Cuba Politics

Quality of life of Cubans resulting from new Bush restrictions on Cuban Americans

Posted December 03, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

BY NANCY SAN MARTIN | Knight Ridder Newspapers

In the five months since the Bush administration tightened sanctions on Cuba, life has become “very complicated” for Yuceika, a Cuban woman who once survived on the $100 sent monthly from Miami by the father of her 12-year-old son.

“Before, I would have to really restrict spending so that the $100 would last a complete month,” said Yuceika, 35, a resident of the north-central city of Matanzas who can no longer receive the money. “Now, every day is a gamble.”

Yuceika is not alone. Numerous Cubans, and the Cuban government, have been harshly affected by the Bush administration measures, intended to hasten a transition to democracy by keeping U.S. dollars out of the Cuban government’s coffers.

“We are challenging the regime in a way that it has not been challenged at least in the last 25 years,” said Dan Fisk, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. “They’re feeling the pinch.”

_The once-busy Havana airport terminal reserved for U.S. flights has been shut down. The 20 to 25 jetliners a week that used to fly from Miami, New York and Los Angeles to Cuba are down to a handful of much smaller planes, travel agents in Miami say.

_The number of U.S. travelers to Cuba, most of them Cuban Americans visiting relatives, is expected to drop from 180,000 in 2003 to no more than 30,000 in the first year of the new measures.

_Prices at Cuban government stores that sell imported products have soared by as much as 50 percent.

_Tourism dollars that trickled down to Cubans like taxi drivers and private restaurant and room-to-rent owners have dwindled, according to island residents.

_Saying it was reacting to the Bush measures, the Cuban government has imposed a 10 percent fee on most dollar exchanges - in essence taking $1 out of every $10 that Cubans receive from people abroad.

The toughened U.S. rules restrict family reunification visits by Cuban Americans to Cuba to once every three years, instead of once a year, and limit gift parcels and the $1,200 a year cash remittances to immediate relatives - parents, siblings and children, but not cousins or others.

Remittances from the United States alone total at least $400 million in a typical year, according to U.S. government estimates, while the family reunification travel and gift parcels total another $1.1 billion.

That estimate includes items such as the costs of airplane tickets, airport fees for excess baggage, and per diem expenditures authorized for visitors. Under the new rules, the per diem dropped from $164 to $50.

Fisk said the goal was to reduce money going into Cuba by 50 percent.

“That still keeps a flow going to the island, to the Cuban people, but it reduces the regime’s ability to exploit those revenue sources,” he said. “The idea is to go after the regime.”

But average Cubans are feeling the pinch.

One example: Yuceika is not married to the father of her son, making her ineligible to receive the $100 a month that she used to get. And while the son is entitled to the money, he is a minor and cannot withdraw the cash in Cuba.

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see how we manage,” Yuceika told the Miami Herald in a telephone interview from her home in Matanzas.

And while buyers still jam the government’s so-called “dollar stores” - which provide the state with huge profit margins on the otherwise unavailable imported items - it remains unclear how long that will continue.

“The stores are still filled with people buying stuff because there’s nothing to buy anywhere else,” said James Cason, chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. “What we don’t know is: Are people going to buy more or buy less as things get tougher and tougher? Will the measures lead to more money for the regime or less? ... Only time will tell.”

Cason said another part of the new Bush policy on Cuba that seems to be working is the use of U.S. military airplanes, equipped as flying broadcasting stations, to force the signals of Radio and TV Marti past Cuban jamming. The planes have made seven such flights this year.

“On the information side, we are seeing people looking for TV Marti and they’re finding it in some areas,” Cason said during a recent visit to Miami. “People are eager to see it.”

And in Washington, enforcement of the Cuba sanctions also has increased, officials said.

Of the approximately 63,000 requests for licenses to travel to Cuba processed by the Treasury Department from Aug. 10 to Nov. 10, about 36,000 were denied and 26,000 approved. U.S. regulations permit travel by humanitarian and academic groups, journalists and others as well as Cuban Americans.

Most of the travel licenses denied were “incomplete, have been filled out by someone seeking to travel too soon after their last visit, they have false information or are seeking a license to visit someone other than immediate families,” said Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise.

Previous figures were unavailable.

Hundreds of civil penalties also have been issued to violators of travel regulations, with fines totaling more than $1.5 million in the year that ended Sept. 30. And at least five cases have been referred to law enforcement for criminal investigations, Millerwise said.

For Yuceika’s son, the tighter U.S. restrictions make no sense. He was 2 years old when his father fled on a raft in 1994. He came to know his father again during his visits twice a year, the last one in June.

Now, he may not see him again until June 2007.

“This whole thing has caused my son to shed a lot of tears,” Yuceika said. `Now, more than ever, he wants to be with his father. Every Saturday, when his father calls he asks, `When are you getting me out of here?’”

The boy turns 13 on Dec. 7. His father won’t make it to the celebration.

“All he can do is wait for his father to call and wish him a happy birthday.”

Member Comments

On December 03, 2004, publisher wrote:

Mr. Cason, aren’t you an advisor to President Bush regarding US Cuba policy?

You say “What we don’t know is: Are people going to buy more or buy less as things get tougher and tougher? Will the measures lead to more money for the regime or less? ... Only time will tell.”

Why are these new tougher restrictions in place if YOU don’t even know the effect?

Nothing I ever read about you makes any sense. Do you chose to say stupid things or do you actually intend to say stupid things?

On December 03, 2004, YoungCuban wrote:

Hahahaha….well said Publisher!

Stupid is,what stupid does! And man are they ALL stupid!

Give me a break,if one thing Cubans have always been known for is their resourcefulness,no worries,we always find a way to send our family money to continue to help them.

[url=][/url] not only is it safer to send funds using their services,it is also a lot cheaper,it may take a few days for your payment to clear,but YOUR family WILL get thier funds deposited into their own credit card type account and can withdrawl the funds or use the card to pay for their needs.

If that doesnt work,their is always the Envios services.

This article is laughable at best,hey stupid,where there’ a will,there IS a way!

Also,if you travel to Cuba for religious purposes you are entitled to visit Cuba up to 4 times a year,only set back is that the airfare cost for a direct flight to Cuba from Miami is about $600,twice the usual rate.

What next? Take away religious rights?

On December 04, 2004, nicosia wrote:

Why does the U.S care so bloody much about Cuba? Why doesn’t it leave Cuba alone and face the North Koreans who are a bigger threat to the world!!! THEY HAVE GOT WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND THEY FLAUNT IT!

The U.S will pay dearly one day for their greed! They want everyone to bend to their will, well too bad, because Cuba will be independent and Cuba will stand strong!

On December 04, 2004, Jesus Perez wrote:

Mr. Cason, Mr. Fisk, they are all stupid, what else can you call someone who persists in enforcing a policy that has not worked in more than 40 years?

On December 04, 2004, YoungCuban wrote:

I can think of a few other things to call it.



And Pathetic!

On December 05, 2004, Ralph wrote:

  Stiff-necked issues,hey! stubborn people never yield a good
  live and obstinate politicians never yield a good decisions.
  those new meassures to tighten the American embargo against
  Cuba is against the poor people of Cuba,who are the majority
  and many survive,just survive,with the remmitances from their
  loved ones living in The States and of course generate a hard
  feelings.Embargo in 40 years has done nothing,that is nothing
  but the Truth.-