New anti-Cuban measures ruin businesses in Florida

Campaign News | Sunday, 25 July 2004

Bush sanctions decimate air charter companies

Miami, July 24 - Nearly a month after the US government tightened travel restrictions to Cuba, local air charter companies say their businesses have been decimated and thousands of people across the United States have complained to the Treasury Department about the new rules, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Saturday.

The new measures restrict Cuban Americans to one visit to their families on the island every three years and have provoked outrage across the country. What many analysts see as a crude attempt to win the extreme right wing Cuban American vote in this November's elections has exploded in President Bush' face as voters, social groups and even members of the president's own Republican party have fiercely condemned what they describe as an attack on families.

Air charter companies across the US have been hard hit by the new measures. The owner of Xael Charters, Eddie Levy told the Sun-Sentinel Friday that 24 days after the measures had come into force not one single Cuban American had been able to travel to the island. Levy has already laid off 14 of his 16 full-time employees and said that his business was "paralyzed".

Treasury Department official Juan Zarate, meeting with federal officials in Miami this week, told the Florida newspaper that his office had received more than 2000 "comments" about the new regulations. In an apparent concession to public protests Zarate said all comments would be reviewed and a final rule would be published in early fall.

However, the Treasury Department official reiterated that anyone who violates current restrictions is subject to civil fines of up to $65 000.

ABC Charters Chief Executive Tessie Arau said she had sent several planes to Cuba in the last month with just two passengers. Arau, who co-organized a protest about the restrictions near arch anti-Cuban Republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart's offices Saturday said that the Republican party was losing supporters in Florida because, in her words, "they're destroying all the small businesses here".

The Cuban American rejection of Bush' latest attack on the island could prove crucial in November's presidential elections. The current US President came to power in 2000 thanks to 537 Florida votes in elections tainted by allegations of vote-rigging and electoral fraud.

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