Berman Gears Up for Action on Cuba


This is a guest post by Anya Landau French, who directs the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative. This post originally appeared at The Havana Note.
The other day, I participated in a conference call with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman. I was eager to see what he would have to say, ever since the House Agriculture Committee passed legislation to end the Cuba travel ban and ease agriculture trade restrictions back in June. Many Cuba pundits have wondered what Mr. Berman, who has jurisdiction over the travel ban piece of the bill, might do next.
Berman cleared that up in no short order, and candidly expressed his determination to round up the votes he needs to pass the bill, make it available for subsequent floor consideration, embolden the Senate to act, and to provide political cover and encouragement to the Obama administration to use its executive authority to loosen restrictions on travel until the Congress is able to finish the job. This late in the Congressional session, Berman seems to have decided, rightly I think, to use both private and public persuasion to get the votes he needs.
I’ve long been in Berman’s camp when it comes to why the travel ban should end – as he said on the call, “as a matter of principle, this is about Americans’ right to travel.”
But let’s remember why doing travel is important, especially now. At the core of U.S. policy toward Cuba is the linkage established both by law and the declarations of the Obama administration that says, we won’t liberalize the embargo unless Cuba reforms its system, such as releasing prisoners. Although Cuba rejects that linkage – as do I, because I think it puts our policy in someone else’s hands – the fact is that Cuba did the deal with the Spanish government and the Catholic Church on human rights, it is in the process of releasing all of the 52 remaining dissidents rounded up in March 2003 (27 released so far), and U.S. policy makers should use this moment to incent the Cubans to do more. Actions by Obama and the Congress to open up travel to Cuba would signal back to the Cubans – we see and support what you’re doing. Failing to acknowledge the progress being made on the island would further undermine the credibility of the policy.
— Anya Landau French


17 comments on “Berman Gears Up for Action on Cuba

  1. JohnH says:

    Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is all about repentance and atonement, it is a 25-hour period of fasting and prayer. It occurs on September 18 this year.
    Has Nadine found anything to atone for?
    oops–stupid question.


  2. Cee says:

    This should give everyone a laugh
    November 27, 2002: Kissinger Named Chairman of New 9/11 Commission
    Henry Kissinger. Henry Kissinger. [Source: Public domain]President Bush names Henry Kissinger as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission.
    Kissinger is


  3. A. Menaidy says:

    “He [Castro] criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the “unique” history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence”…
    Ah, that explains it! He was trying to sound sweet to Berman, an arch-Zionist in congress.


  4. rc says:

    Lest We Forget
    People were cheering in the streets across South America — not because they were Moslems, but because of the ‘payback’ from the other 9/11 in 1973 in Chile that Kissinger organized. (e.g. see


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Saturday, September 11, 2010
    Media still ignores Bush negligence in 911 attacks
    Not too long ago on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell tried to point out the real truth about the 911 attacks, the truth that the press and Republicans have been running from for 8 years but a truth that has been there for all to see all along; the same truth that has been pointed out here before a number of times. It is a truth that is irrefutable and not a matter of opinion or interpretation. Yet the news media, Republicans and Democrats too, have run from it the way a vampire runs from a crucifix.
    And that truth is that the 911 attacks succeeded because of the ineptitude, incompetence and gross negligence bordering on the criminal, of George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney whose dismissal of Al-Qaeda as a real threat for 8 months allowed the attack to succeed.
    The big lie, the lie the news media was too cowed to refute, Democrats too cowardly to challenge and Republicans too political to admit, is that 911 could have been prevented. And should have. In fact 911 would have been prevented had there been anyone other than Bush as president.
    The 911 attackers were not that shrewd. In fact they were as bumbling as they were lethal. They left obvious and blatant clues wherever they went. The problem was the Bush Administration was both negligent and incompetent in dealing with terrorism and those blatant red flags either went ignored or unnoticed.
    Bush blamed intelligence failures for the success of the 911 attack but the only real intelligence failure occurred at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
    It was their catastrophic lack of judgement and incompetence in the face of clear and convincing intelligence that a massive terrorist attack was imminent, and Bush doing nothing in the face of that intelligence, that resulted in 3000 deaths and the event that changed the course of the country and resulted in two wars, one necessary and one not.
    Joe Scarborough didn’t let O’Donnell continue his diatribe against a former member of the Bush Administration over 911 who was also a guest. Whether it was because of the content of what O’Donnell was saying or his temper flaring, it’s impossible to know. But like other members of the press, Scarborough didn’t want to hear it.
    Which is nothing new. The country has been saddled with the weakest, most spineless and incompetent collection of journalists in the country’s history, ( Scarborough is a host and commentator so I don’t include him in the category of journalist) and with newspapers closing and cable news channels showing ratings that by mass media standards are pathetic, the last thing these brave souls wanted to do is alienate a potential segment of their audience, in this case, conservatives and Republicans who love to boast their national security credentials.
    They say that in war the first casualty is truth and nowhere was the more true than with 911.
    What we are getting on the anniversary of the attack is more documentaries and rememberances but not one documenting the failures of George W. Bush, his ignoring of constant warnings of an imminent attack, the flimsy excuse of Condoleeza Rice that the August 6 2001 PDB was a “historical overview” when everyone knows the PDB is actionable intelligence. The problem was they took no action.
    They dare not even investigate Bush’s negligence, as ANY honest investigation, into ANY aspect of the events of 9/11, have a danger of exposing the foundation of impossibilities that the official narrative is built upon.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing. Nine fuckin’ years of our government screaming in our ears….
    Is it any wonder we have wackjob assholes like Reverend Jones and Nadine slithering out from under their rocks?
    What crap. Every year these sacks of shit, in league with a media that is all but worthless, attempt to buttress and reaffirm this fantastic and impossible narrative about what occurred on Septmber 11th, 2001.
    The immediate shock of it explains the mass naivette and gullibility that allowed the mass marketing of a surreal and highly questionable fairy tale. But we no longer have that excuse. For God’s sakes, we’ve had nine years to wise up. When, if ever, are we going to demand a REAL investigation into what REALLY occurred on 9/11?


  7. DonS says:

    RC, I’m implying that even if Cuba does not stamp a passport, the country of origin, e.g, Mexico or Canada might very well. Things used to be quite different when travel documents weren’t scanned and left their imprint all over the electronic network.
    At the very least, ‘non legal’ travel to Cuba by Americans, originating from a third country, requires that the traveler, if questioned, lie about destinations. Now I know that stamps in a passport are not necessarily sequential, but they are dated, and a very logical question would be, again, for example: “Exactly where were you coming from when you landed in Canada on such and such a date?”
    I spend a lot of time in Canada, by the way, and my Canadian acquaintances are incredulous that Americans are not allowed to travel to Cuba. They enjoy that destination a lot.


  8. rc says:

    “Over 100,000 Americans will visit Cuba this year. ” — Don Bacon, Sep 11 2010, 10:16AM
    Castro’s ingeniousness for his people’s future sustainable prosperity is evident in his investment in producing medical doctors and services to carry the socio-cultural revolution forward in poor countries.
    The way to responsible prosperity for Cuba is to offer their health care services to the US. Why shouldn’t they quote for the job? Real Americans meeting real Cubans through their low-cost health-care system cannot be a bad thing?
    Of course Cuba also got stuff on the ground in Tahiti before the US arrived to ‘take control’.
    They are also working in Temor Leste on the techtonic geo-political plates between Indonesia and Australia – a wealthy ‘Staples economy’ with its own very poor health-care system for indigenous people.
    I’m assuming we’ll see some Chinese ‘port building’ in Temor Leste with the Cubans soon. Adding it to China’s crescent-moon strategy around the Indian Ocean, with ports in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, puts Diego Garcia in a new light perhaps — and therefore Afghanistan as well.


  9. rc says:

    “The business of who and when your passport gets stamped could be tricky” — DonS, Sep 11 2010, 6:33AM
    So are you implying that they can block your passport by some ‘rubber stamp’ and therefor effectively prohibit non-domestic travel?
    Where’s the ‘Professor of Law’ on this?
    The only thing he seems to be ‘professing’ these days is some C-grade Chicago deal making to save what’s left of the boat!
    Send in the lawyers!!!!


  10. Cee says:

    More Muslim hysteria thanks to Newt Gingrich. Maybe he’ll start saying that terrorists are coming here from Cuba.


  11. Don Bacon says:

    No passport stamp in Cuba.
    from the web:
    “Cuba will likely soon be the number one tourist destination for Americans in the Caribbean. It already is for Canadians.
    “Click Mexicana, Cayman Airways, and Cubana Airlines are flying very nice aircraft to Cuba…..the best we have ever enjoyed, not to mention the safest. The visa or tourist card comes automatically with every airline ticket to Cuba. Any American can go, only Cuban Americans traveling with a Cuban passport need a special visa or stamp in their Cuban passport.
    “Over 100,000 Americans will visit Cuba this year. One Treasury Department release said that only 6,000 licenses had been issued in one-two year period. What does that tell us? Many Americans are going without the government’s permission. We encourage you to exercise your freedom to travel. Free people shouldn’t have to have a license to travel! We believe that the freedom to travel in times of peace is a constitutional right!”
    also google wiki travel cuba (captcha doesn’t like multiple URL’s)
    Oh, Happy Patriot Day everyone and remember to Live Free Or Die. It doesn’t only apply in New Hampshire (state motto).


  12. DonS says:

    “I’m not one to discourage American’s from going to Cuba anyway they can but note, that if you lie on your immigration form about countries you visited during your travels its a FELONY.”
    Currency is the least of the problem. The business of who and when your passport gets stamped could be tricky . . .


  13. Popper says:

    By Don Bacon…”And don’t forget to, ahem, be creative about where you’ve been when you go through immigration back in the friendly US of A, the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
    I’m not one to discourage American’s from going to Cuba anyway they can but note, that if you lie on your immigration form about countries you visited during your travels its a FELONY. If you go to Cuba and admit it there currently is no process in place for an administrative hearing. The one admin judge quit some time ago and no one has replaced him. At worst you’ll have to pay a fine.


  14. rc says:

    It’s good to know that ‘Freedom-Cult-USA’ is alive and well … and affording its citizens (and others in Gitmo Bay for example) that special American twist to the free-market economy ethos.
    Given Cuba was just a sleazy off-shore Yankee gangster joint and brothel before Castro kicked them out, they’ll probably be better off in the long run.
    Once China moves in with a naval base — opps, I mean trading port — like Sri Lanka and now Myanmar (Burma), then the fast food industry will improve. All those Chinese sailors looking for noodles. Fantastic opportunity for a Caribbean trading centre to rival Hong Kong.
    BTW: while there don;t forget to go visit the state-of-the-art US naval base and torture centre at Gitmo. It’s mostly fenced off and for visiting VIPs but you can easily get taken in for a free tour just by yelling the secret password at the fence — “Allah Hu Akbar”!
    (pssst: don’t forget to shake your fist as well and wear your favorite Che Guevara T-shirt for a chance at the special ‘Dickhead Cheney Water Boarding’ prize — it’s guaranteed to be unforgettable and hugely life changing! In fact some guests stay for years in spite of their families back home sending lawyers down to try and bring them home. One Canadian teenager become so addicted to it apparently that his government gave up on trying to bring him back home)


  15. Don Bacon says:

    Have an urge to travel to Cuba? No problem. Travel through Canc


  16. Dan Kervick says:

    We need to open up the Cuban market fast. The world will need some alternative developing market for investment opportunities once the the Chinese market implodes due to the bursting of the CMO bubble, i.e. collateralized mooncake obligations.


  17. Sand says:

    How Sweet! Berman’s and Israel’s stamp of approval on Cuba.
    –During Interview With Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Fidel Castro Talks Israel, Iran
    On Iran:
    He [Castro] criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the “unique” history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence
    And all is well with the world.


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