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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Welch Sponsors Legislation To Lift Cuba Travel Ban

Ramon Espinosa
A flower vendor and a taxi drive through San Antonio de los Banos, in Cuba, in January. With the United States' diplomatic relations with the country normalizing, Rep. Peter Welch is sponsoring a bill that would allow U.S. citizens to travel there.

Congressman Peter Welch is sponsoring legislation to lift the travel ban with Cuba. Welch says he's convinced that normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba will help create opportunities for democracy in that country.

Welch says the time has come to end the more than 50-year-old diplomatic embargo with Cuba.

The congressman was part of a congressional delegation that visited Cuba in December. His bill would allow people in the United States to visit the country. He says he's gotten very positive feedback from Vermonters about his plan.

"Treating a country as a pariah, even though we disagree with them in a lot of ways, we have relations and we engage," Welch says. "And Vermonters are quite excited about the possibility that we'll actually be able to engage, travel there, hopefully [have] educational exchanges, hopefully commerce."

And Welch thinks there are excellent opportunities for the development of agricultural trade missions with Cuba.

"Vermonters are quite excited about the possibility that we'll actually be able to engage, travel there, hopefully [have] educational exchanges, hopefully commerce." - Rep. Peter Welch

"Right now Cuba is importing a lot of dairy products from New Zealand. I mean, Vermont's an awful lot closer. Wouldn't that be good for us?” he says.

Some members of Congress strongly oppose resuming full diplomatic relations with Cuba. They argue that the effort will benefit an oppressive government much more than it will benefit the United States. Welch disagrees with this analysis, and says full access to the Internet will help Cuba move to a more democratic society.

"I don't think it's a reward; I think it's a threat. I mean, the Castro brothers have got basically a fence around the island,” Welch says. “They control everything and they oppress people politically. Our non-engagement with them has not worked as a way to facilitate democratic development and opportunity in Cuba. So the policy has failed." 

A companion bill lifting the travel ban has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy. The proposal is strongly backed by the Obama Administration.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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