Denying Visas to Cuban Songwriters

One of our favorite singers and songwriters, Jackson Browne, takes on the Bush Administration's Cuban policy in an op-ed in today's New York Times, Songs of Cuba, Silenced in America. First, the context:

Carlos Varela, the great Cuban singer-songwriter, applied for a visa to come to the United States to sing his powerful, amazing songs. He had concerts planned in Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Our government turned him down.
Visas have been denied to other Cuban artists because their visits are "detrimental to the interests" of our country. In essence, the government says that if Carlos Varela plays concerts in the United States, the money he makes would go to Fidel Castro. This is untrue. In Cuba, renowned artists keep much of what they earn, because the government does not want them to leave the country and live somewhere else. Yet, the Bush administration used the same reasoning to keep Ibrahim Ferrer, of the Buena Vista Social Club, and Manuel Galbán from attending the Grammy award ceremony in Los Angeles last month. (Both men won awards.)

Browne progresses to Bush's Cuban policy in general:

United States foreign policy toward Cuba is unpopular in America, and for good reason. It stops Americans from traveling to Cuba and Cubans from coming into the States. It stops us from sharing medicine with the ill and restricts our ability to sell food to the hungry. This policy is an outdated relic of the cold war and exists only as a political payoff to Republican-leaning Cuban-American voters in Miami.

I believe in justice and human rights in the United States and abroad. I am saddened by the treatment by the Cuban government of the political dissidents in their country. I long for the day when there is freedom for both Cubans and Americans to travel in both directions across the Straits of Florida without undue interference by their governments. I want this freedom not just for artists but for all people, American and Cuban, who live each day in the hope for a just and prosperous future. Giving Carlos Varela a visa to sing in America would be a good way to begin.

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