In 1963, RFK urged lifting of the Cuba travel ban that is still in effect 51 years later

In 2014, most Americanns are barred by law from visiting Cuba, the island nation closest to America. When it comes to Cuba, Amrica’s vaunted ideals of “free trade” are frankly repudiated by the government in Washington which justifies violation Americans’ freedom to travel in the name of supporting democracy and human rights.

A half century ago,  Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy came to believe that the ban on travel to Cuba was “inconsistent with “our views of a free society,” as these historic documents collected by the  non-profit National Security Archive reveal..

On December 12, 1963, less than a month after his brother’s assassination in Dallas, RFK wrote a memo in which he argued that the travel ban imposed at the end of the Eisenhower administration was a violation of American freedoms and impractical in terms of law enforcement. Among his “principal arguments” for removing the restrictions on travel to Cuba was that freedom to travel “is more consistent with our views as a free society and would contrast with such things as the Berlin Wall and Communist controls on such travel.”

RFK favored free Cuba travel
(Photo: LBJ Library)

RFK’s daughter Kennedy Townsend cited her father’s views  in a 2009  opinion piece in the Washington Post, that argued that President Obama should consider her father’s position and support the Free Travel To Cuba Act that has been introduced in the U.S. Congress. Obama has not acted.  Nor has Attorney General Eric Holder.

According to Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project, the documents “shed significant light on the genesis of the travel ban to Cuba, and the first internal debate over ending it.” The original rationale for the ban “is no longer applicable,” Kornbluh notes, “but RFK’s arguments remain relevant to the current debate over the wisdom of restricting the freedom to travel.”




  1. Clarence Carlson says:

    I’ve always believed that the governments stance on travel restrictions are, at best, ill conceived and, at worst, self defeating. Why this has not been changed is a mystery to me.
    I for one plan to visit the island if and when such restrictions are lifted. What politics are causing the hold up?

    • Cuban American vote in a crucial swing state, Florida. There is absolutely no other explanation. For crying out loud almost every pair of running shoes sold in the US are manufactured in Viet Nam, a supposedly Communist country in which over 200 BILLION dollars was spent and 58,000 died and an untold additional hundreds of thousands were wounded or scarred for life.

  2. Jonathan says:

    This country’s policy toward Cuba is wrong-headed and wrong. The policy exists because some conservative politicians and some Cubans living in the U.S. want no engagement while Fidel Castro reigns.

    Full disclosure: I’m a conservative on some issues, but this ain’t one.

    I’ve gone to post-war communist Viet Nam, no problem. I could go to China and probably even North Korea (no thanks). So why not Cuba?

    Answer: Because a few thousands of Americans frustrate the normalization of relations between countries that should be friends.

    When I went to Viet Nam, in 1994, there were strong feelings here about MIAs. I shared those feelings and understand them well. Fidel’s takeover, on the other hand, is long old and cold. Besides, he aligned himself with the USSR solely because he needed a powerful friend to offset the mighty U.S. His brand of communism never has been the soviet brand; it’s much more nationalistic.

    In support of Free the Files, I urge “Normalize with Cuba.” I bet Fidel has some interesting files on the JFK assassination.

  3. It is all a holdover of operation Chaos and cointelpro. Obama still wants the “Bay of Pigs thing” and CIA records on the JFK coup to remain secret. The background can be reviewed here and I’m not waiting for the USG to release anything that tells the truth because the rules say they cannot release names, methods, sources or anything “Sensitive”. Every time I study the history I find more truth that presidents will never acknowledge because the President’s Club cover up for each other, yet at the bottom of Pandora’s Box that did not get out was Hope.

  4. Jeff says:

    As Bill Simpich stated on December 17, 2014 , “terrific things will come to fruition” … and one example includes the views of Robert F. Kennedy from December 1963, as discussed above by Jeff, that are finally moving forward!

    A Hope for 2015 is that greater access to open archives will provide further transparency into the truth.

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