WASHINGTON (March 20, 2007)— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging Congress to pass legislation that would end travel restrictions to Cuba and encourage more contact between Cuban and American citizens.
In a letter sent to Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy, commended Rep. Rangel, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona and other lawmakers for sponsoring H.R. 654, a bill that would allow travel between the U.S. and Cuba.
"The USCCB has for many years consistently called for relaxing the sanctions against Cuba," Bishop Wenski said. "These policies have largely failed to achieve greater freedom, democracy and respect for human life. At the same time, our nation's counterproductive policies have unnecessarily alienated many in the hemisphere who should be our friends and allies, and brought needless hardship on the Cuban people. It continues to be our position that the goals of improving the lives of the Cuban people and encouraging democracy in Cuba will best be advanced through more rather than less contact between the Cuban and American people."
Bishop Wenski described the travel restrictions on Cubans living in the U.S. as particularly objectionable. "No one should be prevented from visiting a dying relative or attending a loved one's funeral simply for having traveled to Cuba once in the previous three years," he said. "It is an inhumane policy that does no honor to our country. These most recent restrictions have increasingly made more difficult and onerous the legitimate travel of academics, journalists, religious leaders and other U.S. citizens to the island."