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All has to do with money, a battle to lift the ban is already in force in the USA.

A battle is building in the United States over whether the current ban on travel to Cuba should be lifted, but for some in the UF community, the answer is simple: Lift the ban.

On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the issue.
The committee’s ranking Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, supports the travel ban.

Since the 2004 elections, Cuban-American donors and political action committees that support the embargo have donated more than $10 million to 300 federal candidates, according a Miami Herald report on the influence of campaign contributions made by supporters of the embargo. The report was published Monday by Public Campaign, a nonprofit organization supporting campaign reform.

Seven of the top 15 recipients were from Florida — four Democrats and three Republicans. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who represents Miami and is running for Senate, joined more than 40 other Democrats in signing a letter to Nancy Pelosi supporting the travel ban and has received more than $100,000 from pro-embargo contributors, according to the Public Campaign report.

But Adam Sharon, a spokesman for the congressman, said Meek’s policy decisions aren’t influenced by campaign contributions.

“When you are intimately aware of the life stories of political prisoners and dissidents who were deprived of freedom, that is what shapes public policy decisions,” he said.

But Philip Williams, director of the UF’s Center for Latin American Studies, said there is no evidence that the embargo and travel ban have helped bring democracy to Cuba.

Williams said President Obama made progress by lifting a travel ban against Cuban-Americans made under the Bush administration. It’s well overdue that restrictions were lifted for all Americans,” he said.

Williams said Cuban-Americans who support the embargo are a vocal minority in the community with a disproportionate influence.

Terry McCoy, director of UF’s Latin American Business Environment Program, agreed with Williams.

“The Cuban-American lobby has been very affective in rounding up votes to prevent a lifting of the embargo,” McCoy said. “One of the ways they do that is campaign contributions.”

Both professors said younger Cuban-Americans support ending the embargo more than older generations.

Their claims are supported by a September poll that showed 59 percent of Cuban-Americans believe the travel ban should be lifted. Respondents 18 to 64 years of age supported lifting the ban by 62 percent, while only 49 percent of those 65 and older supported lifting the ban.

Jessie Ribot, a Cuban-American student at UF, said she thinks the travel ban should be repealed. Ribot, a UF freshman, moved from Cuba to America when she was 7.

She said she doesn’t think America can influence Cuba’s government, but Americans should have the right to visit the island.

In fact younger Cuban-Americans support ending the embargo more than older generations.


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