U.S. lawmakers seek to bar new travel to Cuba

630x355HAVANA, April 29  Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart introduced a bill to Congress on Tuesday that would block new flights and cruise ship travel to Cuba, according to AP.

The proposal, which comes just months after President Obama introduced eased restrictions on travel to the Caribbean destination, has been attached to a critical transportation spending bill that will be reviewed by the House of Representatives in May.

Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American representing Florida’s 25th district, said allowing flights and cruises to Cuba would violate law:

“The expansion of regularly scheduled flights to Cuba is an obvious attempt to circumvent the tourism ban,” said Diaz-Balart in a statement via the AP. “Similarly, allowing cruises to dock in Cuba would violate both the spirit and the letter of U.S. law. Increased travel to Cuba directly funds the individuals and institutions that oppress the Cuban people.”

Diaz-Balart urged his colleagues to support his provision, stating that “Congress cannot look away as the president implements policies that channel dollars to an anti-American dictatorship.”

While Diaz-Balart is likely to gain support among House Republicans, the proposal is a controversial one nonetheless.

Late last year, the Obama administration announced plans to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba, unveiling a new policy in January. While the policy didn’t lift the U.S.’s half-century embargo on the island nation, it has made travel to Cuba far less burdensome.

American travelers no longer need a special license from the government and can get clearance so long as they qualify for any one of a dozen different categories, including family visits, journalistic activity and humanitarian projects.

In addition to having to pass through the Appropriations Committee and the House, the bill would have to get past President Obama, who could squash it with a veto.
(Photo by David Cogswell)