Cuba refuses visas for House members
Bart Jansen, USA TODAY 3:13 p.m. EDT June 24, 2016
WASHINGTON – Cuba refused to approve visas for five House lawmakers who
sought to visit that country to investigate airline passenger screening
for flights recently approved by the Transportation Department, the
lawmakers said Friday.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security
Committee, and Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., who heads the transportation
subcommittee, had planned to leave Friday to evaluate security screening
for scheduled flights that are set to resume later this year for the
first time in more than 50 years.
"At a time when the Obama administration is rolling out the red carpet
for Havana, the Cuban government refuses to be open and transparent with
the people's representatives," McCaul said.
Any airport sending flights directly to the U.S. must meet
Transportation Security Administration standards. McCaul and Katko have
questioned whether Cuba's airports meet those standards.
Katko said lawmakers still don't know if Cuba has adequate body scanners
and explosive-detection systems in place.
"This is a government that was only just removed as a state sponsor of
terrorism list one year ago, and it is not enough to rely on the Castro
regime's word that these airports are secure," Katko said.
Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.; Richard Hudson, R-N.C.; and Henry
Cuellar, D-Texas, were also scheduled to go on the four-day trip.
The lawmakers delivered their credentials and visa requests to the
office of the U.S. Marines' liaison on June 16, and the office delivered
the documents to the Cuban embassy. Cuban officials did not officially
deny the visa requests, but they never responded, the lawmakers said.
Airlines have provided charter service to the Communist country about 90
miles from Florida for decades. But U.S. and Cuban officials agreed in
February to resume scheduled flights for the first time since shortly
after the 1959 revolution.
The agreement called for 110 daily flights to start later this year,
with 20 to Havana and 10 each to nine other cities.
The Transportation Department approved 155 weekly flights to the nine
other cities on June 10. Airlines have begun selling tickets for fall
Contributing: Erin Kelly.
Source: Cuba refuses visas for House members -