Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

Cuban-Americans reveal policy’s inconsistencies

February 27, 2004


Anti-communist Cuban-Americans are having their cake and eating it, too.

They are the leading voices in the fight to continue the decades-old trade and travel bans with the island nation. But many also take trips and cash to relatives in Cuba with near-complete impunity.

"This would be what I consider a double-edged sword," said Mariela Ferretti of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation.

Critics say the practice points up a glaring inconsistency in U.S. policy: Bush has cracked down on travel to Cuba except for travel by Cuban-Americans. Critics say such a move can only be explained by the Bush administration's desire to woo political support from the Cuban-American community in Florida.

"No one is ever, ever fined under that kind of scenario," said U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who opposes the travel ban but is otherwise a Bush ally. "It's political. There's no other way to say it."

The law allows Cuban exiles in America to make one trip home a year -- more, if they can document a need -- and they can send $300 every three months to relatives there.

Ferretti said the broader trade and travel bans that keep most other Americans from legally visiting Cuba deprived the Fidel Castro regime of economic support. And she acknowledged Cuban-Americans' ability to spend and travel freely undercuts those goals.

"It is very difficult when you have a person who wants to send money to a relative to say, 'No, you shouldn't help a loved one,'" Ferretti said.

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