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    Wednesday, May 31, 2006

    USA needs to get real on Cuba

    The National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service (the churches’ global development agency) have joined with other organizations to renew objections to new American government restrictions on travel to Cuba."


    The current US policy toward Cuba restricts religious freedom and is contrary to the principles upon which our nation was founded," said the Rev Brenda Girton-Mitchell, the NCC staff executive for justice and advocacy, during a news conference last week.

    She continued: "We reiterate our call on the US government to respect religious freedom and restore the less restrictive travel licenses that we have had for decades."

    The US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which recommended the travel restrictions that were adopted by President Bush in May of 2004, is expected to make new recommendations in the coming weeks when it issues its second report.

    According to the Center for International Policy, the new recommendations will likely be as restrictive as the previous ones, which virtually eliminated academic exchanges between the United States and Cuba and severely limited travel by Cuban Americans. The limitations have been particularly felt by Cuban families with members in both countries."

    Dramatically limiting exchange between the U.S. and Cuba is more than an annoyance, it is dangerously counterproductive," says Joy Olson of the Washington Office on Latin America.

    In the past year, the State Department has adopted a policy to deny visas for religious travel to the United States by officials of the Cuban Council of Churches because it believes these officials are agents of the Cuban government. However, the State Department has not provided any evidence of this.

    Martin Shupack, CWS Associate Director for Public Policy, said this amounts to the US government intruding in internal church affairs.

    He added that in his experience "the Cuban Council of Churches is the authentic ecumenical expression of Christians in Cuba and to interfere with that religious expression is wrong."

    The folks running the Cuba Policy in the U.S. must be leftovers from the J.
    Edgar Hoover era.


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