Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ros-Lehtinen says Smithsonian trips to Cuba a cash gift to Castro

Ros-Lehtinen says Smithsonian trips to Cuba a cash gift to Castro
By Pete Kasperowicz - 01/04/12 12:11 PM ET

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
said the Smithsonian Institution's plan to chaperone Americans on four
visits to Cuba this year amounts to licensed tourism of Cuba that will
help give the "Castro dictatorship" access to much-needed hard currency.

"It is deeply disappointing that the Smithsonian Institute, primarily
funded by American taxpayers, is facilitating access to U.S. dollars,
which enables the Castro regime to make a hefty profit," Ros-Lehtinen
said Tuesday. "The trips not only illustrate a blatant disregard for
human rights conditions on the island by an entity that receives U.S.
government funding, but provide the deplorable Havana tyranny a sense of

Supporters of tough travel rules related to Cuba have argued for decades
that easing travel to the island will only encourage Americans to spent
money in Cuba that will mostly end up in the hands of the government,
given the amount of control the government has over economic activity.

Ros-Lehtinen stopped short of saying she would move to block the
Smithsonian trips but said the visits would do nothing to help Americans
to see the brutality of the Cuban regime. "Instead, these tourists will
experience a false depiction of Cuba through a biased and censored
'tour' of the island," she said.

"The Smithsonian's 10-day trips to Cuba will amount to little more than
a tropical vacation," she said. "Americans participating in these trips
will not see the brutal reality of the Castro dictatorship."

The Smithsonian is offering several trips to Cuba this year under a
license issued by the Treasury Department. According to the Smithsonian,
the trips start at $5,450 and will run from May 4-13, May 11-20, Nov.
9-18, and Nov. 30 to Dec. 9.

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