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Ross: As travel to Cuba is curtailed, how free are we really?

(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has announced new rules to punish Cuba by banning the kind of trip my wife and I took six years ago, when we traveled there as part of a cultural tour.

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Under the rules, your official guide makes sure that even if your hotel is on a gorgeous and empty Caribbean beach, and even if strolling guitarists want to serenade your wife with Beatles’ tunes, you must spend the day on what are called “people-to-people” visits to schools, museums and art galleries.

Which actually was fine because we got to see a jazz combo at the music school, a chamber orchestra at the art museum, and at the gallery, we got into a discussion with an artist about freedom:

“We’re free,” one said.

“We have many troubles … but I feel free,” said another.

We saw first-hand that Cubans can buy only government newspapers, and start only the smallest of home businesses. And while schools and health care are free, most people live way below what Americans would consider poverty.

But looking back, I do feel silly asking them if they were free, given that my own government now tells me I can’t travel there again.

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