Left Justified: I'm disappointed with Rep. Donald Manzullo

I’m disappointed with U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-16).

From 2000 through 2003, he has rightly voted in favor of lifting a cruel and inhumane ban on travel to Cuba. Now, just before the Fourth of July, Rep. Manzullo changed his mind, voting to keep even the most egregious parts of that unjust travel ban in place.

The provisions that Rep. Manzullo voted against would have ended restrictions on family and educational travel to Cuba.

The travel ban keeps thousands of families from visiting their relatives in Cuba. Right now, Cubans and Cuban Americans living in the United States can only visit their families on the island once every three years, without exception. And if a family member dies, and your one visit is used up, that’s too bad, according to the U.S. House of Representatives and Rep. Manzullo.

That’s inhumane.

The provision that Rep. Manzullo voted against would have overturned that senseless and cruel policy, allowing families to visit whenever they needed to.

Rep. Manzullo also voted against ending restrictions on educational travel to Cuba. It keeps U.S. students from studying in Cuba, and it keeps them from seeing the good and the bad for themsselves. That is not what America’s about. We are about freedom and letting our people decide for themselves.

These are just two portions of the embargo on Cuba that hurt Americans and Cubans alike. American farmers, even right here in Illinois, have been legally selling agricultural products to Cuba for five years now. It is a win-win situation; we get sales, the Cuban people get quality products. But the Bush administration has even been restricting these sales. That is bad business.

Free trade means free exchange of ideas. What caused the fall of the Soviet Union? Some say the increased trade and travel between freedom-loving Americans and the Soviet people.

After years of trying to end these restrictions and the ban on travel by all Americans, Rep. Manzullo is now humming a different tune. Why the sudden change of heart?

Part of that reason may be money. According to Opensecrets.org, a non-partisan Web site that tracks campaign contributions, Rep. Manzullo took $1,000 from a group called the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. The PAC is based in South Florida, and its purpose, according to official tax filings, is “anti-Castro.”

We didn’t send Rep. Manzullo to Congress to sell his vote to the highest bidder. We sent him there to represent us and do a good job.

People in Illinois care about jobs and families. Farmers want to sell products. Voting for those measures was anti-family and anti-constituent. It was also a vote against the best interests of the American and Cuban people.

Even though our governments are engaged in a 45-year-old stand-off, the people of these two countries desperately need to build bridges for a better future. Allowing families and students to travel to Cuba, and us selling goods to them, are great ways to build a common future.

But the bottom line is this: The U.S. government should not be in the business of preventing people from visiting their families. Rep. Manzullo knows that and needs to vote accordingly.

His constituents demand it.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Aug. 3-9, 2005, issue

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