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11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of Cubans. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support House bills described below.

 

Background: In April of 1960, State Department officials wrote that the goal of the U.S. embargo of Cuba was “…to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government” (State Department, April 6, 1960). Today the Cuban people still experience shortages of many essentials including life-saving medicines and medical products.

 

When we meet with our legislators in DC or in district, we advocate for policies that benefit the people of our two countries. Even though polling shows that 96% of Cubans living on the island support lifting the trade embargo and have said that more tourism would benefit the local economy, President Trump announced in 2017 that “in solidarity with the Cuban people” the U.S. would add more barriers to trade and travel to Cuba. Since polling has also shown that 63% of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County oppose the continuation of the embargo and 73% of people in the U.S. favor ending the embargo we have to ask who is in favor of these restrictions?

 

CRLN has worked with faith communities in Cuba and the U.S. for more than twenty years to end harmful U.S. policies, believing that the human rights of Cubans and the people of the US would best be served by lifting all travel restrictions and finally ending the embargo.

 

We are seeking co-sponsors for the following legislation – We are asking legislators to co-sponsor the following bills that will end restrictions to trade and travel:

 

The House Agriculture Exports Act (H.R. 525)
Introduced by Representative Eric A. Crawford (R-AR), the Crawford Bill, looks to repeal restrictions on export financing, allowing firms to offer credit to Cuba in connection with exports of U.S. agricultural goods. It also gives U.S. producers access to marketing programs that help them compete in foreign markets and eliminates restrictions to key federal funding used in financing exports to Cuba. Current Illinois representatives co-sponsoring are: Robin Kelly (D- IL 02), Rodney Davis (R-IL 13), Cheri Bustos (D- IL 17), Darin LaHood (R- IL 18), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL 08)

The Cuba Trade Act (H.R. 442)
Reintroduced by Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), this bill would allow businesses in the U.S. private sector to trade freely with Cuba, while restricting taxpayer funds from being used on the promotion or development of the new market. It would lift the outdated embargo and resume the normalization process between the U.S. and Cuban economies, promoting business opportunities that benefit both countries. The current Illinois representative co-sponsoring is Darin LaHood (R-IL 18).

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 351)
Introduced by Representative Mark Sanford (R-SC), this bill, quite simply, removes travel restrictions to Cuba. This bill currently has no Illinois representatives co-sponsoring.

We are also asking legislators to urge the State Department to process visas for Cubans in the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The Trump Administration has ordered staff reductions at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba and at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC in response to health issues experienced by some personnel at the US Embassy in Havana. The FBI did not find any evidence linking the health issues to actions by the Cuban government during its three visits to the island. The investigation is continuing in both countries.

 

Since the US embassy has reduced staff, Cubans who want to get visas for tourist travel or permanent reunification with their families must travel to another country to get these visas. This has made it financially impossible for most Cubans to apply for a visa. While it is important to find out the cause of the health issues, there must be a way to assign personnel to the Embassy to process Cuban visas. Otherwise the U.S. has effectively created a travel ban against Cubans visiting the US for holiday or for family reunification.

 

For more information:

Statement by the Cuban Council of Churches regarding recent changes in US policy

A Cuban pastor’s response to President Trump’s Cuba policies

Church World Service Says New Restrictions on Cuban Travel Will Hurt the Cuban People and Churches 

Catholic leaders: Dialogue between U.S. and Cuba must continue

US Conference of Catholic Bishops Cuba Backgrounder

U.S. Halt in Visa Services Leaves Cuban Families in Limbo

Cubans who want to visit the U.S. now face more difficult and expensive hurdles

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Claiming to be “in solidarity with the Cuban people”, President Trump announced policy changes in 2016 that harm the Cuban people as well as the people of the U.S.  The most serious damage has been caused by the Administration’s reduction of embassy staff in Havana.  This means that Cubans are expected to fly to Colombia to apply for a visa to travel to the United States.  Since Cubans already pay the embassy a fee representing several month’s income just to apply, adding the cost of a trip to Colombia makes getting a visa financially impossible for most Cubans.

We have to ask who these policy changes are for?

Polling shows that 96% of Cubans living on the island support lifting the trade embargo and have said that more tourism would benefit the local economy.  Since polling has also shown that 63% of Cuban- Americans in Miami-Dade County oppose the continuation of the embargo and 73% of people in the U.S. favor ending the trade embargo.

CRLN has worked with faith communities in Cuba and the U.S. for more than twenty years to end harmful U.S. policies. In 2017, we will be advocating for an end to these policies, believing that the human rights of Cubans and the people of the U.S. would best be served by lifting all travel restrictions and finally ending the embargo.

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(Español Aqui)

While diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba have been reestablished and some trade and travel restrictions have been changed by executive order, the embargo remains in place and the Cuban people still experience the shortages of crucial medicines and other essential products. Imposed in the early sixties to “bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government” (State Department, April 6, 1960) the U.S. embargo is often called a blockade because of the widespread effects of these policies. CRLN has worked with many other organizations for more than twenty years to end these harmful policies carried out in our name. This work has led to many positive changes in policy. Because these policy changes were made by executive order our current president was able on June 16 to reinstate some of the limits to travel and trade. Action by Congress is required to finally end all the U.S. restrictions including the embargo and this year several bi-partisan bills have been reintroduced in the House and Senate. By working together we can change these harmful policies!

IL Senators Durbin and Duckworth are (or soon will be) co-sponsors of the bills in the Senate, so in Illinois we are focusing on the Illinois Representatives.  Call the Capitol Switchboard today at 202-224-3121 to be connected to your Representative.  Let them know that now is the time to finally lift these restrictions (sample script below)!  Be sure to thank them if they are a co-sponsor already.

House Bills

 The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act (H.R. 525)
Introduced by Rep. Eric A. Crawford (R-AR-1)
This bill seeks to repeal financing restrictions, allowing firms in the U.S. to offer credit to Cuba in connection with exports of U.S. agricultural goods. It also seeks to eliminate restrictions on key federal funding used in agricultural export promotions.  Current Illinois representatives co-sponsoring are:  Robin Kelly (D- IL 02), Rodney Davis (R-IL 13), Cheri Bustos (D- IL 17), Darin LaHood (R- IL18),  Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-8)

 The Cuba Trade Act (H.R. 442)
Introduced by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN-6)
This bill would allow businesses in the private sector to trade freely with Cuba, while prohibiting taxpayer funds to be used on promotion or development of a new market. Current Illinois representative co-sponsoring is Darin LaHood (R-IL 18)

 The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 351)
Introduced by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC-1)
The bill simply removes the current travel restrictions to Cuba.

Suggested Script for IL Representatives “As your constituent, I want you to know that I strongly support continued U.S. engagement with Cuba. Increased travel and trade with Cuba allows your constituents their right to travel to Cuba, but also helps to improve the lives of the Cuban people.

The U.S. embargo on Cuba has hurt both the Cuban and the American people. I urge you to co-sponsor  HR 525HR 442 and HR 351 to lift the U.S. travel ban and trade embargo on Cuba.”  (if they have co-sponsored you can add the thank-you in this paragraph)

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The Caravan for Peace is a movement of activists making their way across the US to promote peace and dignity for all victims of Mexico’s drug war. Javier Sicilia, the leader of the Caravan, is a poet and peace leader whose son was murdered in the drug violence in March of 2011. Inspired by this tragedy, Sicilia has been speaking out, bringing to light the urgency of the peace movement.

The importance of creating this conversation within the US is not lost on the caravan’s leaders. An end to drug prohibition, a policy widely discussed in Latin America, is a phrase hardly uttered in US political circles, while at the same time communities of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated for drug-related offenses in this country. And while the prison industrial complex thrives in the US, guns continue to be funneled to our neighbors south, exacerbating the militarization of Mexico’s law enforcement and ‘Drug War’ strategies.

The Caravan seeks to awaken these issues in American consciousness and bring to light the inherent links between the social fabrics of Mexico and the US.  Traveling across the country and across the border, the Caravan seeks to build a discourse of peace and justice as well as a movement of international solidarity. Ending in DC in September, just 6 weeks before US Presidential elections, this movement is meant to not only create a conversation, but also to bring to fruition policies of peace and dignity for all those, internationally, who are affected by the violence in our transnational drug war.

For specific dates and times of the Caravan’s stop in Chicago, see the Caravan for Peace website here !

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Under the guise of “helping the Cuban people,”  the current president has reinstated some restrictions on travel and trade that had been lifted by executive order during the Obama administration. One of the restrictions announced forbids individuals from travelling under the people to people travel category, requiring them to travel with a group. Another change forbids U.S. citizens or companies to do business with tourist sites in Cuba controlled by the the Cuban military. For more information click here.

As faith communities and human rights organizations in Cuba, the U.S. and around the world have long asserted, the human rights of Cubans and the people of the U.S. would best be served by lifting all travel restrictions and finally ending the rest of the embargo.

Congress needs to act to end these restrictions permanently!

There are currently bi-partisan bills in the House and Senate to finally end the travel restrictions and the embargo.  In Illinois we are concentrating on the House of Representatives, since IL Senators are (or soon will be co-sponsors of the Senate bills.


Now while the restrictions are in the news, take a moment to call your Illinois Representative
(click here to find their contact info) and ask them to co-sponsor three bi-partisan bills in the House to end restrictions on travel and trade:

HR 525,


HR 442

and

HR 351

For more info on bills, current Illinois sponsors and a sample script click here.

Working together we have made a lot of progress and we will keep working until these harmful restrictions are ended!

Questions?
Contact Marilyn McKenna at the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) at 773-293-3680 or mmckenna@crln.org with questions or if you need assistance. Thanks to the Latin American Working Group for providing information for this alert.

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