HAVANA TIMES — A group of Cuban Americans supporting engagement between the US and Cuba to improve relations and settle differences is alarmed by a bill attached to a House appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2014 that would turn the clock back to the George W. Bush years.
The annexed legislation, submitted by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl), was passed by a full house committee on Wednesday.
The following is the complete press release submitted by the group CAFÉ.
CAFE denounces Mario Diaz-Balart’s attempt to reverse advancements in U.S. Cuba policy
The Executive Committee of CAFE, Cuban Americans for Engagement, would like to express our severe dismay over the recent language introduced by representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) to the House Financial Services Appropriations Bill for the fiscal year 2014 that would reverse important advancements in U.S.-Cuba relations.
The language contained in sections 124 and 125 of the bill, which was passed by the full committee on Wednesday, would adversely affect two major policy changes of the Obama administration that have brought about improvements in the relations between the citizens of both nations over the past four years.
Section 124 would effectively dismantle the “people-to-people” licensing program, allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba for educational purposes, by defunding the program. These licenses have allowed U.S. citizens to legally visit Cuba and experience the island first-hand, ending their reliance on the skewed portrayals of Cuban reality by either the U.S. government or the corporate-controlled media.
These visits have also allowed Cuban citizens to interact with average U.S. citizens and to discover that most people in the U.S. desire normal relations with their Cuban neighbors. These educational exchanges have served to reinforce the similarities of both peoples and to express our shared interests.
The provisions in section 125 are particularly disturbing because they negatively affect thousands of Diaz-Balart’s own constituents and their families in Cuba by requiring OFAC to monitor and report details on Cuban American travel to Cuba and on all remittances carried to Cuba, whether by Cuban Americans or others.
These remittances that have been taken to Cuba in the past years have helped to bolster the nascent mixed economy and allow Cubans on the island to start and maintain small businesses. Without these much needed investments Cubans wouldn’t be able to participate in this new paradigm. The regulations imposed by this legislation would require a costly and intrusive monitoring system and would ultimately lead to diminished monetary support for the limited, yet increasing, free enterprise that is now possible in Cuba and less humanitarian and other donations to Cuba’s religious NGOs.
It is extremely hypocritical and downright un-American of Diaz-Balart and the Republican controlled Appropriations committee to discourage Cuban Americans from taking advantage of the economic reforms taking place in Cuba. These are the same public figures that decry the communist, authoritarian government’s control over the economy. These remittances have been the lifeblood of recent reforms in Cuba and Diaz-Balart’s shortsighted and malicious attempt to curtail such funds is an affront to the American way of life.
CAFE will join others in fighting to keep this hateful language from ever making it to the president’s desk and we hope that Diaz-Balart’s mean-spirited tactics will be met with negative results at the polls on Election Day in November of 2014. Diaz-Balart’s attempt to control the American citizenry’s right to travel and sabotage his own constituent’s efforts to contribute to the welfare of their extended communities in Cuba is a disgusting act of political posturing that shouldn’t be accepted by any sector of the American government or society.
CAFE advocates an end to the unconstitutional restrictions on travel to Cuba imposed by the U.S. Congress and exhorts the U.S. State Department to at least, in the mean time, establish a single general license to cover all currently permissible categories of travel to Cuba.
We also support the unlimited investment by Cuban Americans in Cuba and the end to the embargo that prohibits individuals and companies subject to U.S. jurisdiction from most trade and economic transactions with the island.