Statement by Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the Alliance for Internatioanl Exchange:
President Trump’s new policies towards Cuba includes a detrimental restriction for Americans traveling to the island for educational purposes. The administration’s argument for cancelling this travel category is the erroneous assumption that people-to-people exchanges do not help the Cuban people and instead only benefits the Cuban government.
People-to-people interactions, however, allow for increased cultural understanding between Cubans and Americans, helping to overcome mistrust between the two nations. The United States has engaged with citizens of other countries through public diplomacy programs when facing tense relationships with their foreign governments. We applaud the Members of Congress that have opposed these new policy measures, such as Senator Jeff Flake and Representative Mark Sandford, both of whom introduced legislation that would eliminate travel restrictions to Cuba.
The United States should continue to be a leader in connecting Americans to people all over the world because, by doing so, we are also advancing our national security interests.