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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Shameful act of anti-American freedom by Mario Diaz-Balart

Posted June 24, 2011 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Summary of comments regarding this shameful act of anti-freedom behavior from Mario Diaz-Balart

Common Ground Education & Travel Services email - CommonGroundTravel.com

After all our work and after everything we have been through together, the good and the bad, the worst has happened again.
House Appropriation Committee Approves Restriction of Travel to Cuba through the Power of the Purse Strings

The House Appropriations Committee today approved the fiscal year 2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. The legislation provides annual funding for the Treasury Department, the Executive Office of the President, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, the Small Business Administration, the General Services Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and several other independent agencies.

The following amendments were offered and adopted:

Diaz-Balart (R-FL) The amendment tightens regulations on family travel and remittances to Cuba, returning these policies to those that were in place during the Bush Administration. These changes to travel restrictions include: requiring specific licenses for family travel, tightening the definition of “family,” and limiting travel to every three years for a time period of 14 days.  The amendment would also limit family remittances to immediate family members, and limit the total to $300 for every quarter of the year. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Flake (R-AZ) The amendment inserts report language regarding the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), related to Cuban Asset Control regulations. The amendment directs the office to provide a report on pending license applications related to education exchanges. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Final Passage The bill was approved by the full Appropriations Committee on a vote of 27-21.

Latin America Working Group email - LAWG.org

Dear Cuba Policy Advocates,

Today the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of an amendment, put forth by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida (R-FL 21st), to the FY 2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill. This amendment, which passed by voice vote, rescinds changes that President Obama made in 2009 to Cuban-American family travel and remittances regulations. If this amendment were to become law, Cuban Americans would only be permitted to visit their families in Cuba once every three years, with a limited definition of what constitutes family, and with no humanitarian exceptions. Cuban Americans would also be limited in what they could send in remittances to Cuba. We would be back to Bush Administration-era regulations on family travel. This is totally unacceptable.

Over eleven hundred of you sent messages to your representatives yesterday. Those messages were not in vain. Each of the emails that you sent, and phone calls that you made, chip away at the monopoly that a minority in Congress has over this issue. Thank you. 

Luckily, there are other hurdles that this amendment must face before it can become law. Today’s outcome does not mean that the President’s 2009 regulatory changes will be rescinded. The Financial Services Appropriations bill still has a long journey ahead of it, which means that we must be prepared for more fights moving forward. Today we took a step back, but let’s get our footing now for the challenges we will certainly face when the bill hits the House floor and when the Senate considers its version of the bill.

Let’s take a moment to be disappointed—no,  more than disappointed. Angry. But only for a moment. We must save our energies for an ultimate defeat of this setback—and the continuing goal of achieving “travel for all.” Cuban Americans in south Florida and elsewhere should be especially furious at this action by a Cuban-American member of Congress limiting their right to be with their families; but we all have the right to be outraged.

Supporters of the embargo voted to—once again—divide Cuban-American families from their relatives in Cuba. If the amendment were to become law, most of the approximately 400,000 Cuban Americans who traveled to Cuba last year to see their families would be prohibited from doing so; and the remittances that help many Cuban families to survive and thrive in a difficult Cuban economy would be cut. It’s a cruel thing to do—mean-spirited and anti-family; it’s about punishing families in the United States and in Cuba because of their opposition to the Cuban government.

Latin America Working Group press release - LAWG.org

House Appropriators Approve Return to Harsh Bush-era Regulations on Family Travel to Cuba

Today the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of an amendment to—once again—divide Cuban-American families from their relatives in Cuba.

The amendment was offered by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) to the FY 2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill. It directly repeals the announcement made by President Obama early in his administration to allow unlimited family travel and remittances for Cuban Americans, which delivered on a campaign promise.

If the amendment passed today becomes law, it would affect all of the Cuban Americans that traveled to Cuba in the past year—an estimated 400,000 according to travel services providers. This would move the policy regulating Cuban-American travel back to the harshest years of the Bush Administration, which were enacted in June 2004 and were in place until the Obama announcement in April 2009. Cuban Americans would only be permitted to visit their families in Cuba once every three years, with a limited definition of what constitutes family, and no humanitarian exceptions. Remittances would also be limited, upon which many Cubans on the island depend to survive under the serious economic hardship the country faces.

“Today we saw a member of Congress abuse his seat of power by attaching a vindictive amendment to a must-pass bill,” said Ashley Morse, Program Officer at WOLA.

WOLA and LAWG believe it is a fundamental right for Cuban Americans to be able visit their families as often as they wish. The amendment passed today is anti-family, and if it were to become law it would be a major setback for the United States’ policy toward the island. “We were reminded of the painful testimony we commonly heard when President Bush limited Cuban-American family travel. Imagine, if you visited an ailing parent on the island and then your government wouldn’t allow you to return for the funeral because you’d already used your one trip,” said LAWG Senior Associate Mavis Anderson.

The FY 2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill will face further legislative battles before it can become law, including a vote on the House floor and a new Senate version which will likely have to be reconciled with the House bill. “It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Administration strongly, but quietly, urging the Senate to kill this amendment,” said Geoff Thale, Program Director at WOLA. “This is a direct attack on President Obama’s Cuba policy and will undo the modest but positive inroads he’s made in improving relations with Cuba.” 

The amendment did not touch the people-to-people provisions that were announced by the President in January that also allow for general licenses for academic and religious organizations.

Cuba Study Group statement - CubaStudyGroup.org

Statement by the Cuba Study Group in reaction to efforts by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart to use Cuban families as a weapon against the Castro regime

The Cuba Study Group today issued the following statement in reaction to an amendment offered yesterday by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart to an appropriations bill, which would restrict the ability of Cuban-Americans to visit and help their families in Cuba:

“It is unfortunate that Representative Mario Diaz-Balart continues to use the suffering of Cuban families as a weapon in furthering a failed policy aimed at the Cuban regime.

At a time when the Cuban government has found it necessary to implement reforms, and Cubans are increasingly becoming independent of the state, Representative Diaz-Balart’s efforts only add to the isolation and suffering of the Cuban people and make a democratic transition on the island less likely.

Democratic transitions from authoritarian rule in Eastern Europe, apartheid South Africa and even the Arab Spring we are now witnessing, have proven that contact with the outside world has played a crucial role in promoting those changes. In none of these successful cases, did the U.S. restrict contact between U.S. civil society and those nations.

We reject Representative Diaz-Balart’s efforts to use the suffering of Cuban families as an instrument of a policy, which has failed to yield any positive results for over 50 years. The Cuban revolution has brought enough suffering to Cuban families and policymakers should offer a U.S. policy that stands in sharp contrast to it, not one that contributes to that suffering in hopes of maintaining the status quo or furthering a sterile policy.”

The House Committee on Appropriations approved Representative Diaz-Balart’s amendment in a voice vote yesterday. The amendment repeals regulatory changes enacted by President Obama in April of 2009 and return to the policies of January 2009, when President George W. Bush enacted the most severe restrictions on travel to the island.

The Havana Note - TheHavanaNote.com

Anya Landau French has an opinion that Diaz-Balarts’ efforts may help Obama in 2012.

—————————————- Havana Journal Comments—————————————-

The Havana Journal supports all of the above comments and condemns the shameful anti-family, anti-American and anti-freedom acts by the self-serving Mario Diaz-Balart.

He cannot take away our freedom of speech so we own and use MarioDiaz-Balart.com to point to a Havana Journal page that highlights his other despicable anti-American act of criticizing the FBI for seeking evidence in the Posada case. (Just as a side note, MarioDiazBalart.com points to a dead page… not very smart but then again, do you expect more?)

We also exercise our freedom of speech with these domain names diaz-balart.com, diazbalart.com, ileanaroslehtinen.com and lincolndiazbalart.com that point to the same Havana Journal page. The general public needs to know how dangerous these extremists are to their American freedoms.

Now on with my rant…

A tiny percentage of Mr. Diaz-Balart’s constituents receive millions of dollars every year from the US government to promote democracy in Cuba. Mario Diaz-Balart and his beneficiaries thank God every day that the Castro brothers run Cuba so he and his people can hold on to the power and money they enjoy due to the failed “Plan A” Embargo against Cuba.

We fail to see how punishing the Cuban people, Cuban families, Cuban Americans and the American people somehow force regime change in Cuba.

The Embargo has been around for more than 50 years and so have the Castro brothers regime. Maybe it’s time for a Plan B?

The FIRST order of business should be to let the American people be free to travel to Cuba without restriction. Whether it has any effect on the Castro regime is SECONDARY to the freedom of trade and travel that are rights of the American people.

Fidel has used the Embargo and the funding of USAID programs as an excuse for Cuba’s many failures so, oddly enough, Mario and Fidel agree on one thing… neither want the Embargo lifted.

So, tomorrow is same stuff, different day and both extremes like it that way. Fifty years of history tells us that this is the truth.

Member Comments

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On June 30, 2011, publisher wrote:

Alvaro Fernandez from Progreso Weekly writes this article about Mario Diaz Balart’s amendment stating that Mario may have simply offered this amendment so he can appear to be a hardliner while he knows that the amendment would not be passed while President Obama is in office.

Also, what’s interesting in Mr. Fernandez’s article is this line”

“There are still others who claim that the Diaz-Balart amendment is a move that deals with Alan Gross. In a conversation this week, I met with a person convinced that Diaz-Balart and Ileana do NOT want Gross released. He is much more valuable to them sitting in a Cuban prison. There he is a poster boy they can point to whenever they need to demonize the Cuban government.”

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On July 03, 2011, Dana Garrett wrote:

Nothing or no one retards progress in Cuba more than powerful members of the exile community—people like Rep Diaz Balart. I believe they want a crushed and deeply economically harmed Cuba, thinking they can eventually sweep in and buy Cuban properties and resources on the cheap.