Cuba objects to U.S. lawmakers' attempts to stop flights
HAVANA | BY SARAH MARSH
Cuba on Thursday objected to attempts by a small group of U.S. lawmakers
to prevent scheduled flights between the two countries from going ahead
on security grounds, underscoring its longstanding cooperation with U.S.
authorities on the issue.
The former Cold War foes agreed last year to restore scheduled
commercial airline services for the first time in more than five
decades, as part of a broader normalization of ties, and dozens of daily
flights are set to begin within months.
But a group of mainly Republican lawmakers has raised concerns about
airport security and proposed a law prohibiting flights to Cuba until
they are addressed.
They introduced the bill last week despite assurances from the U.S.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that it always ensures its
standards are met.
"Our airports are safe, and not because we say it, but because the
specialists of the TSA say it," Armando Garbalosa, the head of security
at Cuba's civil aviation authority (IACC), told state-run website
TSA officials told a House of Representatives transportation security
subcommittee in May that it had enjoyed a "strong, professional
relationship" with the IACC for years and the latter had been receptive
to all its proposals.
The subcommittee chairman, Republican U.S. Representative John Katko,
complained however he had unanswered questions and Cuba had denied him
and other subcommittee members a visa to examine Cuban airports.
As a result, he introduced the bill, which would prohibit flights until
the TSA certified Cuban airports had the appropriate security measures
There was no indication that the measure would advance in the U.S.
Congress. No vote has been scheduled in the House, and it would not have
enough support to pass in the U.S. Senate.
Cubadebate suggested the lawmakers were trying to frighten Americans
into not traveling to Cuba.
The number of U.S. visitors to the Caribbean island has shot up since
respective U.S. and Cuban Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro
announced a detente 1-1/2 years ago, despite an ongoing ban on general
U.S. travelers must meet at least one of 12 criteria to visit, such as
being Cuban-American or taking part in educational tours or journalistic
activity. The number of U.S. visitors grew 83.9 percent in the first
half of this year.
(Additional Reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and Patricia Zengerle
in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Source: Cuba objects to U.S. lawmakers' attempts to stop flights |
Reuters - http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-usa-airtravel-idUSKCN1012MF