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U.S. Senators Present Bill to Ease Travel Restrictions to Cuba

The Cuban flag and the U.S. flag fly next to one another in Havana on December 19, 2014 | Photo: Reuters The Cuban flag and the U.S. flag fly next to one another in Havana on December 19, 2014 | Photo: Reuters
Eight senators, representing both the Republican and Democratic parties, presented a bill to Congress Thursday that will lift travel restrictions for U.S. residents, as well as remove banking restrictions. The bipartisan move represents the first attempt by U.S. legislators to take steps to ease the blockade on Cuba.

Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced in mid-December of 2014 that the two countries would work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations. At the time Obama announced a series of measures by the executive branch of government to ease restrictions, however substantial change requires action by the U.S. Congress.

Although this bill would represent an important step in the process to normalize relations, due to the politics surrounding Cuba-U.S. relations, the legislators who put forward the bill couched their intentions.

“We're not offering a concession. We're simply saying that Americans should be allowed to have the right to travel wherever they would like to unless there's a compelling national security reason,” said Jeff Flake, one of the senators who moved the bill.

The senators said there was bipartisan support in the Senate for ending the travel ban, possibly enough to pass it if the chamber's Republican leaders allow it to come up for a vote.

The senators did add that a total end to the blockade will not happen any time soon. Cuban President Raul Castro has made it clear, however, that relations would not improve until the blockade is ended.

There has been vocal opposition to any ending of Cuba's isolation in the U.S. Congress, led by staunchly anti-Castro lawmakers with proven ties to the far-right Cuban lobby in Florida.

Raul Castro set a tough tone on relations with the United States in a speech Wednesday, warning that U.S. interference in Cuba's internal affairs would not be tolerated.

The Cuban president was backed by the leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean, who are gathered in Costa Rica for the CELAC summit. At the summit Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro spoke of a “new historic era” where unity and integration will “mark the end of imperialism.”

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