tv Today in Washington CSPAN November 25, 2009 2:00am-6:00am EST
the developing countries of africa and the rate of growth of china has come up very strongly and so has india to a point and this is where the incremental demand is going to come from not from the united states or western europe. and if this recovery in the far east continues the way it is we think we should be able to sell as much oil as we are selling now. and if there is a bonus of growth in europe and north america at least studies by small amount and there may be room for small increment in the quantity of oil in the market but at the moment we don't see that there is such likelihood,
statements. without objection all members may have five legislative days to submit opening statements or additional material for the record. also, without objection the chair may recess the committee at any time. now i will begin my opening statement americans have the right to travel to iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, which seeks a nuclear weapons capability in violation of its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. we can go to north korea which threatens to destabilize east asia with its nuclear weapons program. and even during the darkest days of the cold war our citizens could visit the soviet union. yet the vast majority of americans are still prohibited by law from traveling to cuba. it is the only country in the world where our people are not allowed to go. i am no fan of the castro brothers. in my book they are dictators and despots. the cuban people are still
denied the right to choose their own form of government. they are jailed arbitrarily, the hardee might free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. the recent beating of renowned cuban blocker sanchez as she walked to a peace march says it all. but let's face it, by any objective measure the nearly 50-year-old travel ban simply hasn't worked. this fact is clearly understood by the american people. recent polls indicate 64% of americans and a full 67% of cuban-americans support allowing all american citizens to travel to cuba. it is clearly time for a change. this is not about ending the entire cuban embargo. when president obama abolished travel restrictions on cuban-americans early this year he made it clear the larger issue of the embargo is a debate for another day. unlike the travel ban the
economic embargo does not implicate the fundamental human rights of u.s. citizens. today we will focus on whether we should scrap the restrictions on americans traveling to cuba. the travel ban has prevented contact between cubans and ordinary americans who serve as ambassadors for the space values we hold dear. such contacts would help break the chokehold on information about the outside world and would contribute to improving the image of the united states particularly in latin america where the u.s. embargo on cuba remains the centerpiece of anti-washington grievances. proponents of the travel ban argue we should not make any change in all without a reciprocal gesture from the cuban regime. i believe it is a huge mistake to treat the travel issue in this manner. ludington deduce citizens travel to cuba is it a gift to the castros, it is in our national interest. waiting for a concession from
havana before we do something on behalf of our own citizens puts the cuban government in charge of the decision. i understand the concern that allowing americans to travel to cuba would put money in the hands of the castros. but the reality is a significant portion of the funds are also aiding the underground economy and small self-employed sector strengthening important foundation of independence from cuba's authoritarian regime. at the end of the day, the importance of depriving the castro regime of some additional financial resources is far outweighed by our interest in accelerating the spread of space ideas and supporting the development of a healthy civil society in cuba. for too long our policy decisions about cuba, including the travel ban have centered on hurting the castro regime rather than helping the cuban people. but this has led to the worst possible outcome in an effort to
make the castro's feel the sting we have made the cuban people cry. it is time to make the wellbeing of the cuban people the driving force behind our policy toward the island. lifting the travel ban will benefit both u.s. and cuban citizens. we need to let americans be beacons of hope. we will bring freedom with them. let thousands of u.s. visitors chip away at the castro information and awfully with thousands of small cuts. with the residents of 19 u.s. cities actually travel to their sister cities in cuba. that americans and cubans openly discuss human rights and market-based economics and hollywood movies on streets, beaches and cafes throughout cuba and take the u.s. government out of the business of deciding what should be discussed and which americans should do the talking. the freedom to travel is an important threat running throughout american history. from the settlement of the west to the road trips inspired by
author jack to the exploration of outer space. the to the travel ban is squarely at odds with this uniquely american value and constitutes a disturbing infringement on the right of our citizens to freedom of speech, association and trouble except under the most extreme circumstances the government has no business telling us where we should go or with whom we should talk. it is beyond absurd the treasury department through a humiliating licensing process is in the position of deciding which american church groups can and cannot visit religious leaders on the island and which of our artists and musicians are allowed to collaborate freely with their cuban counterparts. this is big brother government at its worst. last year -- last week we celebrated the 20 the anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall. we've believed the moment when east germans and west germans after years of separation came
together as one. there is also a wall in the cubin context invisible yet very real and to the extent our policy has directed this barrier we must begin to tear it down. i want to experience as we all to the joyful day when the cubans on the island and cuban americans are also reunited. it's time to trust our own people and restore the right of americans to travel to cuba and with us today to discuss this issue is a distinguished panel of witnesses who i will introduce shortly. but before i do, but me turn to the ranking member, the gentle lady from florida who may have a different perspective on this issue than the one you just heard for any opening comments that she might want to make. -- before, mr. chairman. as always for your bipartisan spirit and thank you to the audience members for being here today. january 21st of this year i
heard a statement that appeared to telegraph to the world the u.s. would hold a brutal regimes accountable for their actions, that our foreign policy toward tyrants would be based on an overarching moral, political and strategic u.s. objective of promoting freedom and democracy. on that historic day president obama said, and i quote, to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and silencing of the descent know that you are on the wrong side of history. he added that the u.s. would extend a hand if he emphasized you are willing to unclench your fist and i commend president obama for restating his position earlier this year and restating his support for the u.s. embargo on the u.n. dictatorship calling on the regime to free all political prisoners. the president said and by quote the cuban people are not free
and that is the lone star when it comes to our policy in cuba. proponents of unfettered travel to cuba seek to reward the cuban regime with tourism cash flows as the dictatorship titans its stranglehold on the cuban people. let's have an honest debate on the issue of travel to q1 based on facts. there's no ban on travel to cuba, do not mislead the american people. abandoned notes' provisional money travel to the island, but there are 18 different ways which americans can legally travel to cuba and they do. eight categories under general licenses and ten categories under specific licenses in addition to family journalists and official u.s. government travel one can travel for other reasons ranging from verifiable educational privileges and humanitarian activities to professional research and meetings, athletic competitions, artistic performances, activities related to authorize
u.s. exports to cuba of which there are many. many members of congress travel to cuba every year some of the taxpayers' expense, stay at the best hotels, some of which build on confiscated u.s. property and return with nothing but a glowing reviews about fidel castro and his new face man and current dictator, his brother raul. in april for example one of our house colleagues traveled to cuba and said this of fidel castro and i quote, i want this breathless as i see it, it was almost like listening to an old friend. even more regrettable many of our colleagues have sought to present the apartheid system of health care in cuba as a model for the u.s. to emulate. a member of this committee during an august 28 town hall meeting praised the cuban regime's health care system and said of fidel castro breathless again, quote, one of the greatest leaders i have ever met." this is the scene cuban health
care system which provides all the best treatment to foreigners and to the regime elite while denying it to dissidence and subjecting political prisoners to electroshock treatment as punishment for their political beliefs. some of the categories of u.s. travel to cuba have been in place for decades in fact during the carter administration there were no restrictions on travel to cuba. did that make the cuban people any closer to freedom and democracy? i must have missed that. i believe the response was the mariel boat lift. despite this on licensed targeted american travel, despite this licensed targeted travel, despite the onslaught of european visitors, the sitters from mexico especially when it comes to europe from spain, canada sent so many visitors to cuba, but has the cuban regime
don? has it on clenched fist? did i miss that? in fact two weeks ago as the chairman pointed out independent boulder sanchez and fellow walter orlando were detained and beaten by the cuban agents to prevent them from participating in the march against violence. it is so ironic and so indicative of the castro regime, beating them up as they go to a march against violence. a week ago jose velázquez was fired as a chef at a restaurant because his opposition to the cuban dictatorship and for wearing a bracelet like the one i'm holding up. that is a crime in cuba. but opponents of the current travel regulations want is unrestricted travel tourist travel to cuba. one of our colleagues in this committee has even joked and i
quote with the castro brothers deal with spring break points or twice and we will see how much control they still have. we've seen the images in the news about spring break. how can anyone credibly argue that while lounging on the beaches or party in the nightclubs on till the wee hours of the night will bring freedom and democracy to the cuban people? it isn't funny. the majority of europeans and tourists from around the world have been going to cuba for rahm and the music, sex, cigars. have they brought about space reform and change? bye contrast ambassador case and, one of the witnesses today highlighted an editorial this year the tourism restriction were travel ban against south africa's apartheid government did play a key role in forcing a change by convincing the government that its practices were unacceptable and wouldn't
be condoned. cubin travel regulations and u.s. sanctions on the castro regime were developed to address u.s. security interests and for policy priorities and are based on solid legal ground. first, the tourism sector of cuba is built on confiscated cuban property. many of the hotels and restaurants which are closed to the average cuban or part of the uncompensated property stolen from americans. why would we seek to propagate such violations of u.s. property rights by promoting tourism to the island? second, the to the dictatorship's economic vulnerability lies in the tourism sector as it constitutes the single biggest source of income for the regime. in the same manner the of iran and libya sanctions act was enacted in 1996 to target kuran's economic vulnerability, its energy sector, and in the same manner this committee just three weeks ago adopted the iran
petroleum sanctions act to impose sanctions targeted at the newest economic achilles' heel so it is the u.s. travel regulations are targeted at the tourism sector. tourism is to cuba what energy investment and refined petroleum projects are to iran. for, it is in this nation, our nation's security interests to curtail travel to the island as former defense intelligence agency counterspies have emphasized during congressional briefings and analysts report, quote, the cuban military is well integrated through the tourism industry. this presents an excellent platform which to conduct a wide variety of illicit activities due to the large volume of foreign visitors to pass in and out of the resort's providing cuba with hard currency. among other regimes involved among other entities involved in the tourism sector, enterprise
management group which is the holding company for the cubin defense ministry. this group holds a wide array of companies including sosa, the gas station network, more than 30 hotels and resorts. the profits have enabled them to control the military counter intelligence department and its support companies that have served as a channel for introducing cuban intelligence operatives into foreign countries. it is also noted the sea travel to the island as an important source of potential asset that is a mean of recruiting foreigners to spy for the regime. given the intelligence and recruiting u.s. academics, senior intelsat officials, senior department of defense official, state department
intelligence and research officials walter kendal meijer's the most senior analyst at the defense agency to betrayed the united states and spy for the regime why would we want to facilitate such potential espionage activities by allowing unfettered travel to the island? just a few more points, mr. chairman. thank you for the time. the supreme court said travel to cuba can be restricted and support of u.s. foreign policy. the court held and i quote there is an adequate basis under the due process clause of the fifth amendment to sustain the president's decision to curtail the flow of hard currency to cuba by restricting travel, and of quote come supreme court. fifth, the travel regulations also help contribute to the safety of americans and enable us to minimize the risks to u.s. travelers to cuba. some sought to justify the removal of all travel
restrictions by comparing cuba to iran. the chairman started with that very comparison. i welcome such a parallel between the the case of iran illustrates the need for travel regulations by shining light on the safety and security issues associated with unregulated travel to countries under the control of rome regimes. three american backpackers who got lost while hiking in a mountainous region along the unmarked iraqi iran border were detained by irene in border security agents in july. they are now being charged with espionage. the case of the armenian american journalist who in april of this year sent this to eight years in prison after iran accused of spying for the united states she spent four months in prison and was released in may and the director of the middle east program of the woodrow wilson international center for scholars was detained in iran in 27, placed in solitary confinement more than 110 days. iran and cuba are not
trustworthy regimes. already the department of state warns, and i quote, several instances the cuban regime has ceased the u.s. passports of dual nationals, denied these individuals permission to return to the united states. cuban authorities consistently failed to notify u.s. intersection of the everest of cuban-american to will nationals and denied u.s. consular officers access to them. they also withhold information concerning the welfare and treatment. why promote tourism travel to cuba? why not choose to go to the bahamas, jamaica, dominican republic in the implementation of the u.s. kafta trade agreement? he needs our help, why not flaunt to haiti and rebuild this island nation? why choose to vacation off the backs of forced slave labor of the oppressed cuban people who are denied access to the very tourist hotels you want to flock
to. promoting tourist travel does not advance the interest of the u.s. or constituents. if we desire to come to a warm tropical climate, come to my district. come to miami, come to keep west, come to any parts of affordable for atlantic coast, go to the jersey shore, visit california, visit arizona, let's post our own u.s. economies and boost our states' economies. don't fill the coffers of the castro regime. gracias, chairman, thank you. [applause] >> the time of the gentlelady has expired, and the chairman of the western hemisphere subcommittee mr. ingalls is recognized for three minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i very much appreciate your calling today's hearing to discuss the issue of cuba and the travel ban. it's also important we take a look at our entire cuba policy as well as the internal dynamics
in cuba as we review of travel ban. i support president obama's steps to move forward on u.s. policy toward cuba but i also believe that it takes two to tango. the president of restrictions on family travel and remittances to cuba expanding communication links to the island. these steps send important signals of the willingness of the united states to improve ties with cuba but in response and fortunately i've seen few if any reciprocal steps from the castro regime. unfortunately cuba remains one of the most repressive countries in the western hemisphere. like many of my colleagues i would like to see us turn the page on our approach to cuba, but that time hasn't yet come. i therefore also stand with president obama and continuing to support the embargo on cuba. i was at the summit of americas with president obama and let the congressional delegation to the organization of american states general
assembly meeting in honduras and i'm pleased to report the administration's move
toward cuba have received a positive reception throughout the hemisphere. at the general assembly the oas listed cuba's suspension from the organization. this was a delicate move carefully ably negotiated by secretary of state hillary clinton. it sent the message that the u.s. was willing to see cuba rejoin the oas if it increases the inter-american democratic charter. of course cuba has not adopted the principles and let me be clear the resolution did not react met cuba into the oas. in fact the cubans themselves say they do not want to rejoin the oas, thus the ball is now in cuba's court to abide by the principles of human rights and democracy and in body and the inter-american charter. as we move forward we should not forget that the u.s. is already a major source of humanitarian assistance to the cuban people and the largest provider of food to cuba. and agricultural products alone the u.s. sold over
$700 million of goods to cuba making the united states cuba's fifth
largest trading partner and 2008. i support president of hamas changes on cuba policy since it recognizes further@@c ú other words, using the reset button was to both sides of the u.s. cuba relationship. we've already moved forward. more steps by the castro regime to make tangible progress on democracy and human rights would provide even greater opportunities to move beyond the mutual the deletions found between the two countries. mr. chairman, thank you for calling today's hearing and i look forward to hearing from the distinguished witnesses. >> thank you for a much of the time of the gentleman's expired. the ranking member of the western hemisphere committee,
the gentleman from florida, mr. mack. >> thank you, mr. chairman and i want to thank the ranking member and associate myself with all of her comments. mr. chairman, cuba is a totalitarian regime that has oppressed and punished the to the people for more than 50 years. we all support the right, at least i hope we all support the right of the cuban people to live in a free and space society. but we differ strongly and passionately on how to help the cuban people achieve freedom. at today's hearing we explore how to give a bailout to the castros. instead of holding a hearing on human rights conditions in cuba we have decided to hold a hearing on how fast americans to make a reservation on orbits so they can spend the night of the cubin hotel where cubans are not allowed or whether americans can drink motor tows a few feet away from political prisoners. mr. chairman, we must remain steadfast in our opposition to the brutal castro regime that
murders, tortures, rapes and systematically eliminates any opposition to its ironfisted for will. canadians and europeans have been traveling to cuba supporting the castro regime for many years. some have said that by opening to but to travel it would promote political and economic change from the castro's repression. nothing could be further from the truth. let's look at some numbers. 2.1 million, that is how many tourists visit cuba 2007. over 2 billion. that is the number of dollars generated by tourism and cuba on a yearly basis on hundred two. that is how many attacks against cuban journalists have happened in the past year. number three, that is the number of cuban agents who threw a blocker headfirst into in on marked black car and beat her for speaking about freedom. this isn't a few years ago, this is a few weeks ago.
over 300. that's the number of political prisoners in cuba. zero, zero is the amount of change we have seen from the castro's, mr. chairman. some of my colleagues and some of our witnesses will say that 2 million tourists and $2 billion figure in tourism is not enough to bring change to cuba and that instead we must support and fund the inhumane activities of the castro brothers. let's call it what it is. this is a castro bailout, mr. chairman. a bailout for beating, a bailout for repression, bailout for rape, bailout for torture and for corruption. a bailout for tire any. mr. chairman, going sightseeing to view political prisoners will not bring democracy to cuba. america has always stood for freedom and a bipartisan manner we have to endeavor to spread the light of liberty of the
repressed castro regime. now is not the time to change policy and start appeasing and funding the castro plan. a fleet of liberty is a powerful one, mr. chairman. let's work together to support the right of the cuban people to live in a free and space society. >> the time of the gentleman has -- >> you're right, the cuban people are crying, mr. chairman because -- >> the time of the gentleman's expired. mr. mack, the time is expired. [applause] we can get into cheering all the different views on the different sides, i think the hearing will be much better if we can feel -- feel the sympathy with a particular position but not explicit in a ball you will wait. who next in seniority on the majority side, which is to take a minute? the gentleman from massachusetts
-- the gentleman from massachusetts? >> thank you, mr. chairman -- >> recognized for one minute. >> of course at some level this hearing is about the united states and cuba and the bilateral relationship. but let me suggest that it's very core, it's really about american democracy because the travel ban is not a sanction on cuba. it's accomplished nothing in 50 years. it's a sanction on american citizens by our own government. a sanction on our freedoms, sanction of our liberties and to suggest ending the travel ban should be conditioned on the actions of the cuban government would mean the communist cuban regime would decide when americans could exercise their
liberties, their freedoms, their right to travel. howell absurd, how outrageous. it's time to trust the american people. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. next -- the gentleman from new jersey, mr. smith, is recognized for one minute. >> thank you. in 2001i offered amendment to the treasury appropriations bill to facilitate lifting the travel ban, but if and only if certain fundamental human rights conditions were met. one, release all political prisoners, and second, return to the united states of those murderers and felons joann a woman convicted and sentenced for the brutal execution-style murder of the new jersey state trooper werner foerster. ..
a silver bullet that will reduce poverty, encourage democracy and restore social equality. however, there is value to opening the doors of tourism to cuba. tourism is a dialogue with the cuban people. it signals our openness to-- and i believe this will give hope to cubans wishing to return to their homeland so i look forward to hearing the testimony of our panelists. i want to thank you for the hearing mr. chairman. >> the time of the gentlelady has expired. the gentleman from-- mr. berman. >> i appreciate you having this hearing mr. chairman. i wish everybody concerned about this would talk to a man who spent years and years and
economy nisku lutt and listen to what he has to say. every single dollar that goes to cuba helps castro. they exchange that money and they pay those people down there in the local currency, and they get a pittance for the work they do. there is 10 million people in communist gulags in communist china. we do business with them but they have been changed in vietnam. this is 90 miles from our coast. 90 miles from our coast and they are working with chavez in south america. they arm working with the communist movement and they are still a threat to the united states. we shouldn't send any money down there, not a dime. except maybe for humanitarian purposes until this regime is removed. they need democracy in cuba. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. please, we will hear your
applause. the gentleman from new jersey, mr. sires is recognized for one minute. >> thank you mr. chairman. lifting travel restrictions could send countless american tourists to cuba and win a tourists visit the i lend their money does not help the cuban people. it does not trickle-down to the cuban people. it goes into their pockets of an oppressive government. by lifting travel restrictions we in equivocally are funding an oppressive regime. the suppression of the cuban regime is systemized and constant. oe couple of weeks ago agents rounded up and beat blogger yoani sanchez and others on their way to a peaceful demonstration to prevent-- from the human-rights and denounce violence and for this they were
beaten. just yesterday human rights say 123 page report detailing atrocities conducted by the cuban regime. the reports document warranted threats, violent attacks, the arrest and imprisonment. this is the reality in cuba and his this oppressive activity that increased travel would help fund. is that it? >> that is set for now. the gentleman from california, mr. royce the you see recognition? >> yes, i do. mr. chairman promoting this type of travel to cuba might be a good strategy if it would promote democracy or human rights, or our security. it won't. or if tourists dollars spent their empower the average cuban or help to build civil society, or escapes the regime's route. they don't.
or if the american tourists would be free to interact with all cubans holding open conversations. they won't. i do wonder who frolics on the beach knowing that freedom seeking cubans are brutalized nearby or is one witness testifies watches michelle real life puppet shows of repressed cubans hailing the dictator. that is the tourists industry. some don't recognize we have determined dangerous enemies. i do. empowering the security apparatus of cuba a terrorist state is a very long way to go. thank you mr. chairman. the the time of the gentleman has expired. the gentleman from virginia is recognized for one minute. >> thank you mr. chairman. it is not like we haven't done anything. earlier this year and on the ms. appropriation bill we did relax certain restrictions on cuban travel but now i believe
having extended that olive branches up to the castro regime to respond. for the relaxing the trade restrictions without reciprocal actions only undermines our efforts to improve human rights and my in bold and the castro regime in its twilight. while i sympathize with the flight of those with families in cuba i can't-- i believe we can afford to give away what leverage we still have over the castro regime if we are intending to realize improvements to the cuban people and their families here in america and i yield back. >> the time of the gentleman has expired and the gentlemen from arizona mr. flake is recognized. >> when i was elected to this office i thought i was being elected a member of congress, not a travel agent but for some of the discussion already today we are being told you what to travel to bermuda or to haiti but don't travel to cuba. i would suggest that is not our role here. if we want to be a travel agent, let's be a travel agent but
otherwise some people think, myself included we will actually promote democracy by allowing americans to travel to cuba. some people are on the other side and don't believe that. after 50 years i think the arguments are on my side, let's call it a drop for that is a draw shouldn't the default the freedom? this is not a sanction on cuba. this is a sanction on americans. we can leave the discussion about the embargo for another day. this is a discussion about will we allow our constituents the freedom to make their own choice on where to travel and not tell them we want you to travel here and not there. i yield back. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the gentleman from american samoa mr. deleo mcveigh. >> i would like to say for the record my utmost respect for those of a colleague whose lives and families are directly affected by the castro regime.
i've heard stories of how they left their homes and belongings for fear of their lives and how they have had to escape cuba and come to@@@@@@@ )) @ ,b' americans wherever they want to go, whether it be cuba or in any country in the world. we go to china at but certainly not all the freedoms are in china and i have a lot more to say but i thank you and i yield back. >> the time of the gentleman has expired and the gentleman from south carolina mr. wilson is recognized for one minute.
>> thank you mr. chairman. i agree with ranking member ileana ros-lehtinen. i groban charleston south carolina during the height of the cold war. i firmly believe lifting the travel ban only serve to enrich the corrupt cummin is the lead. i am hopeful that castro's rule over cuba will be coming to an end soon. when this happens this will allow the people of cuba and the united states to find the engage in a democratic process. waterboard someone who for decades has threatened the american people with parm? some may say opening up cuba will allow the people there to achieve better lives. for decades european countries have permitted millions of tourists to travel to cuba but the current regime continues to govern by force, instilling fear in its people. it should be noted the private humanitarian missions are permitted and legal under u.s. lauper could change in u.s. policy should be based on
changing cuba. >> the time of the gentlemen has expired. does the gentleman from new york seek recognition? the gentleman is recognized for one minute. >> i just want to quote from the state department 2009 country description by the bureau of consular affairs in cuba. queue but is a totalitarian police state which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. these methods include intense physical and electronic surveillance of cuban citizens and foreign visitors. americans visiting cuba should be aware any encounter with the cuban citizen would be subject to surreptitious scrutiny by the general director for state security of cuba. also any interaction from averaged cubans regardless of how well-intentioned can subject a cuban touma rosman and/or detention and other forms of repressive actions by state security elements. the government of cuba bases much of its legitimacy on being opposed to the u.s. government.
nevertheless it needs to earn hard currency through the tourist industry prins that to encourage tourism from any source. again mr. chairman i did make that up. that is from the state department's 2009 country description and i would submit that to the record for thought on those who would lift the travel ban. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the gentleman from florida has already had his time. the gentleman from texas. >> mr. chairman instead of resting missiles keeble harbored convicted terrorists baez and prisons its own people and calls them political prisoners and the profits from the so-called tourism that we are talking about which included $2.7 billion last year goes not to the people but directly to the cuban intelligence and its military. why would we in our right mind ever want to help subsidize the enemies of the united states and
this, we are talking about sending americans to hotels that just like in the old soviet union days when i was in moscow in the '80s the russian citizens couldn't go in those for good they were all for tourists in the same is true in cuba but it seems unconscionable to me that we would encourage our citizens to vacation while cubans are persecuted by their own governments by the castro brothers and i think the travel ban should remain in effect. thank you mr. chairman. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the gentlelady from california, ms. woolsey is recognized. >> i briefly want to say as we are listening to were witnesses and to each other, we have to make, we have to know how many other countries that we as americans traveled to that aren't democracies that don't have human religious rights that
we would agree with, and ask our question, why should we treat cuba any differently and i yield back. >> the time of the gentlelady has expired. the gentleman from florida to you seek recognition? gence auman bilirakis is recognized. >> the idea that increased travel would have an impact on openness think you but is misguided. castro is the problem, not american policies. we should not be in the business of perpetuating the castro regime propaganda apparatus that blames the west or the island suffering. lifting travel restriction would directly provide tourist dollars to the marxist regime in order to fund its tools of oppression. there is no free market in cuba, just a giant money laundering machine for soviet era policies that otherwise met their demise with the fall of the berlin wall
20 years ago. we must maintain travel restrictions to prevent the regime from using tourists dollars to further oppress the cuban people. thank you mr. chairman. i yield back the balance of my time. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the gentlelady from california, ms. lee. >> cuba is then the only nation in the world where americans are forbidden to-- traveling to afghanistan, or burma. americans are travel-- free to travel to and the island and our president just completed a very successful visit to a communist country, china. by any objective standard our current policy toward cuba just has not work. it is clear to me when i travel to cuba in the mid '70s as a congressional staffer and it is even clearer to me over three decades later earlier this year and led a congressional delegation to cuba.
we believe there are new opportunities to rethink u.s. policy with their nearest caribbean neighbor. americans should not be denied the right to travel to cuba. americans have become isolated. we should be free to be part of the global community. it is their democratic right to travel to cuba. we don't want to deny our citizens they are free democratic rights based on what regime or what government is in place. >> the time of the gentlelady has expired. >> thank you mr. chairman. >> the gentlelady from nevada. >> thank you mr. chairman. i would like to thank and applaud and incorporates by reference the eloquent statements of the ranking member ileana ros-lehtinen. i believe her comments were spot on. i'm opposed to lifting the travel restrictions to cuba unless and until castro passmore cuba at the least reforms its behavior and that the very most
changes its regime and i am a little baffled by mr. flake's comments. i don't think anybody here was acting like a travel agent but if i could capitalize on what ileana said, if you have a great desire to go somewhere, let me suggest you don't go to florida you come to las vegas instead of cuba. >> the gentlelady, the leader of the tourism caucus has expired. [laughter] the gentleman from indiana, mr. pence is recognized for one minute. >> thank you mr. chairman. i find myself in one of the rare moments where i disagree with my colleague from arizonan. we are usually pressed hard against the railing on the right together, but on this one we will agree to disagree. but i do so respectfully and not at state travel agent.
as we all know travel to cuba is not banned for colbert actually 18 categories for which travel to cuba is permitted. what is restricted and what this hearing primarily boils down to his tourists travel. i am not talking about opening cuba's free and open tourist industry. there is no such thing. what we are talking about tilson services that they into the pockets of cuba's government in military. the average cuban citizen can't even approach these exclusive hotels. those were permitted to be there for work are not paid adequately and are required to restrict party lines. those who argue for lifting the travel restriction say that cuba will end up democratically. >> the time of the doesn't has expired. >> i ask unanimous consent to submit my entire statement for the record. >> we will be coming back for the question period. the gentleman from new york,
mr. meeks is recognized for one minute. >> it just seems to me we fight for freedom in this country and therefore it seems that with this hearing is simply about the freedom of the american people being able to choose where they want to go. this is the only country with the americans have placed upon ourselves a ban of travel. i hear a number of members talk about some of these other countries that are so bad yet we don't have these other countries as we have on cuba, so it seems to me that the only place where there's even a tourists trap ban in the world that the place on ourselves is in cuba but yet we have some of these other governments that are communist and i hear members talking about how bad the place is but yet they have visited these places. leave it up to the american people. those who don't want to go won't. those who do well but leave that
up to the american people to make the choice because that is what freedom really is about. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the gentleman from georgia, mr. scott. >> i think i've listened to both sides of the argument here and i think that we have an excellent opportunity. where we have been is we are at a stalemate, no question about the violation of human rights and no question about where we have gone in terms of our gains in economic exchange with cuba but doing nothing keeps us where we are. why not use this opportunity to get something out of it? i say yes, let us open up and let us travel. we have got to understand that ban does not stop the travel. what the band does it stop the money, the finances from going there. this is a multibillion-dollar deal and we need to go to the kester brothers and say let's make a deal. we will open up this band and stop this and bring the tourists
in, bring the billions of dollars in debt you have got to do this. you have got to release the prisoners. you have got to do something about the human rights and let us remember i believe having more americans on the streets in cuba will help us to move quicker to a democracy in cuba. >> the time of the gentleman has expired and the gentleman from florida is recognized. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you for allowing me to speak to an important issue to ourself for the commission. i have always supported a common-sense cuba travel policy in that believe family members should not be separated so i did support president obama's changes to u.s. policy which allowed for limit, lifting of restrictions on travel and remittances for americans with family members in cuba. the goal is to ensure that cuban-americans are able to move freely to visit their families. this is a large step and the
cuban government should not squander this new willingness and this opportunity that has been presented. now that the u.s. has made changes to some of its longstanding policies toward cuba i believe it is time for the cuban government to respond in kind. before permitting free travel the cuban government must respond to the plans asserted by u.s. citizens for many years. it is imperative these be dealt with promptly and i think of the chairman. >> the time of the gentleman has expired in now our final the witnesses, the gentlelady from texas, ms. sheila jackson-lee is recognized. >> thank you very much and thanks to the ranking member for the cooperation of this hearing. some years ago i was involved in the tragedy of ileana gonzalez, the loss of his mother and family members that wanted to raise him.
i indicated in my preference after meeting the grandmothers who lived in cuba that he should be returned to family. as i did that i did not ignore the family members who were here and united states and i frankly believe he could have the benefit of all family members so i think it is important we open the door of opportunity and that we recognize that as we have opened the doors to china, that is not perfect. we open the doors to cuba and our intervention and involvement is critical. at the same time we asked for concessions, interaction with the cuban government and if we do that, we make america the greater country and we work together with the cuban people. led this left the embargo. >> the time of the gentlelady has expired. all time for one minute questions has expired. we are now going to turn to our expert panel of witnesses one who will be with us by
videoconference. first, i will introduce all of the witnesses. general very mccaffrey is president of his own consultingó southern command coordinating national-security operations in latin america. ambassador james cason is currently president of the center for free cuba. he is a retired career foreign service officer with 30 seconds-- 30 years varients. it just seemed like 30 seconds.
[laughter] he was nominated by president bush to be u.s. ambassador to paraguay and confirmed by the senate prior to this posting in paraguay. ambassadors cason was chief of mission at the united states intersection of cuba from september 10th, 2002 until september 10, 2005. ambassadors cason retired from the foreign service in 2008. by videoconference miriam leiva has been a human rights activist and independent journalist since 1995. in 2003, she was one of the founders of the ladies-- a woman organization that advocates for cuban prisoners of conscience. in september 2008 she left the movement to focus on journalism and direct aid to cuban prisoners of conscience and their families. a former cuban diplomat, be laid low was expelled in
september 1992 for lack of political confidence and when she refused to divorce her husband and, independent journalist and economist oscar espinosa. after he was accused of being a counterrevolutionary. ms. leiva will testify by videoconference from the united states intersection in havana q but and there is a 42nd delay in the transmission of what she will be saying. ignacio sosa is a board member of friends of bright siskel bata, a nonprofit organization that raises aid for the only non-governmental humanitarian organization with a national reteaching cuba. he is a former executive board member of the cuba study group. mr. sosa has been active in seeking and into the isolation of cuba and testified previously before the international operations and human rights subcommittee on lifting
traveling remittance restrictions for cuban-americans. burt the antunez is the cuban citizen who is an active in human rights in cuba. ever since she became aware of abuses committed against our unjustly imprisoned brother, jorge luis garcia perez she came together with a group of other key men mothers in defense of prisoners' rights. in the early 1990's she helped create the national movement for civic resistance, pedro luis cordell, to fight to harassment against their relatives in prison. her movement has been active venturing prisoners rights and publicizing human rights abuses against political prisoners. our last witness is philip peters vice president of the lettington institute. he served in the state department's latin american bureau during the reagan and george h.w. bush administration. he has reported on cuban economic topics and analyzed u.s. policy towards cuba for
more than a decade and rights the blogged, the cuban triangle. thank you all very much for being with us and general mccaffrey why don't you start. >> mr. chairman thank you and congressman ros-lehtinen for the opportunity to be here to join this distinguished panel. i think it is inappropriate time to address this issue. let me if i may add, i provided most of you with a copy of some of the work i've done particularly an op-ed i submitted to the "miami herald" a few months back dealing with this issue. a couple of thoughts. in january i will be back in cuba again to, as an adjunct professor in international affairs to listen to the situation on the ground to try to learn how we can move forward in the coming years to bring back into the community of nations the cuban people from
which they have been isolated while under the control of the totalitarian regime for the better part of 50 years. i take great sympathy with every remark made dealing with the suffering of the cuban people both economic and political. in january i will also be the head of the delegation from the vietnam veterans memorial fund where we will again visit vietnam, a place i fought on three combat tours where we suffered 58,000 killed in action, over 300,000 wounded were the vietnam veterans, 3.5 million have reached out to the vietnam people. i mention that just to put in parallel a viewpoint that i find our current policy toward cuba both in terms of the tourism ban as well as the economic embargo to not make sense. it doesn't work and more importantly we have got
mr. castro with 1 foot in the grave and the transition to power looming in front of us in the coming few years and i would argue we want to engage with these people and try and bring them back into the rule of law in the coalition of the democratic states. again i would understand the oppressive nature of the regime. i bumping tourism in and of itself is going to blow away this mansell of oppression but i do think it will allow the freedom of the american people to directly engage with the cubans. i think our interests are served by lifting this tourism van. i might add, and i say this as sort of a hard-nosed national security professional, i do not believe the cubans in any way are a significant threat to our national security interests. i think they are very high energy intelligence service is primarily a defensive measure in
which they see us as their principal an overwhelming threat. i also think they are paranoid about it which i tell them frequently. i think it is silly for them to think we are going to take military action against cuba. right now 11 million people desperately impoverished except for the communist elite few are wearing good clothing, driving cars. i had an opportunity to travel but the actual military capabilities of cubans are almost nonexistent and i don't think that is a national security threat. ..
their totalitarian stripes. i believe that no significant change is possible in cuba while those to live. if i fought trade, tourist travel and investment with a miracle cure for ending a dictatorship i would be the first to advocate a change in policy. but there is simply no historical precedent or rationale for the argument. we to thickly here for arguments for liberalizing travel. the first is flogging will instill greater your and your understanding of democracy in cuba, secondly tourist spending will help average cubans, third,
leading the regime feels so we should try something different, and finally the libertarian argument that americans have a constitutional right to go wherever they choose. starting with a let's flood them with taurus proposal, why will this help bring democracy to cuba? it's because the cuban authorities strictly limit and harshly penalize the interaction of ordinary cubans with foreigners, and about the only cubans tourists are going to meet our hotel workers. there are 103 hotels catering to foreign tourists in cuba. 67% of these are located in the low remote keys. there are only 5,632 rooms for about 10,000 tourists in havana, a city of 2.1 million that works out to one tourist per 110 cubans. tourists are simply diluted in the sea of cubans. the regime charges average cubans the highest rack rate possible to stay in tourist hotels. that means a night stay would
require an average cubin salary for a year, and that's why you're not going to find a regular cubin in your hotel. the cubans the tourists are permitted to see and try and be questioned are trained to say the right thing. there's another problem with the flawed argument to get you americans speak spanish well enough to hold a conversation on mobocracy or anything else with an average cuban who are so rarely speaks. they go for rahm, cigars, songs and sex. they don't go to cuba to sprick democracy. at any rate most to been stalled democracy and freedom are. the of relatives, million abroad. they don't need need to be convinced to love or understand dom mokrzan. with the need is a way to influence regime behavior. tourism and trade have now brought down to a totalitarian regime anywhere in history. that's because dictators refused to let tourism to its alleged subversive work. if castro thought he could not control tourism, he simply wouldn't have allowed them in. but they can control them well.
in the last decade alone 15 million tourists from democracies have visited the island including several hundred thousand americans. despite this, cuba is not democratized or even liberalized, in fact gone backwards. if tourism had any value as a catalyst for democracy would be the polyglot europeans would have a better chance of engaging cubans, yet there is absolutely no evidence of any liberalizing impact of their stays or in print of their footprint on the regime behavior. it would be more accurate to attribute a strengthening of the state security apparatus to their expenditures since the cuban military owns a hotel the stadium and gets first crack at the cash flow. what about cuba american travel? they spend a lot of money there. and support humanitarian grounds but nothing has come or can result from the cuban-americans visits because they are -- have to get to the new passports, they are screened, monitor, they are video. if they miss the eighth day are expelled or never allowed back in, and they don't want to
jeopardize their chance of returning. therefore, they don't get into trouble cuba treats cuban-americans as citizens. it does not recognize dual citizenship, so a cuban-american who gets into trouble would be denied access and so they stay out of trouble. the final thought, when american cubans -- american tourists want to go to cuba during winter and on vacation the island's 33,384 and five-star hotel rooms are booked solid with canadians and europeans. with fidel oust them to make room for americans? what he want to be dependent again on fickle americans in this critical industry? american policy? i doubt it. now to the argument that tourist expenditures will trickle down to the average cuban jose. again, 15 million europeans have spent tens of billions of dollars there. the benefits the exclusively to the state, poor jose has seen none of it. the regime knows how to and has
prevented seepage or trickle down from tourist expenditures. the tourists stay at all-inclusive hotels. the state owns the hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs, the shops and souvenir stands. the tourists can buy little from average cubans. and a hotel worker gets to keep little for the tourist spends. they only get 5% of the salary that goes to the joint venture partners. they can't unionize, can't complain, can't fight back. again, the cuban military controls the industries. the third argument reflects for a change in travel policy reflect the exasperation of the failure of anybody's policies in the world, anybody in the world to induce castro. the world's most successful in the retirement to morph into a democrat. so, the cry comes out let's just try something different. but what would be a new policy for us has already been tried and is a policy in just about every country in the world. and there has been no positive impact on human or other fundamental rights in cuba as a result. everyone in the world about us
talks come in cages, interests, travels and trades freely with regime, even the wherewithal to survive. and we allow hundreds of thousands of cuban-americans to take good and cash into cuba, and we saw cuba a good percentage of its food. again, what impact does this have on the raging? that they released political prisoners, allowed free elections, open the internet, given labor rights, allow families to start businesses or given to vince the right to travel freely and live where they want? no. lifting the travel ban now will amount to be giving away future leverage for nothing in return. we should hold this in reserve until the demise of the castro brothers and an end to the travel ban should be used as leverage as a carrot in support of those in the future transitional regime who will have a voice and whether cuba goes toward more or less freedom. and regarding the so-called rights of travel of americans to go anywhere they want, the supreme court fold in 1984 and reagan versus all americans do not have a constitutional right to go where they want if the government has a policy reason
not to allow that travel. so before we normalize relations with cuba, the regime must show with cuba, the regime must show its moral, it@@@@@@@ @ @ @ @ @' internationally recognized obligations and principles. and as we debate the future of our cuba policy, let's not seize our support for dissidence in civil society. people on the island who want a say in what is best for their future. thank you. >> thank you, ambassador. and now from havana, ms. leiva, it is your turn >> please allow me first a few words in spanish.
ousting the travel and to americans to visit cuba. i assume you know that we have bebeen indicating our lives for the past 17 years to promote the well-being of our people through human rights activism. oscar is an independent and journalist and sentenced to 20 years in prison during the 2003 crackdown on 75 peace linda fungibles. 53 of them are still in terrible prison conditions and in cuba there are over 2,000 political prisoners altogether. yet they do not feel hate for want revenge. oscar was granted conditional release due to his very poor [inaudible] pecan returned to jail at any moment since the terms he cannot talk openly it continues to do so. i am also an independent journalist, and when he was in
prison i was one of the founders of the ladies in white for the release of the 75. until last year when i decided to focus on writing and assist in the prisoners' families -- prisoners and their families. to the developments in the country and its people, to exchange ideas and experiences, to disseminate space traditions it is essential to be there. citizens of almost all countries find troubling a commonplace, except for americans and cubans, although we are only separated by the short distance of the florida straits. the comprehensive force by generations with intertwined our history through commerce, science, culture, read forbes, dreams and families have suffered a great deal during the last five decades of estrangement. it is very difficult to understand during the last eight
years united states has become cuba's principal food supply year and fifth largest trading partner, but americans cannot walk our streets or shop with our people. only recently we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall. it should be recalled that the iron curtain started to open up by millions of westerners visiting the country's. we are grateful to the politicians who carried out the policy that helped create the conditions for this peaceful outcome. americans played a significant role. today you have a similar opportunity regarding cuba. we are aware of the concern of many distinguished congress women and men of the financial the impact of american tourism on the cuban economy, fearing that the civility of giving birth to the totalitarian regime
we believe that many thousands of americans visiting cuba would benefit our society and enhance our people. firstly through the free flow of ideas and further asking the government to open up and provide goods and services such as renting rooms because the capacities in the hotels would be surpassed. it would improve the impoverished living standards far more critical today than in the 1990's when some were allowed. everyone will know that the cuban state would not claim credit over those improvements but that this comes from americans. cuban authorities have closed all private initiatives to type of the people economically. as a means to have them politically dependent. of course american visitors who would spend money collected by the cuban government, but it is so inefficient it would only be
able to keep small amounts. very little to cover its great needs. it is incapable of producing the food sold international -- to our nationals and has to buy them -- excuse me and has to buy them more than 80 per cent abroad. we're mostly in the united states. rick now it is important to find so many americans products and our limited supply store. no other country can compete in terms of quality and proximity. both of which stimulate trade in many ways. then the return of the american -- imagined and the return of the money americans spend through purchases from american farmers and other businessmen in order to supply hotels, restaurants and stores. in the short run, many other possibilities will flourish.
human authorities blame the embargo for economic problems existing in the country and receive international, public opinion by expressing its lifting. in fact they used the embargo to justify all of their own wrongdoings' economic inefficiency risk-management and repression. they feared losing that just as the panic of the idea having no excuse to prevent americans from coming in. in spite of the propaganda and the manipulation of what goes on beyond our tight boundaries most cubans find ways to know, are eager to listen, have a faith and fulfill promises, are disgusted by the daily and do not see a decent future. after 15 years of being locked away from the world, cuban society is on the cusp of changes. it is not a matter of generational, but exception of a
system that has fallen into a deep economic, political and social crisis with no solution other than the changes. these might come from the power structure aware of their ability or from the people out of desperation and their civil commitment. they could be in turmoil with great repression. we strive for an understanding among all cubans for advancing democracy in a civilized and peaceful manner. the future of cuba depends what we cubans do today. yet, we are past tension in the united states will favor our goals. in a country where it is impossible for most citizens to have internet at home we can not dream of communicating with americans and such -- in a way that is so common nowadays in most parts of the world, nor could anyone be able to experience reality here if he
does not set foot on our land. this year we enjoy an art exhibition from york. we could not have the pleasure of the new york orchestra performance. many scholars signed [inaudible] were not able to interact. americans and cubans have to stand up to the 21st century and restart our walk together respecting the rights of our people, facilitating the path toward democracy, not waiting for the cuban authorities jester but being proactive. we hope all americans can visit cuba. thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much for your testimony and for your courage. and now mr. sosa.
>> thank you very much, mr. chairman and ranking member for the opportunity to speak today. i am a cuban-americans on, brother, nephews and cousins of cubin heroes who fought in the bay of pigs and served time in castro's jails. as a hispanic and a republican, i am a member of to minorities in my home state of massachusetts, and one of the 13% who voted for george w. bush and 2004. however, i am a part of a new and growing cuban majority. 67% that seek to end the isolation of cubans and americans from each other, and that's why i'm here today. the ban on american travel to cuba is an affront to those who believe the right to travel is a fundamental right of all american citizens. we who believe in limited government object to the notion of requiring the government license to travel to cuba, the
only country for which such license is needed. the travel ban is a violation of our inherent right to privacy, of our right to free speech, our right to freely associate with whom we wish and our right to pursue happiness. in a globalized world, travel act as a powerful transmitter of new ideas that enrich both the traveler and the country visited. cuba today is an island isolated not only from its largest neighbor but also from the free flow of ideas and people. yet the rise of independent bloggers on the violent remind us that even the most repressive of governments cannot stop new technologies from spreading timeless ideas of freedom and democracy. it's time for americans to start developing relationships with cubans from all walks of life. this is especially true as cuba years its rendezvous with leadership change, sharing our
hopes and dreams with those who live in the quiet despair of communist cuba can only help reawaken the first for freedom that reside in every repressed cubin heart. to those who point to the large number of canadian tourists who travel to cuba and say how come canadian tourism has failed to produce material change to cuba i say this is a completely false analogy. the population of canada is almost one-tenth of the size of the united states. moreover, canadian hispanics and african canadians account for a combined 4% of that country's population versus a combined 28% for those same ethnic groups and the u.s., and i would add the percentage of hispanics and people of african descent from european countries is even smaller. so not only are the numbers of american tourists traveling to cuba going to be much greater than anything we've seen from
canada those american tourists are much more likely to share demographic and cultural ties with the cuban people. and by the way, according to the u.s. census bureau, 34.5 million americans speak spanish as their first language. that's more than the entire population of canada. the recent incident involving cuban security forces beating and detaining three well-known dissident bloggers is a useful reminder of the solid nature of the cuban government. the assault in the rest of the bloggers occurred just win five u.s. asked cuba for progress on human rights as part of a potential road map to normalizing relationships. this is no coincidence. this is no coincidence. history is littered with instances of cuba taking deliberate steps to sabotage american efforts toward rapprochement. it is clear that cuba, like
iran, users hostility from the united states as a way to legitimize its totalitarian government and explain a way decades of failed economic policy. president obama, secretary clinton, and the u.s. congress should not take the bait being offered by the cuban government when it attacked the cuban waters. it is important that the united states pursue policies that increase people to people contact between the two countries, regardless of what ever steps the cuban government might take in response. conditioning improvements and effectiveness of u.s. policy to whatever actions cuba pursues effectively puts control of our foreign policy in the hands of the cuban regime. lifting the ban on american travel to cuba and allowing more cubans to enter the u.s. on travel visas will do more to further the cause of freedom than the tit-for-tat of diplomatic gamesmanship. the real losers in that game are
always the same, the long-suffering people of cuba. as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the berlin@@@@@@@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ d@ b the blame will fall squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of the cuban government. america should never again allow the cuban government to use american policy as a scapegoat
for that regime's failures. so, i finished by pleading with the members of this distinguished committee and house of representatives to pass the freedom to travel to cuba act. i also asked senator kerry as the chairman of the foreign affairs to co-sponsor and mark up the senate version of the freedom to travel to cuba act. thank you, and may god bless america. [applause] >> thank you. again, please. ms. antunez is next. she will speak in spanish and then her comments will be translated so this will take a little longer than the normal presentation. knees antunez. >> [speaking in spanish]
[speaking in spanish] >> translator: good morning. my name is antunez. i come as the sister and niece of political prisoners. i left cuba a short time ago as an activist in my country and worked as best i could to organize the family members of political prisoners to advocate for their release. my uncle who has serious health problems after spending several years in prison and was removed from prison to spain last year. my brother jorge luis garcia is
prize remains in cuba's struggling for freedom as part of the resistance for the rights of the cuban people for the space change that the majority of the people want. >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: the castro's war against the debate goes to peacefully want change while criticism on the global stage and international condemnation of its repressive conduct. >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: de castro
regime feels emboldened by the half dozen latin american heads of state to travel to havana to raise the longest standing bloodiest dictator by spain's policy toward the island of the objective of which is to bolster and uphold the dictatorship and by the increasing influence of hugo chavez in the region. >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: on the other hand, the regime fears the ever more manifest defiance and noncooperation of the cuban people, therefore proceeding the weakness in the world space community it has made its dirty war ever more public an effort to steal the unrest in the hearts of the cuban people, the physical attack on the blogger and her companions just a few
days ago is an example of this. >> [speaking in spanish] [speaking in spanish] >> translator: my own brother jorge released from prison april, 2007 has decided to remain in the country in order to continues of the struggle for space change. he's been the target of constant arrest, beatings and harassment by castro's reprisal apparatus. jorge luis has seen how the regime becomes bolder and bolder in its repression as it receives unilateral concessions from the world's democracies. >> [speaking in spanish]
[speaking in spanish] >> translator: in april of this year in a letter to the cuban-american members of congress he wrote it is extraordinarily remarkable that while the castro regime increases repression, while the district of our compatriots inside and outside of the prisons particular sectors of the united states seek engagement with the oldest and most repressive dictatorship of the continent. >> [speaking in spanish] [speaking in spanish] >> translator:
[speaking in spanish] >> translator: therefore, i believe this is not the time for the united states government to transform its policy regarding travel to cuba. indeed, those who in good faith belief that by doing this they will help the cuban people are mistaken. i see this as someone who was born and lived all her life in cuba until the short time ago, and i am speaking to you about the reality i know well. throughout all of my life i have faced and confronted the prison wardens, the state security agents, the military personnel and agents of repression are the true face of the regime. i know the regime's contempt for the cuban people and how they
show no mercy to those of us who are black. the experiences i have lived through do not allow me to fall under the spell of the regime's sophisticated diplomats, agents of influence in key positions or of its professional propagandists. >> [speaking in spanish] [speaking in spanish] >> translator: they're real people of cuba, the cuban people that suffer and deeply desire to live in freedom, will not benefit from any tourist travel. rather, those resources will
serve the totalitarian regime to increase its repressive capabilities. some people in genuinely think tourists will have direct contact with the cuban people and this will help cubans to have a clear vision of freedom. in the first place cubans are reprimanded, find and even imprisoned for maintaining contact with tourists. there are places in cuba where kids are subject to restrict entry or time schedules so that they will not be present at the same time as tourists. >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: it must be understood that for years european, canadian and latin american tourists have traveled to cuba, without having any impact on the cuban reality but rather on the government's coffers. >> [speaking in spanish]
>> translator: it is an error to think american tourism will mean something positive to the cuban people. with the cuban people need once again is the support of the american people in their struggle for freedom. the cuban people and internal resistance more so than the need tourists need people who will stand in solidarity in the u.s., chris and advocate for their liberation. >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: we ask recognition for the men and women who run the grave risks for the sake of the rights of an entire people. we ask for a place to be raised against the repression, the prisons, and the censorship imposed against our people for 50 years. >> [speaking in spanish]
[speaking in spanish] >> translator: there are those who held that the castro regime represses in order to avoid a representative pro rapport which was meant with the united states. this is the mistake the real nature of that regime. the castro regime represses because its priority is to stay in power. the reason why it has spent 50 years killing imprisoning persecuting and forcibly exiling cubans is because it knows very well that the immense majority of the cuban people desire freedom. if the cuban people were not repressed we would already be free. >> [speaking in spanish]
>> translator: the regime once the discussion on cuba in a place as important as this to revolve around the questions of tourists or no tourists, commercial relations or no commercial relations because the regime fears this conquer is making the debate on how the united states can directly support those who struggle for cuba's freedom its priority. >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: and i ask you to echo the opinion of my brother antunez and many thousands of cubans on the island on which side as the u.s. congress wished to be >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: on the side of those who engage in oppression and attempt to silence the free thought and voice of the cuban people? >> [speaking in spanish]
>> translator: on this side of those who today engaged in torture into the prison's? >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: or on the side of those who engage in civic non-violent struggle for cuba's freedom? >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: on the side of the enormity of repressed, or on the side of those who flaunt their power, self-serving lee, and on a scrupulously for over 50 years? >> [speaking in spanish] >> translator: on the side of the totalitarian regime nearing its end, or of a young and vigorous resistance that sooner, rather than later, shall take the reins of its country? thank you npv [applause] >> thank you. let me explain our situation.
there is a vote we are going to have to reassess for 20 to 25 minutes. we will come back to hear mr. peters, and then we will have questions ms. leiva, if you can stay to be available for questions we would be very grateful. if you are not -- if that is not possible -- >> mr. chairman, if i could ask a question about the seating. we had an incident, everything was worked out now how folks are seated, they probably like where they are seated. how can we make sure that they come back to those seats or will it be new seating? i'm trying to avoid an incident. we've got lots of other people that would like to sit but some folks are happy with the way it is so let's have a policy that will apply fairly to everyone. ayaan in line with what ever you choose to do. >> everyone who is seat it should probably hold on to their
seat. that is the safest way and then we will bring the caterers and -- no. [laughter] look, it will be a little of a late lunch, but no one -- we don't want to get into a thing where coming in, somebody is standing up a second and taking someone's seat. that wouldn't be fair. so folks who are here, we give you a short term property right to your chair. thank you. [laughter] [inaudible conversations]wçñ9ó=
[inaudible conversations] >> pictures are worth a thousand words. [inaudible conversations] >> the hearing will resume. i believe we -- everybody has the seat they want? we left off where mr. peters was about to begin his testimony, and so we look forward to hearing from you. >> thank you, mr. chairman and congresswoman for having us today. i'm pleased to be on this panel. i want to begin by saying i particularly appreciated the opening statement, mr. chairman. i think that it has been quite
well demonstrated over 50 years the point that he made that conditionality, which is a perfectly good concept to use i foreign affairs in this case has yielded no leverage and that the idea of conditionality in this case, and we have used it for so many years, has resulted in a policy where the control of our -- the levers of our policies and have an eye and not in our own hands and that's wrong and it prevents us from doing a lot of good things. you have been debating this issue for a long time, the issue of travel restrictions to cuba. but now your debating it in a different context. and that is the result of the measures president obama took in september of this year. he changed our regulations, and i think it was a very good thing to do so that cuban-americans can now travel freely to cuba, without restriction they can go as long as they want. they can go as often as they want and on top of that he said they can send as much money they want to their relatives.
no restriction whatsoever. so this changes the issue before you. the issue before you now which is whether to maintain this policy where you have got one ethnic division of americans on ethnic lines and one group has no restrictions. 50 flights a week, filling the airport in miami, some of them are going from new jersey and elsewhere. so you can maintain this policy where we are one group can go without restriction and the rest of us are in the sanctions and penalties under the trading with the enemy act or the other option is to treat all americans are like and give the same freedom. i obviously opt for the second one. you know, it's argued that cuba is a special case somehow and that if we have contacts in cuba that we won't get any influence in cuba or that there is no interaction in cuba between foreigners and cuban citizens that other countries travelers
have had no impact in cuba, that when the travelers go there no funds get to the cuban people or else one of the gentlemen on the republican side said no foreign travelers do anything to help the cubin civil society. every part of that argument is a complete myth and if you go to cuba you see that that is the case. and we have added to that today a statement by ambassador cason, who's written testimony that, quote, most likely the cubin, that an american would encounter and converse with, the cubin will not be interested in the former's view of politics but will solicit money, toiletries or sex or ask if he can help a person out of the island. i think that is another myth and pretty remarkable statement not to say contemptuous. let me be clear. i don't believe that a policy of unrestricted travel by americans is going to transform cuba. we can dyscalculia a lot.
you go to the kennedy administration, the bush administration that ended lots of miscalculations in the policy and i am not going to represent to you that american travelers are going to magically changed the political order in cuba. that's not the case any more than anybody can promise to use sanctions will do it but what we can realistically expect is if we allow americans to travel without restrictions we will increase our influence in that country, where influence is quite low at a pivotal time in cuba's history. on restricted travel will create explosion of communication between the country and there's. congresswoman ros-lehtinen rightly pointed out the licensing categories. but a lot of americans and most importantly a lot of institutions and our civil society are toward by those categories. and if you are a college administrator or a few work at a church or lead a congregation at
a synagogue you are a university president, you can go to any country. if you want to go to cuba you need a license from the federal government. if you want to bring the donation to cuba that is a restricted export. you need a license from the second agency of the federal government. that holds a lot of people back. the explosion of context if we got rid of the disincentives would be a huge. another point i want to make is there is a particular thing about americans. in cuba in that historical context. the cuban government doesn't call canada the empire. they don't claim luxembourg is a genocidal blockade against them. the government has used this idea that the united states is against them, our government is trying to bring them down. for years they've used to justify their policies including repression. if we eliminate our travel restrictions and americans are circulating freely it makes a lot harder for the cuban
government and sanchez who has been mentioned a lot of times today, she has pointed this out, that it makes a lot harder for the cuban government to make us this external enemy, external threat and scapegoat for their own policies. finally about the issue of money obviously cuba is not a free market economy. obviously it is an economy dominated by the state. but there are entrepreneurs some operating legally and some operating not so legally. there's about 5,000 homes in cuba where people have licenses to rent rooms in their homes. there are more of those, more bids in those homes in the city them there or in the state hotels in the city. there are hundreds and hundreds of them in havana. these people make a livelihood when foreigners come. they employ people sometimes legally come sometimes not quite so legally to get the employ
people. they feed their families while. yes they pay taxes. we pay taxes, too, unfortunately but they make a good living. and if more americans could go those people that rent rooms in their homes, artists that make money off of price selling their work to foreigners and other entrepreneurs, taxi drivers, restaurateurs, they will have a better living, and that incipient private sector in cuba will expand. that is very much in our interest to see. i think that these are reasons why so many people in cuba who in my experience you formally welcome americans. why so many people in cuba think we should change the policies you suggested by allowing unrestricted travel. the catholic church has called for this for many, many years, dissidents such as [inaudible] , sanchez, the leading human
rights monitor in the country, a catholic activist, vladimir, the of all called for the and to travel restrictions and every time i have seen again everybody is mentioning sanchez, the blogger detained recently and beaten. every time she has addressed the issue she said we should allow unrestricted travel and she's against the whole embargo itself. so what it boils down to, mr. chairman is a question of confidence, a question of whether we are confident saw how the regime sanctions we have maintained all these years will have an impact or whether something else might work and whether we might have greater confidence in the ability of americans to carry the american idea to keep the and represent the system of government exchange information, bring resources to cubans, help cubin civil society grow. secretary shultz wrote to you,
secretary george shultz and he pointed out he thinks the sanctions in general are ridiculous. he thinks there is some kind of transition and of some kind going on and it is much more likely we would get a constructive outcome if there is a lot of interaction between cubans and americans. i agree with him and i think we should have much more confidence in unrestricted travel and interaction between the society and cuban society and that will serve our national interest. thank you. -- before, mr. peters and all of you. and now we will start the questioning. i will yield myself five minutes. this morning and number of people have mentioned yolly sanchez, the elder mr. peters just referred to who was beaten up a few weeks ago by state security agents and nevada while on her way ironically enough to
an antiviolence demonstration. for those of you who don't know her, yoani has a track record of telling the truth. she title her dissertation dictatorships in latin american literature. since it was taken as a veiled criticism of the castro regime she was denied an academic career. now she earns a living in the tourist industry and blogs for free. time magazine named her one of the most influential people in the world. the spaniards have awarded her the equivalent of the pulitzer prize and last month she was awarded the maria more kavanagh price, the oldest of four international journalism from columbia university school of journalism school. she has never been allowed to leave cuba to collect her awards. she wrote an essay for this hearing and i just -- it's part of the record and i would like just to read a few excerpts. over the course of several
decades, and i am quoting now, cuban exiles and tourists have brought part of the information that has served to undermine the myth of the supposed, quote paradise, in which we live. there is nothing more corrosive for a state that holds itself up as the father and savior of a nation than the testimony of those who in other latitudes have greater space to realize their dreams and greater tolerance for their opinions. faced with no evolution of the current political and social situation and opening of travel for americans could bring more results in the democratization of cuba and the indecisive performance of raul castro. and finally, she says, and again i am excerpting from an entire statement, eliminating these long obsolete travel restrictions would mean the end of the main elements with which official propaganda has
repeatedly state negative american administrations and the anachronistic travel permit that we need to enter and leave the country would be even more ridiculous. of the phrase spoken by john paul ii that january, 1998 in the plaza of the revolution, quote, led cuba open itself to the world and to let the world open itself to cuba. only the first part would remain to be accomplished. so this is what she says, and ms. leiva, i would like to ask you to expand a little bit on the point you touched on in your testimony. we have heard the motion that more americans coming and visiting cuba their only interaction will be with a few
hotel workers of their people, too, that is essentially the castro regime will get all the financial benefits and our notion of what might happen in terms of greater interaction between americans and cubans greater information for cubans about america, our intentions, our purposes, our lives none of the what happened. you, are there. why do you think differently? >> the cuban government has always tried to prevent people from getting together or knowing or people coming from abroad each time it is more difficult for them because people want to