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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

URGENT ACTION ON CUBA TRAVEL

Posted April 16, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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By Latin American Working Group | lawq.org

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates,

Our last message to you was a comprehensive one, with many action suggestions. Today we want to focus on one specific urgent action regarding travel to Cuba.  Please let us know if you are able to take the following actions to express strong disagreement with the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) new regulations banning people-to-people educational travel to Cuba.

On March 24 OFAC, the agency charged with enforcing restrictions on travel to Cuba, issued new travel regulations. The most significant change in the regulations further restricts educational travel to Cuba, impacting many US organizations that sponsor such travel and reducing significantly the number of Americans who may visit the island legally.

For several years OFAC has issued people-to-people licenses to organizations that take groups on educational trips to Cuba. While these licenses have been harder to get under the Bush Administration, many organizations currently have such licenses.  They have permitted a great deal of valuable educational travel to Cuba—for groups of teachers, university alumni, people interested in Cuban art or culture, local public officials, etc. Under the new OFAC regulations, the only educational exchanges allowed will be for individuals and groups earning academic credit for their trip; no more people-to-people licenses will be granted. This new restriction will severely restrict licensed travel to Cuba; up to 70 percent of legal travel to Cuba has been under the people-to-people category. The new rules limit US citizens’ access to first-hand knowledge about Cuba, and they will limit direct contact between US and Cuban citizens.

Please help us oppose this change. Write two letters in protest:

1) Write to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control before May 23 to tell them that people-to-people exchange is vital. Any attempt to cut it back is bad for US-Cuba relations. The new regulations will dramatically reduce the number of US citizens who are able to have direct contact with Cuban citizens. Ask them to rescind this change in the regulations. 

It is urgent that hundreds of US citizens write to OFAC opposing this change. A sample letter follows this message; you should adapt it to your own style. Write to:

Chief of Records
ATTN:  Request for Comments
Office of Foreign Assets Control
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

2) Equally as important, and perhaps even more so, write to Secretary of the Treasury John Snow and to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Tell them (you may send identical letters) that the new travel regulations represent a political and foreign relations mistake at a time when greater international understanding is needed rather than less.  Again, a sample letter follows that you may use as a guide.  Write to:

Secretary of State Colin Powell
United States Department of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington DC 20520
(FAX:  202.647.2283)

AND

Secretary of the Treasury John Snow
United States Department of the Treasury
Main Treasury Building
15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20220

3) And don’t forget to sign the petition to President Bush (and recruit others to sign it) found at [url=http://www.cubacentral.com]http://www.cubacentral.com[/url]  We would like to greatly expand the current more-than-8,700 signatories, and we need your help to do it.  This web site is updated regularly with developments on Cuba policy.  Also see our website [url=http://www.lawg.org]http://www.lawg.org[/url] for updates and action alerts.

We’re counting on your help. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Mavis Anderson
Philip Schmidt
Latin America Working Group
[url=http://www.lawg.org]http://www.lawg.org[/url]

SAMPLE LETTER TO OFAC:  Please mail to arrive prior to May 23

YOUR ADDRESS | DATE
Chief of Records
ATTN:  Request for Comments
Office of Foreign Assets Control
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Chief of Records:

I write to strongly urge you to reverse the new regulations on travel to Cuba announced March 24. The change eliminating people-to-people educational travel to Cuba is unacceptable. 

People-to-people exchange is extremely important, as it allows contact between ordinary Americans and Cubans. Eliminating this category of travel will further damage Cuba-US relations, and it will set back efforts to benefit the Cuban people.

Reinstate people-to-people travel licenses effective immediately.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

SAMPLE LETTER TO SECRETARIES POWELL AND SNOW:  Please write as soon as possible

YOUR ADDRESS | DATE

Secretary of State Colin Powell
United States Department of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington DC 20520

AND (separate letters)

Secretary of the Treasury John Snow
United States Department of the Treasury
Main Treasury Building
15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20220

Dear Secretary Powell / Secretary Snow:

As a person interested in expanded understanding among nations of the world, I strongly urge you to take action to reverse the new OFAC regulations governing travel to Cuba that eliminate people-to-people travel licenses.  These new travel regulations represent a political and foreign relations mistake at a time when greater international understanding is needed rather than less.

Now more than ever, the Cuban people will benefit from efforts to lift the US ban on travel to Cuba.  The best way to bring about a more open society in Cuba is through a reduction of tensions between our nations and more contact between our peoples. 

Ending the travel ban would grant to Americans their constitutional right to travel.  Ending the travel ban would expand opportunities for dialogue and exchange of ideas.  Ending the travel ban would benefit both Americans and Cubans.  Reinstitute people-to-people educational licenses.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME

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