I want to go to Cuba -- and not just because this Kansas City winter won't end. I've always wanted to go to Cuba. I want to see for myself what the big deal is about the place that's tormented our politicians all these years. I want to see the crumbling architecture that once looked so cool. I want to breathe the sultry air (it's 84 and sunny as I write this), drink cafe con leche and listen to some of the music I've come to love. I want to see communism up
close, so I can make my own judgments about it.
As a journalist, I could get special permission. But I want to go as a regular citizen. That's why I was happy to hear this week's news that Congress might actually lift the travel ban.
Among the House bill's 121 co-sponsors are Reps. Dennis Moore and Emanuel Cleaver. Cleaver is traveling to Cuba as part of a congressional delegation that leaves on Friday. Update: When this post went live, I hadn't heard from either congressman; see what they have to say after the jump.
Cleaver tells me that he and seven other members of Congress, along with President Barack Obama, will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday.
"Barack Obama has made it clear that among the things that must change is the never-effective policy that we have had in place for 50 years that bars any trade with Cuba," Cleaver says. "We're going to begin to talk very seriously with President Castro about Cuba-U.S. relations. One of the things I would love to see, as we begin to thaw relations, is the Cuba national baseball team to come and play a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals."
He says KC businesses could also benefit by exporting products if the U.S. lifts the trade embargo against Cuba -- though he admits that Cuba doesn't have any money to spend. He says he'll have a much clearer picture when he returns on Wednesday and promises to update us then.
Overall, he says, "We have for too long allowed a small group of U.S. citizens to actually have such a negative impact on U.S. foreign policy. The European Union recognizes Cuba. They have diplomatic relations with Cuba. Likewise, every nation but one in South America. And for years and years and years, Cuba has sent medical teams into Africa attacking some of the most dreaded diseases on the continent, so you're naturally going to have African Americans very much concerned about and interested in a new policy toward Cuba."
Moore's office just e-mailed a statement, too.
"The travel ban is an ineffective foreign policy tool that negatively affects the American -- as well as the Cuban -- economy," he says. "I have long supported efforts to end the Cuba travel ban, as well as the restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba. In addition to being ineffective, these sanctions impose unnecessary suffering on innocent people and close off access to an important foreign market for our farmers and other exporters."
Maybe our musicians, too.