Obama may ease Cuba travel rules upon release of political prisoners


NEW ROCHELLE, NY – Recent, widespread reports indicate that President Obama may ease travel restrictions between the US and Cuba. The Miami Herald stated, “The Obama administration will soon ease some restrictions on US travel to Cuba and other sanctions following Havana’s promise to free political prisoners, according to growing but unconfirmed reports,” on August 7.

In response to these new possibilities, Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) has indicated that it would enthusiastically re-open its people-to-people cultural exchange program, Insight Cuba, if permission was granted from the US government. CCS was the former leading provider of legal, people-to-people travel to Cuba for Americans.

CCS’ program, Insight Cuba, began in 2000 and offered participants the unique opportunity to gain insight into Cuban life through people-to-people cultural exchange programming. The program supported almost 2,500 US citizens to travel legally to Cuba in the second half of 2003 alone. That same year, stronger travel restrictions between the US and Cuba were imposed.

Through the Insight Cuba program, CCS was the largest provider of licensed travel between the US and Cuba since 1962. CCS was granted a special educational license from the US Treasury Department Office of Assets Control (OFAC) to legally bring Americans to Cuba for its people-to-people program. If restrictions are eased and the opportunity to operate becomes available, CCS has indicated that it will seek permission to re-open its landmark program.

“Our programs gave Americans the rare opportunity to visit Cuba legally and experience the culture in a very meaningful and authentic manner. Participants weren’t just touring the country, they were there as guests of the Cuban people – sharing meals together, educating one another, and gaining real perspective on the culture and the country,” CCS founder and executive director Steve Rosenthal said. “Insight Cuba helped to foster international friendships and promote a greater understanding of global issues, which is an integral part of CCS’ vision.”

Insight Cuba operated in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and other Cuban provinces. With the guidance and expertise of local professionals, participants were immersed in Cuban culture, visiting schools, historic sites, hospitals, farms, and interacting with local community groups, women’s groups, artists, musicians, religious leaders, and more. TIME magazine reported, “CCS’s Insight Programs offer behind-the-scenes, personalized explorations and feature access to places tourists usually don’t see…”