Gov. Charlie Crist would do Floridians and his party a favor by taking Republican policy on Cuba away from those armchair freedom fighters in South Florida. Vetoing SB 1310 would be a start. The legislation is a ball of hypocrisy that tries to punish Cuba's totalitarian regime by making it harder for Americans to travel to the island.
The measure erects new and more expensive barriers for travel agents who arrange trips to any of the five countries listed by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terrorism. Agencies will have to pay as much as $2,500 in registration fees, and post a bond of up to $300,000, to book travel between Florida and these countries. But this is about Cuba, not Sudan or North Korea, and the rationale is indefensible.
The losers here will be Cuban-Americans in this country already scraping to save enough money to visit relatives back home. The measure would force travel agencies to price their services beyond what ordinary people could afford. The losers would be academics interested in doing research to better understand what life is like in Cuba and humanitarian workers trying to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And the losers would be the people on both sides who would benefit by the powerful impressions that often come only through direct person-to-person contact.
It would be easy for Crist to get caught up in the speculation about him as a possible running mate for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, who has embraced the hard-line, anti-Castro rhetoric.
But Crist is now, first and foremost, the governor of Florida, and this legislation is bad for the people and businesses of his state. It does nothing for security, limits the freedom of Americans and denies ordinary Cubans a chance to see their families and the best that America has to offer. He should veto it.