US President Obama took historic steps to normalize US-Cuban relations after decades of pointless hostility. Trump, true to form, has reversed course, seeking once again to isolate and impoverish Cuba.

To enlighten us on the damage done and what we can do about it, we’ve invited three experts whose work to improve relations between the United States and Cuba spans decades.

Rosemarie Mealy, Sujatha Fernandes and Walter Turner will provide important context while breaking down the malicious actions and misleading proclamations from the US administration. They will also provide a roadmap for action and explain why traveling to Cuba remains so important.

Rosemarie Mealy is board member of the Intereligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO). She regularly organizes delegations to Cuba with them. She worked with the Venceremos Brigade in the 1960’s and 70’s in defiance of the US Travel ban. She authored “Fidel and Malcolm X-Memories of a Meeting ” on the historic 1960 conversation between Fidel Castro and Malcom X in Harlem.

Walter Turner is a Professor of African Studies and a founder of RESPECT (Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel). He is the President of the Board of Global Exchange and has long been our organization’s principle liaison to the island.

Sujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney (Australia) who has done in-depth research on global social and labor movements in Latin America. She taught at the City University of New York for a decade and continues to hold a visiting position there. She has closely monitored and written about US normalization efforts and their reversal under Trump and is the author of several books, including Cuba Represent! and Curated Stories.

BloqueoToday’s historic announcement by the Presidents of the United States and Cuba that they intend to normalize diplomatic relations is cause for celebration on both sides of the Straits of Florida. Global Exchange applauds the two governments, their Canadian interlocutors, Pope Francis and all who played a role in bringing us to this important moment.

The agreement between the two governments—which broke normal diplomatic contact in 1961—provides an opportunity to begin a new chapter in U.S. / Cuba relations, based on dialogue and mutual respect. For the past fifty-plus years, the United States has pursued a thoroughly failed policy of political and economic hostility, a policy that has divided families and hurt ordinary Cubans. It is a policy that has been roundly condemned around the world and by business, cultural and government leaders here in the United States. This agreement to normalize diplomatic relations is long overdue.Health_EnviroChe1

For the past 25 years, Global Exchange has encouraged people-to-people ties between Cubans and Americans by bringing hundreds of American delegations to the island. We have great hope for the future relationship between our two countries based in no small part on the friendships and partnerships these delegations have forged between Cubans and Americans and the common desire for peace and reconciliation they have revealed.

While today should be a day of celebration both in the United States and Cuba, there is still much work to be done. We are mindful of the profound challenges the American embargo of Cuba has inflicted on the Cuban people and we call on the U.S. government to end this inhumane policy immediately. We also know that the same forces that have kept our relationship with Cuba in a deep freeze for five decades will do everything in their power to scuttle this emerging agreement. Now is the time for people of good will to stand up. Sign the Global Exchange petition to end the travel ban.

There is much common ground on which the people of our two countries can find spaces for partnership—from immigration and the environment to the fight against Ebola and the violence unleashed by the drug war in Latin America. Partnership and mutual respect should and must be the guideposts for the United States and Cuba as we embark on a new era in our relationship.

Dear Global Exchange Cuba supporters,

Yesterday afternoon the much-awaited mark-up and vote on HR 4645 in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs was postponed. Here is the statement from Chairman Howard Berman, upon announcing the postponement:

Statement of Chairman Howard L. Berman on H.R. 4645

Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement regarding the markup of H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act:

“For a very long time, I have either led or supported efforts to repeal restrictions on the freedom of Americans to travel. The current prohibition on Americans traveling to Cuba is the last obstacle to the full enjoyment of this right. I strongly support H.R.4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which would eliminate the Cuba travel restrictions.

“The Committee had been scheduled to consider this legislation tomorrow, but it now appears that Wednesday will be the last day that Congress is in session before an extended district work period. That makes it increasingly likely that our discussion of the bill will be disrupted or cut short by votes or other activity on the House floor. Accordingly, I am postponing consideration of H.R. 4645 until a time when the Committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves. I firmly believe that when we debate and vote on the merits of this legislation, and I intend for it to be soon, the right to travel will be restored to all Americans.”

We’d be kidding you if we said we were only a little disappointed that the committee postponed consideration of HR 4645, which, if passed, would have allowed all of us to travel to Cuba whenever we want. We are disappointed big time. Big time.

We felt so good about the direction in which the committee’s vote commitments were going, and we were so impressed and grateful for the tremendous effort you all put into this campaign. Democracy was really working; citizens were expressing their views to their elected officials; members of Congress were listening. While only the Chairman knew the hard-clad, private commitments he had received, we expected to win. But the reality of action on the last day of the session before recess for campaigning took its toll. Members wanted to leave town; we needed ALL of them to show up to cast their votes in order to be successful.

The bottom line right now is:  you did GREAT and valiant work on this campaign to restore our right to travel to Cuba. You made significant progress, and we feel very good about that. Neither Congress nor the President has responded to this opportunity; nor have they reacted appropriately to what is currently happening in Cuba.

We aren’t finished yet in calling them to act on our behalf!

We are delayed, but we are not defeated.

We’ll be back to you in October. Don’t hang up your hats yet.

Kirsten, Malia, Drea, Leslie and Pam
The Global Exchange Cuba Team, San Francisco, CA
Mavis, Paulo, and Emily
The Latin America Working Group Cuba Team, Washington, DC

This early Fall is a very critical time to end all restrictions on traveling to Cuba! It is an opportunity we have not had for many years and an opportunity that will probably not come again for many years!  The time to act is NOW!

In August, President Obama may decide to lift all restrictions on educational, cultural and humanitarian travel — the restrictions that Bush imposed in 2004.

In September, when Congress reconvenes after the Labor Day recess, HR 4645, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba and Agricultural Exports Act, will (hopefully) pass through the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on to the floor of the House of Representatives.


It is widely believed that the Obama Administration must make some positive gesture toward Cuba now, in the wake of Cuba’s release of so many prisoners the US considers political.  Lifting the Bush-imposed restrictions on educational travel would be an easy move for him and an important sign to Cuba that the US is serious about restoring normal relations between our two countries.

We are very close to a YES vote in the House, only a few votes short of a majority at this point.  If your congressperson is “on the fence”, your email could be the one that pushes him/her over to the YES side!

Do let your voice be heard!