WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led a letter today strongly opposing the Trump Administration’s decision to eliminate group “people-to-people” educational travel to Cuba, including a ban to prohibit cruise ships from stopping there. Organized groups on cruise ships are the most common way U.S. citizens travel to the island. In the letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the senators reiterated that isolating Cuba has only disadvantaged American and Cuban businesses, farmers, and citizens, and that restricting passenger and recreational vessels and private and corporate aircrafts from travelling to Cuba weakens American-Cuban business relationships, undermines the ability of Americans to travel to Cuba, and hurts the Cuban people.
Joining Klobuchar on the letter were Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“Rather than returning to the failed policies of the past, we should be working to normalize our relations with Cuba and build a relationship that benefits both of our countries. Expanding engagement with Cuba will pave the way for new economic opportunities for America and the Cuban people,” the senators wrote.
For years, Klobuchar has fought to open the door to business with Cuba. In February, Klobuchar reintroduced the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act with Leahy and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) to lift the Cuba trade embargo. The bipartisan legislation would eliminate the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba and pave the way for new economic opportunities for American businesses and farmers by boosting U.S. exports and allow Cubans greater access to American goods. Klobuchar also supported an amendment in the 2018 Farm Bill to allow U.S. agricultural producers to use two U.S. export promotion programs for agricultural exports to Cuba.
The full text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Secretaries Mnuchin and Ross:
We write to express our strong opposition to the recent decisions by the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce to eliminate group “people-to-people” educational travel to Cuba and ban certain passenger and recreational transportation to the island.
The actions by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security to further restrict travel to Cuba represent a significant step backwards in the U.S.-Cuba relationship. Fifty-five years of isolating Cuba has served only to disadvantage American and Cuban businesses, farmers, and citizens, while failing to achieve U.S. interests including democratic reforms and improvement in human rights.
Most Americans visiting Cuba do so on a cruise ship. By making passenger and recreational vessels and private and corporate aircraft ineligible for licenses, the Administration is weakening our business relationships and undermining the ability of Americans to travel to Cuba, which will also hurt the Cuban people. Quite simply, the downsides of this decision far outweigh any potential benefits.
Unfortunately, the Administration’s policies have negatively impacted the numbers of Americans travelling to Cuba. After the number of Americans visiting Cuba increased nearly 600 percent between 2014 and 2017, travel has stagnated under the current administration and only increased approximately one percent in 2018.
Rather than returning to the failed policies of the past, we should be working to normalize our relations with Cuba and build a relationship that benefits both of our countries. Expanding engagement with Cuba will pave the way for new economic opportunities for America and the Cuban people.
We look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.