Dear Mr. President,
Your directive of January 14, "to enhance contact with the Cuban people and support civil society through purposeful travel, including religious, cultural and educational travel" is a vital step forward that will help both countries move beyond mistrust and sterile conflict.
The Secretaries of State and of Treasury must implement the spirit of your order by insuring that the Office of Foreign Assets Control does not become a bottleneck as happened in the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
Its role must be routine registration and tracking of applications not judging ormonitoring proposed travel. To do more will bureaucratically frustrate your intention and require expansion of OFAC staff or diversion of their attention from more serious purposes.
The best solution is to extend a general license for all people-to-people exchanges sponsored by IRS-recognized not for profit organizations, the same legal procedure as for Cuban American, religious and student travel.
Ideally responsibility for oversight should be transferred from OFAC, an agency that enforces embargoes, to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the State Department, an agency that promotes exchanges.
In order to assure broad national participation, all travel agents and tour operators must be enabled to book flights and hotels for authorized visitors rather than the current restricted list of 250 Travel Service Providers.
cc: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner
US-Cuba People to People Partnership