On May 6, 2004, President Bush directed the implementation of certain recommendations in the Report to the President from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. Consequently, the Treasury Department issued an amended set of regulations which more severely restrict travel to Cuba. The definition of a family members eligible to visit relatives in Cuba is now limited to “immediate family” only. Whereas such visits were permitted annually, they are now restricted to one every three years. In addition, there are new severe restrictions on educational travel, both as to eligibility and duration.
Nevertheless, there remains significant support in Congress and in the business and agricultural communities for relaxation of travel restrictions and other sanctions against Cuba. On July 7, 2004, the House of Representatives voted 221 to 194 to ban funding for the Commerce Department’s part of the enforcement of the new travel restrictions, which include limitations on the amount of baggage licensed travelers can carry and the types of items that can be sent in gift parcels, as well as a limitation of one gift parcel per month per household.
The Holy Father, the Cuban bishops and this Conference over the years have called for an end to the embargo against Cuba and for relaxation of travel and other restrictions. As USCCB President Bishop Wilton D. Gregory noted in his letter to President Bush on May 18, 2004 (copy attached): “Over the many years of the embargo, it has failed to achieve its goals of unseating the Castro government, restoring democracy and protecting human rights. In fact, the embargo hurts the ordinary people in Cuba… The additional restrictions proposed by the Commission—limiting Cuban-American family visits and the amount of money they can send to Cuba—will only serve to exacerbate the situation within the country.”
Please make a recess contact with your Senators and Representative, urge their support for efforts to relax the travel limitations for visits by families here to their family members in Cuba. Ask their support for legislative efforts by the Senate and House Cuba Working Groups to end an economic embargo that is morally unacceptable and politically counterproductive. As Bishop Gregory points out, the goals of improving the lot of the Cuban people and encouraging the democratization of the governance of Cuba are best accomplished through greater rather than less contact between the Cuban and American people.
For further information: Tom Quigley 202-541-3184(ph); 202-541-3339 (fax); email@example.com