JIM DEFEDE | COMMENTARY | Miami Herals
Last month, President Bush began enforcing new travel restrictions to Cuba. Cuban exiles will only be allowed to visit immediate family members every three years, instead of annually. Aunts, uncles and cousins are no longer defined as ‘‘immediate family.’’ The length of these visits is no more than two weeks and the amount of money Cuban Americans can spend each day in Cuba was cut from $167 to $50.
Three weeks ago I called Danae Jones, spokeswoman for Alex Penelas’ Senate campaign and asked her to explain his position. She said she would call me back. She never did. On Monday I called her again. Here is a partial transcript of our conversation.
JONES: As to the travel restrictions, he supports travel restrictions.
ME: So he supports the president’s position.
DJ: Well, he supports some of the president’s positions. He certainly supports the embargo and he supports travel restrictions. You see, he believes that Castro is the only one who separates Cuban families but, that being said, the measures, these measures, hurt the dissident movement and President Bush shouldn’t be in the business of defining who is family and who is not family.
ME: Does he agree with limiting travel to every three years?
DJ: I’m not sure about the specifics. He is going to support general travel restrictions. His concern is not necessarily in the details.
ME: I just want to know what the mayor’s position is on the president’s travel restrictions to Cuba.
DJ: These kinds of things that the president is putting forth—once every three weeks, this stuff—that’s not going to be the stuff that is going to topple the regime.
ME: Now you are saying he is in disagreement with the president’s policy. He does not agree on the restrictions.
DJ: No, what I’m saying is there are parts of it he does agree with. For instance, he does support an embargo.
ME: We’re not talking about the embargo. OK, suppose I’m a little old lady and I want to visit my sister in Cuba. Does Alex Penelas support me going to Cuba?
DJ: Well, you know I think that is going to depend on some things. There is talk, of course, about who is at persecution—you know, who is being persecuted—and whether that person can go back, so it naturally is going to depend on some things.
ME: Can I go back every year or every three years under Penelas’ idea of what the restrictions should be?
DJ: I’ll see if he’s got a position on how often that should happen.
Jones called an hour later.
DJ: I think I may have given you wrong information. The mayor does not, in total, support travel restrictions because he does not believe that the Bush administration should be defining family members, like who is family and who is not. If you have got a sick relative in Cuba, you can’t have all of these restrictions about how often you can visit and who you can visit.
ME: Only in the case of a sick relative? So if I want to visit my sister and she is healthy, can I still visit her?
DJ: That’s part of the whole abuse. We don’t want people going down to spend money with Castro. Certainly your readership down there knows these issues and who we are talking about.
ME: OK, but I don’t think you know what you are talking about. Why don’t you just put Penelas on the phone because you are not explaining his position very clearly.
DJ: He opposes many of the new restrictions.
ME: Are there any that he supports?
DJ: He does not support, in general, these kind of travel restrictions.
ME: I don’t know what ‘‘in general’’ means. Why did you put that qualifier in there?
DJ: I’m not sure what it is you are trying to get at.
All I was trying to get was a straight answer, but sensing that was impossible, I gave up and moved onto another topic—Penelas’ position on pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. But I’ll save that conversation for another day.