The non-partisan human rights group Freedom House recently released a statement asking President-Elect Barack Obama to re-examine the United States’ hardline position against travel to Cuba. Doing this would help advance human rights and democracy efforts in the dictator-ruled Caribbean island.
While the group says that the new Raul Castro-led government has made only small advances in rights for its citizens, Cuba still remains among the lowest rated country in political rights and civil liberties by the survey Freedom in the World that the organization has been publishing for more than 3 decades.
The U.S. embargo on Cuba began in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy passed a proclamation declaring all trade between the States and Cuba illegal; a year later, he also made all travel to Cuba illegal for U.S. citizens, setting stiff penalties for violators (today fines are up to $250,000 and up to 10 years of jail time).
According to the organization’s executive director, Jennifer Windsor, lifting the ban would open up Cuban citizens to “information about the outside world.” The statement also notes that the U.S. does not impose the same sanctions on travel from the States to other low-rated countries such as Burma, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. During his campaign, President-Elect Obama proposed loosening restrictions on family-related travel to the island.