Bid to Restrict Cuba Travel Dropped from Budget Bill

According to the Miami Herald, congressional leaders dropped two restrictive measures: one to restrict Cuban-American travel and remittances to the island and another to make it easier for Cuba to buy U.S. goods, as they worked on the final touches on a $1 trillion spending bill. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

The agreement stripped a measure by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-South Florida, that would once again have limited “family reunification” trips to once every three years, capped remittances at $1,200 per year, and tightened the definition of “family,” said Congressional aides. In exchange, the Congressional leadership also agreed to drop a measure by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., that would have eased a requirement that Cuba pay cash and in advance when buying U.S. goods permissible under the embargo, according to the aides. The Cuba issue was one of the last hurdles blocking consideration of the government spending bill.

[. . .] House and Senate conferees had reached a compromise this week on a version of the bill, but Reid, responding to White House concerns, would not release it until the Cuba provisions and other issues, including some abortion regulations, were ironed out. [. . .] It was not immediately clear if House Republicans had enough votes to approve the unilateral version, or how the four Cuban-Americans in the House would vote. The three Republicans and one Democrat include Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-South Florida, powerful chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

[. . .] Obama, who in 2009 lifted virtually all restrictions on travel and remittances by Cubans in the United States, threatened to veto the Florida Republican’s rider a month later. But it was not until this week that Congressional infighting threw light on the issue.

Supporters of restricted Cuba travel contend that the trips and cash are simply pumping more money into the coffers of Cuba’s communist government at a time when it has stepped up repression of political dissidents and human-rights activists and holds U.S. government contractor Alan Gross in prison. But others argue that the visits help Cuban families reunite, and that the remittances help Cubans break free of their dependence on the government and even start private businesses, such as restaurants and carpentry shops.

Havana blogger Yoani Sánchez tweeted that the Diaz-Balart measure would be “a terrible step backward” and blogger Orlando Luis Pardo, in another tweet addressed to Obama, wrote, “We await your veto.”

For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/15/2548654/bid-to-tighten-up-cuba-travel.html

Shown above: Florida’s Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

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