U.S. Changes Requirements for Certain Cuba Trips Citing “Abuses”

The U.S. Treasury Department placed certain restrictions on trips to Cuba by non-Cuban Americans on so-called “people to people” visits, saying that the revisions will “help to deter abuses.” Although the article uses the word “abuses” about five times, it never explains what the abuses are. The closest it comes to giving an example of “abuses” by U.S. citizens who travel for personal reasons was a reference quoting Marco Rubio who complained about someone who had scheduled salsa lessons every night. Oh dear, I can just see this among the new travel restrictions, “Dancing prohibited.” And this is progress? Scary.

Complaints of abuses of such trips — they must be for “educational” purposes, never for tourism — have dogged the program since President Barack Obama approved it last year in a bid to increase Americans’ engagement with regular Cubans.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., drew laughter during a speech in Washington last year when he read the schedule for one such trip, showing salsa dancing sessions every night. Other tours have met with Cuban government ministers and even a daughter of ruler Raúl Castro.

Rubio put a block on Roberta Jacobson’s nomination as the top U.S. diplomat for Latin American until the Obama administration addressed some of the myriad complaints. Jacobson was sworn in earlier this month. “I think it’s progress … because the changes require closer reviews of the itineraries,” Rubio said. “But I still have concerns about the program in general, because it is difficult to manage and avoid abuses.”

Treasury spokesman John Sullivan said the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls, which enforces sanctions on Cuba, revised the regulations for those seeking OFAC licenses to organize trips “in part because of reports we received.” He did not detail the “reports” but added that the changes “will provide clarity to applicants and licensees seeking renewals, facilitate OFAC’s review of license applications and help to deter abuses by licensees.”

For original article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/15/2801235/us-changes-requirements-for-some.html

Photo from http://www.guardian.co.uk/havana-club/sounds-of-the-city

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