Cuban dissidents tell US to drop travel ban

Image caption,
Elizardo Sanchez is one of the many dissidents who signed the letter

A group of well-known Cuban dissidents has urged the US Congress to pass legislation which would allow American citizens to travel to Cuba freely.

American nationals are currently not allowed to spend money in Cuba without securing special permission.

In an open letter, the 74 dissidents said Cuba's isolation played into the hands of what they called Havana's most inflexible interests.

Cuba has been under a wide-ranging US embargo since 1960.

The letter supports a proposal brought by Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson which would bar the US president from banning travel to Cuba or blocking transactions required to make such trips.

Among the signatories are Cuba's well-known blogger Yoani Sanchez, Elizardo Sanchez, the head of Cuba's most prominent human rights group, and Guillermo Farinas, a journalist who has been on hunger strike for three months demanding the release of the country's most seriously ill political prisoners.

The BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says it is the first time that so many Cuban dissidents have joined forces in supporting a single piece of US legislation.

Mr Peterson's bill must pass the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture before it can go to a vote by the full House.

Similar proposals to ease travel restrictions have in the past died in the committee stage, never even making it to the House or the Senate.

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