US citizens challenge Bush?s anti-Cuban measures

Campaign News | Wednesday, 30 June 2004

Pastors for Peace and three other groups break the latest travel bans

Havana, Jun 3 (Prensa Latina) US citizens in four groups of solidarity with Cuba will travel to the Island next week, openly challenging the recent measures imposed by the US government on Havana.

In a courageous move, the four groups are determined to stand up to the current US administration, which enforced the regulations banning its citizens from visiting Cuba on June 30.

One of the measures limits Cuban Americans to visit their country of birth for 14 days every three years, while cousins, aunts and uncles will no longer qualify as relatives. Also, visitors will be permitted to spend no more than $50 a day while in Cuba.

The Friendship Caravan Pastors for Peace led by Reverend Lucius Walker is near the US-Mexico border after touring many US cities collecting donations for Cuban institutions.

The convoy includes people from the United States, Denmark, Canada and Mexico.

Another group, the seasoned "Brigada Venceremos", joined by immigrants living in New York and other cities, will travel directly to Santiago de Cuba to begin a tour that will end in Havana.

This convoy will arrive in Cuba on July 4 - coinciding with celebrations of US independence Day- , which adds to the challenging nature of their trip, according to Enrique Román, vice president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples.

The 15-member African-American Awareness group will arrive in Havana on Sunday, for exchanges on cultural, ethnic, historical and pedagogical fields.

The Rius Rivera Brigade made up of Puerto Ricans will travel to Cuba on Thursday, also violating the restrictions imposed by US President George W. Bush.{7F0405A3-03C5-46A0-BC16-7A74E37DF2B1}&language=EN

Hundreds protest at Miami airport

MIAMI June 30: Hundreds of Cuban émigrés found themselves stranded in Miami today, 24 hours before the latest measures drawn up by the Bush administration against Cuba officially come into effect, in a political game that has not brought the results desired by those leading the reelection campaign, EFE comments.

The source states that two airlines were unable to take any passengers to Cuba today as the State Department had only authorized them to fly to the island empty to pick up persons who wished to avoid being fined ($7,500) under the new measures or, simply, those who were scheduled to return in line with the end of their stay in the country.

Those stranded threatened to withdraw their vote for Bush in November due to his “separating the Cuban family,” and acting against the liberties that he claims to defend.

“This is an attack on freedoms and it is only Cubans that face restrictions on returning to their country,” Ana del Valle, who had traveled from Idaho to Miami to visit her parents in Santa Clara, informed EFE.

“They are using us for political ends. We came here for economic and not political reasons,” said Reinaldo Rodríguez, a native of Holguín, while the woman beside him affirmed: “We want to go to Cuba. This is not democracy.”

Another frustrated traveler who preferred not to identify himself declared that no way would he vote for “George Bush Jr, who wouldn’t even get to be batboy for the minor leagues” in baseball, EFE notes.

They all expressed horror at the decision of prohibiting flights to the island, waving Cuban flags and paying scant attention to the arguments of Xiomara Almagro, the representative of the Gulf Stream company that offered the charter flights and was explaining that it wasn’t their fault.

From Washington, EFE informed that the government refused flight permits to various companies, adducing that that is part of U.S. policy to prevent entry into Cuba.

Meanwhile the AFP agency likewise reported its impressions of events in Miami, saying that dozens of passengers who could not get seats to fly from Miami to Cuba on Tuesday were expressing their discontent with shouts of “We want to fly!” and “Cuba! Cuba!”

Many of those passengers had already booked their flights, but they were cancelled. Only empty aircraft could leave to collect passengers in Cuba and transport them to the United States, it adds.

A sentiment hostile to the measures adopted by the Bush administration to reinforce the blockade and restrict travel and remittances to Cuba from June 30 was palpable in the airport.

“I came from Iraq,” affirmed Carlos Lazo, a Cuban-American who stated that he had been deployed in that country with the U.S. army. “And due to Mr. Bush’s policy I can’t go and see my family in Cuba,” he added, speaking to the Hispanic Telemundo TV network.

Lazo warned: “This year I won’t be voting for Bush.”

The would-be passengers were trying to get to the island before the measures reducing those visits from once a year to once every three years and restricting them to direct blood relatives, come into effect, AFP continued.

Moreover, from Wednesday, trips can only be made to see immediate family (grandparents, grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters, spouses and their children).

There is no doubt that government spokespersons have manipulated information on these trips and the implementation of the measures to create confusion and chaos.

After having stated the opposite, Molly Millerwise, spokeswoman for the Office for Foreign Assets Control attached to the Treasury Department, which regulates that activity, specified that the date for the return of persons traveling to Cuba had been postponed until July 31. However, it would appear that that this decision has not been sufficiently circulated and many people believe that they will be fined if they remain on Cuban territory beyond June 30.

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