Prominent Cuban-Americans call for end to U.S. embargo of Cuba
MIAMI -- (AP) -- The U.S. government's decades-old economic embargo of Cuba and restrictions on American travel to the island have failed to force political changes in the communist nation and should be lifted, a coalition of prominent Cuban-Americans said Thursday.
A state representative and a Superior Court judge, both from Massachusetts, and three veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion were among nine Cuban-Americans present at a news conference coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Elian Gonzalez's return to Cuba.
Since the early 1960s, the U.S. government has banned almost all American trade with Cuba and most travel to the island. Cuban-Americans can visit relatives there once a year, while other Americans are forbidden to go unless they travel on a journalist visa or as part of a group or delegation that has U.S. government permission.
``I stand before you as a Cuban-American ... to say to you it is time after 40 years for all of us to be able to go back (to Cuba),'' said Liliam Zayas Regan, director of a New Orleans department of utilities. ``And it should not be the part of this great government to say 'You went once, you have to wait a year.'''
The group said Cuban-Americans should be allowed to travel freely to Cuba because it would spread the message of democracy and freedom. They also argued that the United States is missing out on an opportunity to influence changes in Cuba while other nations, who have made investments, do so. American businesses are also missing out on a market just 90 miles from U.S. shores.
Sally Grooms Cowal, who was host to Elian and his father during their stay in Washington last year, organized the group to show that Cuban-Americans are not uniformly in favor of the embargo, she said.
``Our politics toward Cuba has failed America and has failed the cause of freedom in Cuba,'' said Cowal, a former U.S. ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. ``Freedom is contagious and we ought to let Americans travel to Cuba.''
Cowal said she sent a letter to the Cuban American National Foundation, a Miami-based exile group that staunchly opposes lifting the embargo, challenging its officials to open debates on America's policies toward Cuba.
``They should not fear the facts. I, for one, embrace them,'' Cowal said.
The group planned to take their message to Tallahassee later Thursday.