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Center for Constitutional Rights Calls for End of Cuba Travel Embargo Post-Castro

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Embargo Must Be Lifted in Favor of Constitutional Right to Travel

Contact:

Jen Nessel, press@ccrjustice.org

David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212.260.5000 

February 19, 2008, New York, NY – With the stepping down of Fidel Castro, the United States must end its extreme sanctions on Cuba in favor of open dialogue that allows for the exchange of ideas, said attorneys for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The United States has maintained harsh restrictions on travel to Cuba for roughly a quarter century, most recently in the form of an embargo on any sort of financial transaction with Cuban nationals (making travel to the island effectively impossible).

“The government’s Cuba travel ban has been at best arbitrary and at worst cynical,” said CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal, who has defended many of those accused of violating the embargo. “It’s time to stop dividing families and to start acknowledging the right to travel each and every one of us is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”

The U.S. first passed a law explicitly banning travel to Cuba in 1963, but that law was struck down as unconstitutional. Restrictions were reinstituted in 1982 and tightened dramatically again shortly before the 2004 presidential election.  Over the years, CCR has defended roughly 300 individuals accused of violating the embargo. After years of inaction, the government finally appointed judges to hear their cases, but many of those cases have nonetheless been dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.

Mr. Kadidal
further stated, “The embargo is enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is also responsible for monitoring terrorist financing. Despite more pressing concerns facing the country, OFAC has devoted 15 percent of its budget to enforcing the Cuba travel ban, often through unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits.”

CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren said, “If the U.S. is serious about encouraging electoral democracy in Cuba, it will finally allow the free flow of people and ideas essential to meaningful debate about the country’s future.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.