US lawmakers introduce bill to ease Cuba travel (11/02/2009)

AFP
February 11, 2009

Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have introduced a bill to permit US citizens unrestricted travel to Cuba, according to the Library of Congress website.

The "Freedom To Travel to Cuba Act," which would overturn the 46-year-old US policy strictly limiting travel to the Caribbean island, will be subject to debate after being referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The bill, introduced by Massachusetts Democrat Bill Delahunt and backed by eight other lawmakers, states that "the President may not regulate or prohibit, directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents."

Currently US nationals are supposed to request Treasury Department permission to visit Cuba. They are not routinely allowed to spend money in Cuba -- the Americasī only one-party communist state -- creating an effective travel ban.

US President Barack Obama has said he would speak with all foreign leaders in sharp contrast to successive US administrations which have sought to isolate Havana.

But he has offered few details on how far he might be willing to go in reaching out to Cuba.

During his campaign for the presidency, Obama said the Cuba embargo had not helped bring democracy to the island, led by President Raul Castro, 77.

But so far he has said only that he would end some sanctions on Cuban-Americans traveling to the island, and eliminate limits on their remittances to relatives in Cuba.

The neighboring countries do not have full diplomatic relations, and the United States has an economic embargo on Cuba.

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