Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the incoming Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he supports the relaxing of restrictions placed on Americans traveling to Cuba.
Speaking on KSL radio's Doug Wright Show Wednesday, the Utah Republican called the travel ban "ridiculous" and said allowing Americans to visit the country would be "a step in the right direction" toward Cuba achieving a democratic state.
"Well I haven't fully digested it, but I could tell ya, I have been not only to Guantanamo Bay to look at our facility there, but I've also actually been to Havana," said Chaffetz "I had to get a religious visa in order to get to go there — I went with Senator Jeff Flake. I gotta tell you, it bothers me, as an American, I should be able to travel anywhere I want to in the world. It is the only place on the planet that the United States government prohibits Americans from going to. And that seems ridiculous."
Chaffetz described visiting Cuba as "a freedom issue," saying Americans deserve the free choice to visit the country.
"So, to me it's a freedom issue, that I think if you, as an American, you want to go there, you should be able to go there. And, now, there are other provisions that I really need to study and look at, but the idea of allowing Americans their free choice to make their own decision about going to Cuba — I applaud that and support it."
He added he had no illusions about the repressive nature of the Castro government, but said allowing Americans to visit would be a step toward ending the dictatorship.
"It's still a very brutal and aggressive dictatorship. I sat at the table in Havana across from some true Communists, which is quite and experience, to have those types of discussions. We've got to do everything we can to help them achieve freedom, and work with the people there in Cuba. Allowing Americans to go to the island and interact with the people I think would be a step in that right direction."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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