Granted, Khartoum, Tehran, Damascus and Pyongyang are not terribly popular tourist destinations. But they are places Americans can visit without running afoul of federal law. Yet traveling to Cuba for tourism continues to be banned. Getting there for approved purposes remains needlessly difficult and expensive.
The ban — the only travel prohibition American citizens are currently subjected to — never made sense, and it’s particularly misguided in an era of broadening engagement between the United States and Cuba.
A bill introduced early this year by a bipartisan group of senators who want to repeal the travel ban is the most worthy of the flurry of legislative initiatives sparked by President Obama’s decision last December to re-establish diplomatic relations with Havana. The bill would rescind provisions in laws passed in 1996 and 2000 that barred travel by Americans as part of a strategy to punish and isolate Cuba in hopes of bringing about democratic change in that country. The freer flow of people, goods and ideas is far more likely to lead to meaningful reforms on the island.
On the other side of this issue, a loud, but dwindling, cadre of lawmakers, who appear unwilling to let go of the Cold War era, are pushing initiatives that would prolong — and in some instances intensify — the web of sanctions the U.S. imposes on Cuba.
Yet American companies like Google, and the home-rental service Airbnb are getting their foothold in the Cuban market, providing ordinary Cubans with information and opportunities that had not been available. Cuban-Americans, meanwhile, are increasingly finding ways to invest in the island and rekindle connections.
The trajectory is unmistakable. Public opinion polls show that a majority of Cubans on the island and Americans favor engagement. Congress should wait no longer to do its part.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES