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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Rap musician Brock Satter contacted by OFAC for traveling to Cuba under general license

Posted August 12, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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[url=http://www.pulstec.com]http://www.pulstec.com[/url] | by Mehnaz Alam

A local rap artist could be indicted by the federal government for attending an international rap convention in Havana, Cuba a year ago. Minneapolis rapper Brock Satter received a letter of inquiry from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which enforces the Cuban embargo, regarding his trip.

Satter had been invited to perform at the Ninth Annual International Rap Festival August 11-17, 2003, and flew there via Montreal, Canada. Canada and most other countries have normal relations with Cuba, but the U.S. federal government prohibits Americans from traveling to Cuba except for a limited number of purposes.

Earlier this year, the U.S. government sent a letter of inquiry to the rapper, questioning him about his journey.

Letters of inquiry are often seen as a prelude to punitive action. If charged and convicted Satter can face a maximum civil penalty of $65,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $250,000 and 10 years in prison.

Satter traveled under a general license, which does not need prior government approval. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control and Title 31 Part 515 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, the OFAC general license covers “full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to professional research in their professional areas, provided that their research 1) is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.”

Since Satter is a full-time professional musician who went to the conference to further research Hip-Hop in Cuba, he believes he fulfilled these requirements. He said he worked during his entire stay and obtained valuable knowledge that he is incorporating into his music.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) enforces this ban as part of their work as a lead agency against terrorism, and concentrates about 20 percent of its anti-terrorism efforts on Americans who visit Cuba. The office has come under criticism for focusing on unauthorized Cuban visits rather than other kinds of terrorism.

Satter believes the embargo restricts the basic human right to travel and associate, and that it is important to defend the right ro travel and associate. He considers these laws suppressive and dangerous.

Thousands of Americans are currently being prosecuted for travelling in Cuba, and Satter hopes others being investigated for this will be able to fight the charges. Satter encourages writing to R. Richard Newcomb at the Department of Treasury to galvanize support for his cause.

Satter said Hip-Hop artist and previous attendee of the Cuban conference Dead Prez may be fined for his trip. As a result, no American musicians will be attending this year’s conference. For his cause, Satter has garnered support from the Green Party, politicians Keith Ellison and Natalie Johnson Lee, and various local unions.

The Cuba embargo may be 43 years old, but it is still being tightened. This past summer, President Bush further restricted travel to Cuba, citing concerns about “sex tourism.” Under the new rules, families can travel to Cuba once every three years, and more limits on educational travel were created to cut down American cash flow into Cuba.

Many organizations have disagreed with the U.S. government’s Cuba policy. The International Council of Scientific Unions is strongly opposing the restrictions after several scientists who attended a conference in Cuba were investigated. The ban has also driven away medical students from the U.S., who receive scholarships to universities in Cuba.

Satter believes Cubans “have chosen how they want their government to function” and that “Americans have no moral right to dictate” otherwise. He discounts the U.S. government’s stance that Cuba promotes terrorism, noting that the U.S. federal government occupies land in Cuba and tortures prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

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