Church World Service Says New Restrictions on Cuban Travel Will Hurt the Cuban People and Churches

June 16, 2017

Today, Friday, June 16, President Trump announced a reversal of some elements of the Obama Administration’s Cuba policy changes. While policies on religious travel and remittances are unchanged, and diplomatic relations remain in place, restrictions on broader travel and spending are increased.

Since 1962 Church World Service has worked to restore U.S. relations with Cuba and end the failed embargo (which still exists despite the Obama era changes). Our Member Churches applauded the Obama Administration’s restoration of diplomatic relations and new openings for travel and commercial exchanges. In particular we were pleased with the removal of restrictions on religious travel and on the transfer of pension payments owed by some U.S. denominations to retired Cuban pastors. This action affirmed the historical relationship between faith communities in the US and Cuba, and honored the humanity and dignity of the Cuban people. We deplore the likelihood that significant aspects of this progress will be reversed.

The Cuban Council of Churches and partner churches in Cuba have strongly supported these important steps toward normalization. For some years now Cuban churches have been flourishing and growing in numbers. Travel by church leaders and other people of faith between our two countries has greatly increased. The improved U.S.-Cuba relations has helped stimulate this growth.

Both of our countries benefit from religious exchanges, travel to Cuba by Cuban-Americans and other people in the U.S., as well as new commercial relations and official U.S.-Cuba engagement in various areas.

Contrary to the perspective of the Trump Administration, the Obama policies benefitted the Cuban people, improved conditions for Cuban churches, helped open new personal and business opportunities for the Cuban people and stimulated progress on human rights. If the goal is to improve the lives of Cuban people while benefitting Americans, turning back the clock will have the opposite effect.

While we are relieved that diplomatic relations, remittances, religious travel and travel by other specific categories of people, including Cuban-Americans, are unchanged, the tightened rules on broader individual travel and spending are likely to harm employment opportunities for ordinary Cuban people and increase tensions between our two countries. American policy should never contribute to hunger and poverty, or deny the opportunity for self-improvement. And the Cuban people and churches benefit from improved, not worsened, U.S.-Cuba relations.

Church World Service is committed to working with our Cuban church partners toward improving U.S.-Cuba relations and bringing a complete end to the embargo.