By Cindy Loose | Washington Post
The Bush administration has made it much harder for most Americans to travel to Cuba, but much easier for Cuban Americans.
The U.S. embargo for 40 years has forbidden Americans to spend money in Cuba, with exceptions for certain travel for religious, humanitarian and educational purposes. In March, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control eliminated an entire category from the list of exceptions.
The now-banned category of “educational exchanges’’ had been used in the past for tours led by groups such as the Smithsonian, the Corcoran and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. All tours organized by the Center for Cuban Studies were licensed under the category. “The most recent polls show 75 percent of Americans against the travel ban,’’ said center spokeswoman Sandra Levenson. “It’s appalling; the trips enrich people’s lives on both sides of the Florida Straits.’‘
At the same time, new rules now allow visits to family members three generations removed, rather than two. The administration also cut the requirement for a “demonstrated humanitarian need’’ for a family visit. While most Americans may spend only $166 max a day, people visiting family can spend more, and can carry up to $12,000 a year to give to relatives.
The changes represent “ethnic politics at its worst,’’ complained Robert Muse, an attorney who advises clients on the embargo. An OFAC spokesman replied that the rules that were relaxed apply not just to Cuban Americans but to any American with relatives in Cuba.
Public comments will be considered if mailed by May 23 to Chief of Records, OFAC, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20220.