Don't Buy Your Ticket to Cuba Just Yet

Washington Matters

Don't Buy Your Ticket to Cuba Just Yet

Looking forward to Congress lifting the ban on travel to Cuba?  Well, don't make plans yet. It's likely to happen, but not as soon as you think...unless you're a Cuban-American with family on the island.

Congress won't rush to end the 46-year-old embargo on American visits to the island (minus a brief lifting by President Carter), despite predictions to the contrary. Supporters of allowing travel include President Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus and many others, but the powerful Cuban-American lobby is dead set against it, and it has the backing of Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

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Most lawmakers feel a fight is more trouble than it's worth. Instead, Obama will crack open the door with an order allowing unlimited travel to the island by all Cuban-Americans who want to visit family members back home. That short-term fix will prove a big long-term headache as the government tries to adopt different policies for different ethnic groups. The Treasury Department, which is responsible for enforcing sanctions on Cuba, will have to decide just who qualifies as Cuban-American and who has family to visit. The resulting chaos will increase pressure on Congress to act, but it will take awhile (and maybe another election cycle).