I so freaking want to go to Cuba. And now it looks like all of us who want to check out the santeria and seafood may have a chance: A group of Congress members led by William Delahunt of Massachusetts introduced a bipartisan bill calling for an end to the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba.
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act introduced Feb. 4 and referred to the Foreign Relations Committee states that:
the President may not regulate or prohibit, directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents.
Obama has said that he would lift restrictions on Cuban Americans visiting the island and on how much money they could send to relatives there. During the his campaign he made the point that the current embargo has not helped bring democracy to Cuba.
Cuba is a popular tourist destination for European and Canadians, and tourism a primary source of income for the island. Americans do visit, but to do so legally must obtain a license from the Department of Treasury. In 2007 about 45,200 Americans — including Cuban Americans — legally obtained a license or approval from the U.S. government to enter Cuba by air.
Many Cuban Americans wish embargo to remain in place until reforms are made–or the Castros are gone. But progress is being made, at least on the consumer and information front.
By next year, Venezuela will have completed a fiber optic network which will allow Cubans access to the internet. Currently the Web is accessible via satellite and limited mostly to government officials, academics, and tourists in some hotels.
In May 2008 President Raul Castro lifted the ban on the private ownership of computers after just weeks earlier permitting citizens to own cell phones, DVD players, motorbikes and electric pressure cookers.
Yesterday Cuban communications minister Ramiro Valdes, speaking at a computer exposition in Havana, said that "conceptually" the government has no problem with making the Internet widely available, but that the
The restrictions are technological and economical.
However, there may be some ideological issues to unlimited access to the intertoobs. Last week vice minister Boris Moreno told Cuba’s state run newspaper:
As happens in all the countries of the world, we’re not going to permit access to sites that stimulate terrorism and encourage subversion of the established order.
But for decades Cubans have found a way around state-ordered restrictions using a thriving black market, so at some point you could end up playing Worlds of Warcraft from your couch with someone in Havana.