Prostitution in Cuba
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    Opening Cuba to travel a bailout for Castro

    Opening Cuba to travel a bailout for Castro
    12:00 AM 06/29/2010

    As the House Agriculture Committee prepares to vote Wednesday on a bill
    that would lift the travel ban on Cuba bolster the Castro regime with
    American tourism dollars, I remember the words of Alexander
    Solzhenitsyn, who wrote about the horrors of living in a Soviet gulag.
    Solzhenitsyn noted, "We are slaves there from birth, but we are striving
    for freedom. You, however, were born free. If so, then why do you help
    our slave owners?"

    According to a 2008 State Department report, Castro's regime was holding
    at least 205 political prisoners at the end of that year, and as many as
    5,000 citizens served sentences without ever being charged with a
    specific crime. Just a few months ago, political prisoner Orlando Zapata
    Tamayo died after an 86-day hunger strike. And today, American citizen
    Alan Gross is being held prisoner without charges for his efforts to
    help the Cuban people use the Internet.

    Unfortunately, the bill before the Agriculture Committee, on which I
    serve, would lift the travel ban on Cuba without any human rights
    concessions. The bill would open up relations with a regime that
    routinely imprisons journalists and citizens who disagree with their
    government. This would send mixed messages about our commitment to the
    brave pro-democracy movement in Cuba.

    Lifting the travel ban would inject millions of dollars into the Cuban
    government at a time when the Castro regime is on the ropes. Cuba's
    foreign trade declined by a third in the last year, the country is
    several billion dollars in debt to sovereign lenders, and its economic
    crisis is putting Castro's rule in jeopardy.

    Why would we lift the travel ban and let American tourism dollars prop
    up the Castro regime? At this juncture, lifting the ban would amount to
    yet another bailout – only this time, we'd be bailing out a brutal
    dictatorship on the brink of collapsing.

    Every dollar spent by American tourists in Cuba would contribute to the
    regime's bottom line, providing resources for Castro's army, his secret
    police and his political prisons. The State Department lists Cuba as a
    state sponsor of terrorism and reports that the regime not only has
    close ties with Iran and North Korea, it also provides safe haven for
    terrorists from around the world. Opening Cuba to travel would
    jeopardize national security by allowing American tourism dollars to
    finance state-sponsored terror and help provide refuge to terrorists.

    The bill's supporters argue that allowing American tourists into Cuba
    would weaken the regime. They fail to note that European, Canadian and
    Latin American visitors have been visiting the island regularly since
    the 1990s, and that has done nothing to undermine Castro or improve the
    lives of Cuban people.

    To the contrary, Castro has used his control over the tourism industry
    to create a national system of apartheid and segregation. Cuban citizens
    cannot enter the hotels, resorts, beaches, restaurants and stores where
    foreign tourists visit. Tourists have very limited interactions with the
    Cuban people. The State department warns that any interaction with a
    Cuban could be monitored by the secret police and can subject that Cuban
    to harassment, detention or other repressive actions. The Castro-run
    tourism industry also openly promotes child prostitution, a horrible
    abuse heaped on Cuba's children.

    No wonder that the influx of European and Canadian tourists has not
    brought greater freedom to Cuba – the tourism industry has become a tool
    for the Castro regime to expand its control over the Cuban people.

    Liberalizing our travel policies with Cuba would fare no better than
    efforts by Europe or Canada.

    We have a choice. We can keep the pressure on the Castro regime and help
    bring about a post-Castro government that could start anew with us by
    leaving communism behind. Or we can remove travel restrictions and not
    only give the Communist party the means to persist, but legitimize their
    treatment of the Cuban people over the past 60 years.

    For nearly a half century the United States stood alone to stare down
    the Evil Empire and its spread of communism. We did this not just
    because communism posed serious threats to our security, as in the case
    of the Soviet Union, or minimal threats, as in the case of modern day
    Cuba, but because it is in fact evil. Communism flies squarely in the
    face of the very liberty and natural rights on which we base our entire

    How can anyone honestly say now is the time to ignore all that has
    happened in Cuba? Let us send a message to the next generation of Cuban
    leaders after the Castros: they can continue a defeated evil regime, or
    be welcomed as a free nation with the United States as partner.

    Congressman Tom Rooney represents Florida's 16th district. He is the
    only member of the Florida delegation serving on either the House or
    Senate Agriculture Committees.

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