The Associated Press
HAVANA Oct. 24 — Cuba’s foreign minister welcomed the U.S. Senate’s vote this week to ease restrictions on American travel here, but said he doubted President Bush would sign it.
“It is another sign that both houses of Congress favor a political change toward Cuba,” Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told reporters.
But Perez Roque predicted that Bush would veto the measure, as the White House has indicated.
With the exception of Perez Roque’s brief comments, there has been no official reaction from Fidel Castro’s government.
The U.S. House of Representatives last month also voted to ease travel restrictions as part of its version of a $90 billion bill to fund the U.S. Transportation and Treasury department programs.
House and Senate leaders must still work out differences between their two bills.
The U.S. Treasury Department estimates that about 160,000 Americans, half of them Cuban-Americans visiting family members, traveled to Cuba legally last year.
President Kennedy imposed the travel ban in 1963, a year after the Cuban missile crisis. President Carter let it lapse in 1977, but it was reimposed by President Reagan in 1982. Violators could face criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and 10 years in prison.