TV ad to call for open relations with Cuba

A newly-formed bipartisan group is launching an ad today on national cable calling for open relations with Cuba. “It’s been over 50 years,” a narrator says. “Isn’t it time for a change?”

The ad will air on Fox News, CNBC and MSNBC and is paid for by the business-backed Engage Cuba. The advocacy group is run by top Democratic and Republican strategists and is supported by a number of lawmakers, including Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who is attending a launch party in Washington this evening.

The 30-second ad notes that Americans can travel to North Korea but not Cuba. “It’s actually against the law,” the ad states. (Some Americans, however, can travel to Cuba, including people with relatives there, artists, students and journalists).

See video here.

The group cites a study asserting trade with Cuba would generate $5.9 billion in annual U.S. exports. While the Obama administration has moved to restore ties with Cuba, the trade embargo would require congressional action and Republicans, led by Florida members, oppose any effort.

The ad is designed to chip away at that opposition and build on growing public support for restored relations.

“Since December, we’ve heard from Americans around the country who can’t believe the U.S. government is denying us the right to travel anywhere in the world,” James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, said in a release. “Public polls show that Americans are saying, ‘We are tired of the Cold War-era policy that won’t let us trade or travel to Cuba. We want our government to let us play a role in this significant period of transition.’ That’s why we’re launching Engage Cuba.”

The group is lobbying on Capitol Hill for the Freedom to Travel to Cuba bill, which has 40 co-sponsors in the Senate.

From a release:

“There is growing bipartisan agreement that our 54-year-old policy of isolation is broken and is hurting our own businesses and farmers,” said Steven Law, a Republican who serves as senior advisor to Engage Cuba in addition to his role as president of American Crossroads. “The future of engagement with Cuba has arrived, and it’s time for Congress to help lead the transition process.”

“One of these days, our legislative branch of government is going to have to start to function,” concluded Luke Albee, a Senior Advisor to Engage Cuba who served prominent Democratic Senators in Congress for more than 25 years. “There is no better issue to help make this happen than changing our archaic Cuba policy. It is in our national interest. And it is right for America.”

Engage Cuba is a bipartisan 501(c)(4) public policy organization dedicated to coalescing and mobilizing American businesses, non-profit groups and concerned citizens for the purpose of supporting the ongoing U.S.‐Cuba normalization process and enacting legislation to reform U.S.  travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. Engage Cuba is working with leading Republican lobby firm, Fierce Government Relations, to coordinate its legislative strategy in Congress.

Engage Cuba’s membership includes organizations and businesses across sectors, with major trade groups like the National Foreign Trade Council, National Association of Manufacturers, the Consumer Electronics Association, Council of the Americas, and the American Society of Travel Agents.  Engage Cuba’s members also include civil society organizations such as Third Way, #CubaNow, Cuba Study Group and the Center for Democracy in the Americas. In addition, Engage Cuba is already working directly with leading companies who share its goals of lifting the travel and trade bans with Cuba, including Procter & Gamble, Cargill, Caterpillar, Choice Hotels, The Havana Group, among others.

By Alex Leary, Times Washington Bureau Chief

Tampa Bay Times, June 16, 2015

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