Cuba si! Bush no!
Outside of a few Cuban-Americans in Florida who wield a disproportionate amount of clout on the issue, is there any reason for our governmentâ€™s policies towards Cuba? From the embargo to the government restriction on travel it has to finally have sunk in that Castro won, we lost, and lets move on. Here are a couple on vaguely related stories:
A 75-year-old San Diego woman who has been fined nearly $10,000 for violating the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba is taking her case to Washington, D.C.
Joan Slote, who went to Cuba on a bicycle tour three years ago, has been invited to speak tomorrow at a forum focusing on a U.S. travel restriction to the communist island nation. The forum will be held in the U.S. Senate building.
Slote has been trying to appeal her fine with the U.S. Treasury Department but has not been given a hearing despite repeated requests. Her supporters are trying to arrange a hearing with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control while she is in Washington.
Slote’s supporters hope to enlist the help of U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who supports lifting travel restrictions to Cuba. Dorgan is scheduled to speak at the same forum as Slote.
A spokesman for Dorgan said the Treasury Department should have more important things to do than to go after Slote.
“This is an absurd use of resources by the Department of Treasury,” Dorgan spokesman Barry Piatt said. “At a time when they should be tracking terrorist funding and the movement of terrorists around the world, they are spending resources tracking little old ladies riding bicycles in Cuba.”
Even staunch supporters of the travel ban say Slote is the wrong target.
“There’s exceptions in every case,” said Joe Garcia, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation.
“There’s nothing absurd about the United States trying to curtail travel to an immoral regime.” But cracking down on seniors such as Slote suggests that “the law is absurd,” Garcia said.
About 200,000 Americans visit Cuba annually, most under special exception licenses for people with relatives in Cuba, U.S. government officials, professionals and others. Tourism isn’t licensed, and as many as 60,000 people make the trip without permission. Most escape punishment, although the number of fines more than tripled to 700 during the first year of the Bush administration.
Slote, who has traveled to more than 20 countries on bicycle tours, said she assumed the tour company was correct when it said she didn’t need permission to visit Cuba if she began the trip in Canada. She and a friend flew to Toronto and then to Cuba. On their return to San Diego, a customs inspector at the airport asked if she had been to a country other than Canada. Slote told the truth and was reported to the Treasury Department.
She was fined $7,600 for spending $38 U.S. dollars in Cuba â€“ $18 in souvenirs and $20 in airport tax. The total since has risen to $9,871.75 because of penalties imposed in the 11/2 years she has been disputing the fine. The government has told Slote repeatedly that if she doesn’t pay, it could deduct the money from her Social Security checks.
This is so idiotic it doesn’t even deserve comment.
Compay Segundo, a once-forgotten Cuban musician who gained worldwide fame with the “Buena Vista Social Club,” has died in Havana. He was 95.
Born Maximo Francisco Repilado Munoz, the wiry, cigar-smoking musician carried traditional Cuban music to the world. He was honored with a Grammy as part of the “Buena Vista Social Club” in his 90th year and helped draw attention to other aging but talented Cuban musicians.
There are hundreds of other Compay Segundos in Cuba….but our government won’t let us hear them.
American guitarist Ry Cooder says his latest collaboration with Cuban musicians could be his last.
Cooder helped put the country on the musical map after bringing together a group of Cuban musicans to make the Buena Vista Social Club album in 1996.
The project was an unexpected commercial and critical smash, earning a Grammy and becoming the best-selling release of Cooder’s career.
But the US Government banned Cooder from working with musicians from the communist country again, fining him $100,000 under America’s Trading With The Enemy Act.
The act places tight restrictions on the dealings US citizens can have with the communist state.
President Bill Clinton stepped in during his last week of office in 2000 and persuaded the government to give Cooder a year reprieve.
As a result Cooder went back to Cuba and worked on two projects – an album with legendary guitarist Manuel Galban and one with singer Ibrahim Ferer – which is due for release this week.
But he fears he will not be able to repeat the exercise.
“When I say this is a classic Latin record what I’m really saying is it might be the last chance to do this kind of mingling of people and styles,” said Cooder.
“Politically I can’t do it again so I have to say that is the best I can do.”
Bill Clinton is as much to blame for this state of affairs as are the current folks, and it is the height of stupidity to single out Cuba, the people of Cuba, and even Americans who want to visit this country, in such a shabby way.
By the way, here is the way the State Department describes Cuba:
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Cuba is a developing country with a totalitarian, communist government. The United States has no direct diplomatic relations with Cuba, but provides consular and other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The U.S. Interests Section operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government but is not co-located at the Swiss Embassy.
Compare it with China:
The People’s Republic of China was established on October 1, 1949, with Beijing as its capital city. With well over 1.3 billion citizens, China is the world’s most populous country and the third largest country in the world in terms of territory. China is undergoing rapid, profound economic and social change and development. Political power remains centralized in the Chinese Communist Party. Modern tourist facilities are available in major cities, but many facilities in smaller provincial cities and rural areas are frequently below international standards.
…and did I mention that you can travel to North Korea without penalty?
U.S. citizens traveling to the DPRK should carry only valid U.S. passports bearing the proper North Korean visa. Under no condition should U.S. citizens retain any document that identifies them as citizens or residents of either the Republic of Korea (South Korea) or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). There is currently no way to replace a lost or stolen U.S. passport in North Korea. Americans who lose a passport must go to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to manage their departure from North Korea and subsequent transit through China, Russia or a third country, as necessary.
…because they’re not a “totalitarian communist” country, don’t you know.