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Posted November 14, 2003 by publisher in US Embargo

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US lawmakers have come under attack for dropping a provision that would have allowed Americans to travel to Cuba for the first time in 40 years.
Lawmakers removed from pending legislation terms which would have prevented money being spent on enforcing the ban.

Both Houses of Congress voted to lift the bar following pressure from US businesses and ordinary people.

But US President George W Bush threatened to veto the measure.

‘Dangerous precedent’

The Cuban authorities have accused Mr Bush of using “undemocratic” tactics to overrule a majority in Congress.

“Politics have triumphed again over principle” Republican congressman, Jeff Flake

Senator Max Baucus said a few individuals overriding the will of Congress set a “dangerous undemocratic precedent”.

Correspondents say the president is trying to keep the powerful Cuban exile lobby in Florida on board ahead of next year’s presidential election.

“Politics have triumphed again over principle,” said Republican congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona.

‘Brutal regime’

Business lobbies have also said they are angry, as they had hoped to export food to Cuba under an exception passed in 2000.

President Bush has argued the travel ban is needed to deny economic resources to what it calls the “brutal regime” of Fidel Castro.

The bill is being sponsored by a group led Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

Under the bill, travel restrictions could still be imposed if the US and Cuba were at war, or if there was an imminent health threat to US travellers.

The US Treasury Department estimated that about 160,000 Americans visited Cuba legally last year, half of them Cuban-Americans who are allowed to make one visit a year.

Diplomats, politicians, journalists and academics are allowed to visit Cuba without restrictions, but thousands of Americans made illegal visits through third countries.

Cuba has said it expects about a million Americans to visit in the first year if the ban is lifted.

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