Saturday, March 31, 2007

High emotion at travel ban debate

Posted on Sat, Mar. 31, 2007

High emotion at travel ban debate

Tempers threatened to unravel today at a debate on the U.S.-Cuba travel
ban. The discussion was punctuated by cheers, boos and shouts from all
corners of the packed Tower Theater in Little Havana.

Exile hard-liners cheered for radio talk show host Paul Crespo and
Hialeah City Council president Esteban Bovo, who argued in favor of
keeping trade and travel restrictions to the island in place.

More moderate listeners applauded U.S. Rep Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and FIU
professor Lisandro Perez, who argued in favor of lifting the restrictions.

The debate was hosted by The American Civil Liberties Union and
moderated by Michael Putney of WPLG.

Crespo said travel isn't the issue. ''It's about the embargo against
Castro,'' he said. ''We want to keep that money out of Castro's hands,''
he said of tourist dollars, adding that most people will travel there
for leisure and not academic or humanitarian reasons.

Bovo agreed, saying that the conditions that drove so many from Cuba are
still present. ''Castro has ignored pleas from the left and right to
open that society,'' he said.

Perez argued that a policy which keeps families separated is ''morally
reprehensible'' and that it just doesn't work, adding that a ''free flow
of ideas'' would help Cubans become more independent of the regime in
thought and deed.

Flake said that, while any travel, from anywhere, would unavoidably send
some funds Castro's way, it would also do good by making it harder for
him to isolate his society, adding that travel decisions should be left
up to the people.

``I think Cuban-American families are perfectly capable of making these
decisions for themselves without the intervention of Congress.''

He also said it should be beneath the U.S. to limit Americans' freedoms.

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