Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Travel To Cuba

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
Posted May 30 2006

ISSUE: Bill bans Florida scholars from going to Cuba.

Now that Florida is pursuing its own anti-Axis of Evil foreign policy, which countries should it target in the next round?

Perhaps the state should ban all imports reading "Made in China." After all, the People's Republic is a communist country and there are plenty who accuse the Beijing government of human rights abuses, not to mention playing economic hardball as well.

Ridiculous and foolish, yes, but one is tempted to think the real reason it won't happen is because China isn't the communist nation 90 miles from our shores. It's Cuba.

So Gov. Jeb Bush is ready to sign a counterproductive bill forbidding professors and students at public universities and community colleges from using state or non-state funds to travel to Cuba.

The bill applies to Cuba and four other countries, including Iran and Sudan, which stand accused of supporting terrorism. But it's hard not to conclude Cuba is the main target.

Cuba is on the State Department's list of terrorist-supporting states, and has been for years. But the U.S. government has never made a publicly convincing case for putting Cuba on the list.

There's much suspicion the decision is a politically motivated anti-Fidel Castro one, and that hurts U.S. credibility. But it makes for good politics in the Sunshine State, and now we have the Tallahassee bill banning academic travel to Cuba.

The bill is an infringement on academic freedom, and its prohibition on use of "non-state" funds is over-reaching.

Too much scholarship on Cuba is of dubious quality because the island tends to attract researchers who are sympathetic to the regime and don't pursue critical analysis. However, this legislation will encourage more such studies and reports.

The goal, therefore, ought to be for a full-court press to relax rules so that a broader collection of scholars could travel to Cuba, thus producing a more complete and accurate picture.

BOTTOM LINE: The bill will produce more sympathetic analysis on Cuba.

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