Measure seeks to limit travel to Cuba
BY ISABEL C. MORALES
SPECIAL TO EL NUEVO HERALD
The U.S. House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee passed a
bill on Thursday carrying an amendment to annul President Barack Obama's
measures that ease travel and money transfers to Cuba.
The amendment, presented by Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart,
was made part of the Financial Services Appropriations Bill for 2012
that was discussed in the committee.
"The amendment eliminates Obama's measures [on travel and money
transfers] and goes back to the status quo under [George W.] Bush," said
Diaz-Balart, who is optimistic that the entire House will pass the
amendment. "The changes [implemented by Obama] have been the largest
source of revenue of the [Castro's] dictatorship. We have the bipartisan
votes to [win] this issue."
Requiring licenses for family visits to the island, hardening the
definition of "family," and limiting visits to once every three years
for 14 days are among the proposed changes. The amendment also reduces
money transfers by immediate relatives to $300 quarterly.
The bill passed by the committee grants funds for the operations of the
Department of Treasury, the President's Executive Office, the Small
Business Administration, the General Services Administration, the
Security and Exchange Commission and other independent agencies.
"This amendment is a matter of national security and an issue of human
rights and freedom," said Diaz-Balart.
The congressman said his bill does not eliminate travel or money
transfers by Cuban Americans, but rather traveling for other purposes.
"Touristic travels are the Cuban regime's main source of revenue," he said.
Diaz-Balart said he hopes the bill will be debated in the House before
the summer recess.
On Jan. 14, Obama announced measures to ease travels to the island by
educational, religious, cultural and humanitarian groups from more U.S.
cities with the purpose of strengthening the island's civil society and
allowing more Cubans to act independently.
t In February, Cuban-American Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey and
Marco Rubio of Florida sponsored an amendment seeking the elimination of
flights to Cuba. That amendment, part of a bill to fund the Federal
Aviation Administration, did not pass.