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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

New rules restricting commodities that may be sent to Cuba

Posted June 24, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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BY NANCY SAN MARTIN | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Miami Herald

U.S. residents will no longer be allowed to send to Cuba clothing, personal hygiene items, fishing gear and other goods under new rules unveiled Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The toughened regulations, which take effect on June 30, also limit recipients of the monthly gift parcels to households rather than individuals and restricts the amount of baggage that travelers may take to the island.

The measures are part of a long list of tightenings of U.S. sanctions on Cuba ordered by President Bush last month in an attempt to hasten the fall of the socialist system and propel a transition to democracy. They were included in a 500-page report released in Washington by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, a cabinet-level group created by Bush last year.

The new rules, published in the Federal Register, follow another set of regulations published by the Treasury Department last week on tighter restrictions on Cuban Americans’ travel to the island. Both sets of restrictions were initially announced in broad form in May.

The publication of the details of the restrictions have created a frantic response among Cuban-Americans who maintain close ties with relatives on the island. Many have rushed to fly to Havana to visit loved ones before the June 30 deadline for the new restrictions kicks in.

Local businesses that provide travel and parcel services to Cuba also are bracing for a loss in revenue.

‘‘I have 16 employees today but I won’t have 16 next week,’’ said Maria Terase Arau, vice president of ABC Charters, one of seven Miami companies that offer flights to Cuba. “I don’t think this government has looked at how [the new measures] are going to affect American corporations and the economy of South Florida.’‘

CHANGES

According to the new rules published Tuesday:

• Gift parcels are limited to food, vitamins, medicine, medical supplies and equipment, and receive-only radio equipment. Previously, the parcels could include such other items as seeds, veterinary supplies and soap-making equipment.

• Parcels containing items other than food are limited to once per month per household, instead of once monthly per individual. The recipient must be a grandparent, grandchild, parent, sibling, spouse or child of the donor.

• Most U.S. travelers to Cuba may only carry 44 pounds of baggage. Exemptions will be allowed for travelers with special licenses.

U.S. officials have said the baggage restriction aims to keep Cuba’s government from obtaining dollars charged for merchandise brought into the country. Under Cuban law, travelers are allowed to bring up to $250 worth of merchandise into the country each year. But they are subject to as much as $200 in taxes for the items.

MONEY LOST

‘‘Apparently that is what they are trying to eliminate,’’ said Armando García, vice president of Marazul, a Miami travel company that arranges flights to Cuba.

The restriction on baggage represents a loss of thousands of dollars in weekly revenues for the Cuba travel companies, which charged $2 for every pound above the 44-pound limit. The average traveler traditionally has carried about 75 pounds of baggage. On a flight of 100 passengers, that represents a loss of some $6,200 in excess weight fees.

‘‘Politicians have been blinded by their zeal in trying to accomplish something in Cuba,’’ Arau said. “I just don’t see what it is they’re trying to accomplish.’‘

Member Comments

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On June 26, 2004, publisher wrote:

If George Bush wants to create jobs, he should let Americans travel to Cuba without stupid restrictions.

There I said it. I came out strongly against these new restrictions.

Hard to stay neutral when NO ONE supports this new policy.