WASHINGTON – James Williams, President of Engage Cuba, issued the following statement today as embassies are officially opened in the U.S. and Havana following extensive negotiations and an agreement announced earlier this month:
“As embassies in Washington and Havana open today, we begin a new chapter of engagement between our two countries. American diplomats will now be much better equipped to engage with the Cuban people and civil society. They will be in a stronger position to elevate issues of concern, like human rights, as well as expanding on areas of cooperation with Cuba.
“Still, too many barriers stand in the way of more meaningful change. Restricting the freedom of Americans to travel and trade has not brought greater freedom to the Cuban people. Instead it is time to allow Americans to be our best ambassadors by opening the doors to travel. And, it is time to allow American businesses to compete in a market of 11 million people just 90 miles off our coast.
“The vast majority of the American people, and 97% of the Cuban people support opening relations. We applaud both governments for taking this important step to move forward beyond the Cold War policies of the past and call on Congress to play a constructive role at this historic moment of transition. Already 45 Senators are signed on as co-sponsors of a bill to end the travel ban, and it should have the chance to be considered by the full Senate.”