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Posted May 05, 2003 by publisher in US Embargo

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BY MARIKA LYNCH | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Cuban American National Foundation met with Bush administration officials Thursday to advocate boosting the signal power of TV and Radio Marti and giving more money to assist dissidents in the wake of the recent crackdown.

But the prominent exile group lobbied against further restricting travel or remittances that families send to the island.

The Bush administration has weighed limiting remittances and travel as a way to pull money away from Fidel Castro’s government as a punishment for the jailing of 75 activists and journalists.

At least one other group, the Cuba Liberty Council, has advocated suspending all remittances and travel to the island. But foundation members said the U.S. should strengthen its pro-democracy programs already in place.

‘‘Our policy should be our policy, not a reaction to Castro’s,’’ foundation spokesman Joe Garcia said. “We have a defined policy. We’re promoting democracy in Cuba. . . . We are boosting civil society in Cuba. That policy is working. The events that have occured in the last months and a half would not have occured, but for the backing of the dissident movement in Cuba.’‘

Cuban Americans should on their own limit the amount of money sent back to the island, and make remittances solely for necessary goods, he said.

In March, the Bush administration announced new rules that increased the amount of money travelers can bring to families on the island—raising the cap to $3,000 from $300. The increased amount is intended to benefit more households, per traveler. The rules also will allow more Cuban Americans to travel to the island, but restrict other groups that have been involved in ‘‘educational’’ exchange.

Pepe Hernandez and Dennis Hays, the foundation’s president and executive vice president, advocated their positions Thursday at the White House with Otto Reich, the administration’s special envoy to the Western Hemisphere, and later with State Department officials. Garcia said U.S. officials are still considering options, but the foundation’s recommendations were well received.

‘‘We received clear assurances that they are not going to be reacting, that they are going to use this new opportunity to further promote human rights in Cuba and civil society,’’ Garcia said.

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