BY NANCY SAN MARTIN | Miami Herald
The United States is getting tougher on enforcing the travel ban to Cuba. In the last two months, many more violations have been discovered than in the past.
In the two months since President Bush announced tougher enforcement of the U.S. travel ban to Cuba, authorities have inspected about 54,000 travelers and detected 600 violations, up from just 10 violations during the same period last year, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
‘‘We do not believe the law ought to be flouted,’’ Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security, said at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
The increased enforcement was ordered by Bush on Oct. 10 as part of enhanced initiatives to strengthen the four decades-old embargo on Cuba, which includes travel restrictions.
‘‘The embargo is important to make sure we keep the pressure on the corrupt regime,’’ Hutchinson said. “We have a responsibility to enforce the law and that’s what we intend to do.’‘
Over the past 60 days, authorities examined a total of 971 flights. Of the 600 violations detected, more than 400 came from passengers on inbound flights. Most of the violations were committed by passengers arriving from Cuba with alcohol and tobacco products. Others did not have the travel licenses required by U.S. law.
The majority of violations on the outbound flights were for passengers who also did not have proper travel licenses. Authorities also targeted passengers who were carrying cash to Cuba above the $100 a day limit allowed under U.S. law for authorized travelers.
Hutchinson said officials are looking at ways to better detect those travelers using third countries to circumvent the travel ban. Authorities at the Treasury Department also are more closely scrutinizing the applications of those seeking travel licenses to Cuba, Hutchinson said.