Cuban-American Group Opposes Bill to Stymie US-Cuba Exchange

Casa de las Americas cultural center and publisher in Havana.
Casa de las Americas cultural center and publisher in Havana.

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.


5 thoughts on “Cuban-American Group Opposes Bill to Stymie US-Cuba Exchange

  • July 22, 2013 at 10:34 am
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    My concept is slightly different than that. I believe that despite 50 years of failure, it is important to maintain the embargo now more than ever. While it did not work to cause that Cuban people to rise up and overthrow the Castros as originally hoped, it did serve to stymie the extraterritorial ambitions of the Castros to export their failed socialist system elsewhere. It appears that biology, not politics will ultimately be the undoing of the regime. The embargo therefore continues to contain the regime while Father Time takes his inevitable toll.

  • July 21, 2013 at 8:17 pm
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    Moses, your concept of using an embargo to strangle Cuba economically to force regime change has proven unsuccessful since 1962. There are very few of you left who believe that will prove successful in the future. Even a majority of the Cubans in Miami have given up on that idea.

  • July 20, 2013 at 10:09 am
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    Bob, your analysis is correct with regards to the impact of family remittances on the Cuban economy. The problem is that these remittances serve to prolong the inevitable collapse of the failed Castro-style economy and sustains a regime which is becoming even more repressive. Ask yourself: in the absence of these remittances, would the Cuban people be more or less patient with the Castros? Pressure must be maintained if not increased on the Castros to usher in a more democratic form of government. As you stated, this in not the time to change course.

  • July 20, 2013 at 7:21 am
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    Moses, the easing of restrictions on US citizens to travel and send remittances to Cubans has been very effective in forcing changes in the Cuban government to slow down the rate in which it becomes economically insignificant to it residents. The Cuban government has been forced to accept more private employment, businesses, and permit the private sale of automobiles and houses because such was already happening with funding from overseas.

    I see more and more Cubans simply ignoring the government controlled portion of the economy and working for themselves. The consistent response is “why bother with an official job when I can sidestep the government and make more in a day than I would in a month.”

    The economic drivers of all of this overseas money, much from the US, coming directly into the Cuban peoples hands. Realize the relationship of the $5+ Billion in remittances to the less than $1 Billion total payroll of the Cuban government.

    The current policy of eased US restrictions in causing great positive economic change in Cuba transferring power to the people from the government. This is not the time to change course.

  • July 19, 2013 at 5:30 pm
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    It’s a helluva time to start asking Americans to look the other way with regards to US/Cuba relations. Arturo Lopez-Levy, one of the leaders of the CAFE group, crapped a brick, I am sure, when he found out Cuba was trying to sneak missiles into NK. Most of these CAFE types still have ties, some familial, with the Castro regime oligarchy. I don’t understand why they don’t expend their energy towards convincing the communists in Cuba to change their ways. It just seems a bit ironic that they would rather convince a large democracy (US) to bend towards a small totalitarian regime (Cuba). If better relations between the US and Cuba is really their goal, why steer the oil tanker towards the dingy? Final point: admittedly a bit ticky-tac but why would ‘Americans’ put the Cuban flag stripes on the left of their symbol and the American flag stripes on the right as it appears on the CAFE logo. Flag etiquette would suggest the American flag on the left. Just sayin’….

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