US implements rules limiting travel to Cuba

Campaign News | Thursday, 17 June 2004

Measures will hurt US Cubans more than Cuba, say opponents

WASHINGTON June 16 - The Bush regime on June 16 published in the Federal Register regulations that further tighten the blockade against Cuba, pleasing the powerful Florida-based Cuban-American lobby.

Acting on the recommendation of the so-called Commission to Assist a 'Free' Cuba, an interagency commission seeking ways to bring down the of Cuban revolutionary government, the Bush regime on May 6 announced measures that would make it harder to travel to the island and spend money there.

Opponents of the sanctions say the White House steps pander to anti-Castro Cuban-American voters in Florida, a key swing state in November's presidential election, and hurt ordinary Cubans instead of the Cuban government.

The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control said in the Federal Register that the new regulations would take effect on June 30, and it would consider comments from the public until no later than August 16.

The tough new rules allow Cuban-Americans to visit immediate relatives on the island only once every three years, instead of once per year. Visits can last no longer than 14 days, according to the published regulations and no humanitarian visits (to sick relatives for example) will be allowed in future.

US citizens who are not Cuban-Americans are banned from visiting the island, just 90 miles from Florida, with a few exceptions like journalists and politicians.

The regulations ban travellers from bringing back any Cuban merchandise and receiving any gifts of goods or services from the Cuban government, Cuban nationals or citizens of third countries. Travellers previously had been allowed to bring back up to $100 worth of Cuban products for personal consumption.

And authorized visitors can now take only $300 in cash to Cuba, down from $3,000.

The rules also limit to 44 pounds (27.5 kilograms) the amount of baggage travellers can carry to the island and reduce the daily spending limit from $167 to $50.

Educational visits to Cuba were also curtailed.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Republican and Cuban-American from Florida, said Bush "is the best friend the cause of freedom for Cuba has ever had in the White House." Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also a Republican from Florida, said the measures "will rob the dictatorship of funds to further oppress the Cuban people."

But ATRIP-USA*Engage, an alliance formed by the National Foreign Trade Council and travel groups, said the rules would hurt ordinary Cubans more than Castro.

"It is the Cuban people, already in need of our assistance, who will suffer from being cut off from their American families," the alliance said in a statement.

CSC has produced a briefing paper on the new measures and their likely effects. See:

'Cuba Under Threat' on this page or conact the office to recieve a hard copy +44 (0) 20 7263 6452

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