Wednesday, July 25, 2012

US tourist to pay $6,500 fine for unauthorized 1998 Cuba trip

US tourist to pay $6,500 fine for unauthorized 1998 Cuba trip
Lawyer: Man singled out as an 'ideological traveler' by
unevenly-enforced restrictions

MIAMI — A New York man agreed Tuesday to pay a $6,500 fine to settle a
long-running dispute with the U.S. Treasury Department over a trip he
made to Cuba as an unauthorized tourist 14 years ago.

Zachary Sanders, now 38, said he was 23 and had been living and teaching
English in Mexico when he decided to go to Cuba for a couple of weeks in

"I wanted to learn about how a socialist country worked in practice,"
Sanders said in an interview. "I had no illusions. ... I'm not like some
diehard supporter of the (Cuban) government or anything like that."

Varying enforcement of restrictions
The United States has long restricted U.S. travel to Cuba as part of a
50-year-old trade embargo aimed at punishing Cuba's communist
government. The actual restrictions and the degree of enforcement have
varied with different U.S. administrations and with the evolving state
of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Sanders did not obtain the required U.S. Treasury license to visit Cuba
and a U.S. Customs agent became suspicious when Sanders returned to the
United States through the Bahamas without declaring that he had been to
Cuba. The agent also seized an undeclared box of Cuban cigars from
Sanders' luggage.

Two years later, Sanders received a letter from the Treasury Department
asking for details of his expenditures in Cuba. He said he was scared,
had lost the receipts and missed the deadline to return the form.

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