By Glenn Somerville | Reuters
MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow Monday unveiled tough action against 10 business groups that promote travel and trade with Cuba in violation of a more than 40-year-old embargo on dealing with the Communist-run state.
Appearing before about 100 Cuban-American businessmen in vote-rich southern Florida, a key state in President Bush’s election in 2000, Snow blasted Cuban President Fidel Castro while naming the organizations to be put on a Treasury list that makes it illegal for Americans to deal with them.
“Castro’s regime has crushed freedom and has held Cuba back from its enormous potential as an economic power and as a friend of the United States,” Snow said. Nine of the 10 companies listed by Treasury are travel companies that promote travel to Cuba and one is a gift forwarder to Cuba.
Snow was in Miami for the day after hosting a weekend meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers at a luxury resort in nearby Boca Raton. Miami is a haven for anti-Castro exiles, many of them supporters of Bush’s Republican party.
The organizations named are “owned or controlled by the government of Cuba or Cuban nationals,” the Treasury said in a statement. Any of their property that falls under U.S. jurisdiction will be blocked and no American can deal with them unless authorized to do so by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC.
AIMING TO PUSH
The administration has made no secret of its wish to hasten the departure of Castro, who seized power in 1959, and the latest action was described as a bid to further that objective “and to hasten the arrival of a new, free, democratic Cuba.”
The announcement’s timing, in a state pivotal to Bush’s 2000 election as well as this year’s re-election bid, seemed obvious, though Treasury officials said it was not politically motivated and was just an effort to enforce the law.
“We’re cracking down. We mean business,” Snow said. “We are cutting off American dollars headed to Fidel Castro. At the same time, we are reaching out to the freedom-loving people of Cuba.”
A full-fledged U.S. trade embargo against Cuba was imposed 42 years ago, in February 1962, under the late President John F. Kennedy. Bush said in October he wanted to toughen enforcement of U.S. laws prohibiting business dealings with Cuba, which remains a popular tourist destination for many Americans who travel from Mexico or Canada to its beaches.
The latest organizations listed by Treasury as owned or controlled by Cuba include entities in Cuba itself as well as in Argentina, the Bahamas, Canada, Chile, the Netherlands and Britain.
Those named are: 2904977 Canada Inc. of Montreal; Corporation Cimex S.A. of Havana; Havanatur S.A. of Havana; Havanatur S.A. of Buenos Aires; Havanatur Bahamas Ltd.; Havanatur Chile S.A. of Santiago; La Compania Tiendas Universo S.A. of Cuba; Cubanacan Group of Havana; Cubanacan International B.V. of the Netherlands and Cubanacan U.K. Ltd. of London.
Snow added a warning that violations of the embargo would not be taken by saying the listed organizations had been “providing easy access to Cuba to those individuals who choose to break the law.
“Today’s actions will put a stop to that and a stop to another illegal pathway for U.S. dollars to Castro’s wallet.”