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Stogie News: Congressional Bill Would Lift Cuban Travel Ban

11 Feb 2009

Buried beneath the media’s coverage of the looming stimulus package was a story of utmost importance for cigar enthusiasts: A new bill was introduced in the House that would bring America’s 46-year-old prohibition on travel to Cuba to an end.

Havana“The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, introduced Feb. 4 and referred to the Foreign Relations Committee, prohibits the U.S. president from regulating or prohibiting travel to or from Cuba by U.S. residents, except in times of war between the two countries or of imminent danger to public health or the safety of U.S. travelers.”

As I wrote almost two years ago, trekking to Cuba is about as difficult as finding a cigar-friendly bar. The task, needless to say, involves bending a few rules, “tipping” Mexican customs officials, and eliminating paper trails.

This new bill would do away with all that. And, with a new administration in place, it could even pass. Regular readers will recall we cited Obama’s willingness to change America’s antiquated policies towards Cuba as one of the only cigar-related positives of his campaign.

“The bill or amendments like it have become a staple in Washington, where the measures flopped in the face of veto threats. Last year, a similar bill had more than 100 sponsors. But with more Democrats in Congress and a new president—one who has vowed to lift some of former President George W. Bush’s restrictions on Cuban family travel—the climate could be different.”

Time to Lift the Failed Embargo

When JFK signed the commercial, economic, and financial embargo on Cuba in 1962 (immediately after hypocritically securing himself a stash of soon-to-be criminalized sticks), it was thought that such restrictions would cripple Castro’s regime. That obviously didn’t work. In fact, the embargo allowed Castro to scapegoat the U.S. for his nation’s own problems and likely helped him to hold power longer than otherwise would have been possible.

Second, while there are many brutal dictatorships around the world, for some reason the U.S. government only imposes an embargo and travel ban on Cuba. In fact, other communist countries like China and Vietnam have become increasingly capitalist and liberal as we have traded with them. I continue to be perplexed by the illegality of Cuban cigars and the legality of filling up my car with gas from countries that support terrorism.

For these reasons and more—not the least of which is the potential to ease the suffering of the Cuban people—the embargo should have been lifted decades ago. Legislation to eliminate the travel ban is a small step in the right direction, and it deserves the support of every brother of the leaf who hopes to legally purchase Petit Edmundos and Siglo VIs in his lifetime.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

6 Responses to “Stogie News: Congressional Bill Would Lift Cuban Travel Ban”

  1. stinkie Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 3:33 am #

    I do agree with you that the time has come to lift the ban though I wish we would wait until Castro is dead so he never sees that day. Cuba let the Soviet Union put Nukes 100 miles off our shores.

    I would also like to visit Cuba one day but would never try as long as our country has an embargo in place.

  2. BubbaGene Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 4:09 am #

    I assume that lifting the ban would create a tremendous demand for cuban cigars in the US. The industry response in Cuba would be to go into maximum production mode.

    Patick, do you think this will have a notable effect on the quality of our favorite cuban cigars?

  3. Patrick A Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 4:41 am #

    Good question, BubbaGene. Personally, over the long term, I think opening up the American market to Cuban cigars will only improve quality–especially if businesses outside the spectrum of Cuban government ownership are allowed to raise tobacco on the island.

    Cubans, in my opinion, often get a free pass with many cigar enthusiasts and reviewers just because they're Cubans. This has contributed to the decline in overall quality.

    Perhaps most importantly, however, is the potential of blending Cuban tobacco with stuff grown in the Dominican, Nicaragua, Honduras, and elsewhere. If that occured, the original lines of Cuban cigars would have to improve to simply compete on the market.

  4. keith Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 8:06 am #

    Note that this bill would only lift the travel restrictions. The import ban would remainin effect. The previous poster's question seems to confuse the two issues – although he asks a good question that eventually will be operative.

  5. C Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    Keith, good point… but Bubba brings a good point to the table and after reasoning, I think the very opposite could happen in the interim…

    Cuban Cigar prices could go up –

    If this Act is passed, Cuban tourism will skyrocket (although given the state of the economy, maybe not so much) but in general, many Cuban cigars will be sold to tourists at inflated prices. Cuban factories will be making more money at the same levels of production, which in turn will see less crossing the border, raising the prices in the states as well.

    Even if they increase production, they will want to maintain the increased value of Cigars to the new tourism market.

    Over time though, hopefully with increased development of new Cuban brands given the opportunity to use the 'cuban' stigma, we will see more variety which will come in less expensive and be equally (or dare I say even better) than the classic cubans.

    For the record, I'm biased to Nicaragua Cigars… but would like to see the Embargo lifted!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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