First things first, we want to apologize for the quietness on our end these past few weeks. There have been several weighty developments in U.S.-Cuba policy which we've been working on the ground, pushing back. This is a catch-up email to get us all back on the same page and provide you with a couple actions by which to re-activate your constituent (and clicking) power!
1) On April 27th there was a terrorist attack on a travel agency in Miami that is active in organizing travel to Cuba, and that arranged the travel for the group of 300 pilgrims who traveled to Cuba with Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. The Coral Gables Fire Department says: " A fire at a company that charters flights to Cuba was sparked after a chunk of pavement was used to break open an office window and an incendiary device was then tossed into the building."
The FBI report has not yet been issued, yet the presence of the FBI South Florida counter-terrorism task force says enough, and unofficial agencies present at the scene have said that this attack was "deliberate."
Folks, this was a terrorist attack, plain and simple. You'd think that members of Congress from Florida would condemn it, wouldn't you? Nope, not one word. In fact, not one member of Congress from ANY state has issued a statement denouncing the bombing. We want to see a serious investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators. Congress should be interested in this, too.
Send an email to your member of Congress here asking for a public response to a terrorist attack within our country's borders. If you are from Florida, it is especially important that you take this action.
2) You may have heard about the State Department's denial of visas to 11 respected Cuban scholars who were planning on attending the Latin American Studies Association meeting in San Francisco this week—while at the same time approving visas for two prominent Cubans invited to the same conference. The approvals of visas to Mariela Castro (a sexologist and President Raul Castro's daughter), Dr. Eusebio Leal (the historian of the City of Havana), and two weeks earlier to Josefina Vidal (head of the North American Section of MINREX, Cuba's foreign ministry). BTW, we applaud these visas, as there should be free and easy exchange between Cuban officials and U.S. officials, too. (Aren't they "people," too?) You can read comments from The Havana Note here.
The Cubans who were denied visas are a "Who's Who" of Cuban academe who favor increased exchange between the United States and Cuba, and even the normalization of relations. They are effective in their messaging. Perhaps that is why they were denied? Click here to tell the State Department that you support educational exchanges with Cuba. We want to see a free flow of ideas on both sides of the Florida straits!
During an election year—when Florida is a crucial focus for both political parties—moves toward fully ending the travel ban have been stalled. But playing defense is an honorable role for us to play. As we wait for the right climate to push for more openings and significant progress toward normalization of relations between the two neighbor nations, we can't let forces that oppose engagement win the day and succeed in eroding the advances we've made—or frighten away people and institutions that support travel to Cuba.
Thanks for your continued advocacy on behalf of the End the Travel Ban campaign! And we'll be back in touch soon with an announcement about a delegation to Cuba in January 2013 which LAWG will be accompanying and co-leading!