raúl Castro government to release all political prisoners."

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