Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Ignorance of Sen. Mel Martinez

Legislation in the House and Senate is ready to remove travel restrictions for Americans who want to visit Cuba. Both Rep. Bill Delahunt and Sen. Byron Dorgan have respectively introduced identical bills in the House and Senate that would prevent the President from regulating travel to Cuba, except in cases of immediate danger. Sen. Delahunt's bill has 121 co-sponsors so far, 93 more co-sponsors than in a similar bill from 2007.

Yesterday, Senators Byron Dorgan, Mike Enzi, and Chris Dodd held a press conference addressing the recent bill to remove travel restrictions [video available here].

Sen. Dorgan said that a travel ban to Cuba "is a failed policy that has failed for 50 years and its long past the time to change the policy... Punishing the American people in our effort to somehow deal a blow to the Castro government has not made any sense at all."

Sen. Dodd said: "Our goal is obviously to bring change to Cuba, democratic change to Cuba. I happen to believe that for 40 years this [travel restriction] policy has done just the opposite. I think it has perpetuated the situation."

In rebuttal to the bill, the AP quotes Sen. Mel Martinez saying: "This is the time to support pro-democracy activists in Cuba, not provide the Castro regime with a resource windfall."

The Miami Herald also quotes Sen. Martinez saying: "We should be siding with the oppressed, not with the oppressors."

Well, if Sen. Martinez is on the side of the oppressed pro-democracy activists in Cuba, then he should know that these activists are already opposed to travel restrictions to Cuba. I'm talking about well-known Cuban dissidents like Oswaldo Paya, Marta Beatriz Roque and Dr. Darsi Ferrer.

In fact, this should make people wonder about who's side Sen. Martinez is really on because, in the case of US travel to Cuba, Sen. Martinez is not on the side of the oppressed pro-democracy Cuban activists.

On the other hand, Sen. Dorgan does recognize that Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya is opposed to travel restrictions to Cuba, namely those that restrict Cuban-Americans to travel. Read the very wise words of Paya concerning this matter:

"All of us within the Christian Liberation Movement have defended, and will continue to defend, the right of all Cubans to travel to any country and to enter and exit Cuba freely. We are therefore against any restriction that prevents Cubans from coming to Cuba whenever they desire, without conditions.

"Respecting the right of Cubans who live outside of Cuba to come to Cuba should not be conditioned on change in Cuba; this would inflict double punishment on the same victim. But Cubans living outside of Cuba must act in solidarity with their brothers and demand all the rights of Cubans living in Cuba, for in doing so, they are demanding their own rights."

This principle of universality also suggests that in defending your own freedoms, you set the example for the defense of freedom for others. The right of freedom of movement is expressed in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[Photo above from the AP]