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Fight to keep Cuban American travel
The Plantocracy seeks to maintain its stranglehold

Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, whose family is a charter member of the exiled Cuban Plantocracy in Miami, seeks to throttle Cuban American travel to Cuba with his June 23, 2011, amendment to a House finance bill. The fight is on. And it affects all Americans, as this is but one step the remnants of the Plantocracy are taking to keep Americans from discovering the realities of Cuba in order to maintain the embargo.

Don't  "wait and see":  Fight to keep Cuban American travel, for all our sakes 
Common Ground Travel, 7/6/11

So, Pres. Obama says he'll stand by his Cuba travel  policy decisions -- and threatens to veto any attempt to undo them! 
Common Ground Travel, 7/15/11

Their visits are still on!

This just in from our friends at LAWG:
 
 First, let's take a moment to exhale....
----------------------------------------------------
Yesterday, President Obama and his staff in the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) that provided Congress with the Executive Office's views on H.R. 2434, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2012. This is the appropriations bill that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on June 23rd, which included Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's (R-FL-21) amendment that intends to restrict Cuban-American family travel and remittances to Cuba.

In the SAP, the White House says: "The Administration strongly opposes a number of provisions in this bill. If the President is presented with a bill that undermines either the Affordable Care Act of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protections Act through funding limits or other restrictions, or reverses current policies on Cuba, his senior advisors would recommend a veto."

As our friends at the Havana Note explain, "It is customary for an administration to send to Congress a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) after committee consideration and before a floor vote, with warnings over provisions the administration wants to see removed. 

How do you ensure a provision's removal?  Threaten to veto the bill over it.  No committee chairman wants to see his bill go down over just one provision in it, so the tactic usually works."

Although we may argue that it's equally important, for our issue of travel to Cuba to be mentioned in the same sentence as hot-button items like, health care and Wall Street reform, this SAP signifies a monumental step for the White House.  U.S. policy towards Cuba has routinely been dubbed as a low-priority issue by previous Administrations and Congress. But since Obama delivered upon his campaign promise to allow unrestricted family travel to Cuba in 2009, this move by Diaz-Balart is interpreted as a challenge to the White House's Cuba policy.

Over 600 of YOU from Miami responded to an ad placed in El Nuevo Herald that encouraged Cuban Americans to send letters to the President expressing concerns for maintaining the current policy on family travel to Cuba. Your voices were heard.

This SAP explicitly defends Obama's forward-looking policy towards Cuba, and that is the jaw-dropper here.  If Congress was unsure about how the President felt about revisions to his policy on family travel to Cuba, this statement says it all, "if it's there, expect a veto." 

The fight against this bill is not yet over, but with the big boss giving fair warning, this amendment is one step closer to being thrown out.

Best,

The LAWG Cuba Team (Mavis, Emily and Andrew)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
So that's the good news from Mavis, Emily and Andrew.  We can take a moment to breathe, but I'd also say that quick follow up phone calls or emails are in order:

Call or email your Representative in the House  and both your Senators.   Let them know that you are aware of the President's SAP, that you expect no argument or resistance, and that you also expect full travel rights to Cuba, for all, pronto. 

Call our President.  Thank him for doing the right thing with this SAP and let him know you expect him to stick to it and to move forward.  Let him know that the next steps should be to ensure freedom of travel for all (and, if you're so inclined, healthcare for all, a balanced budget, full funding for our cities and towns rather than for the military, and peace for our children and grandchildren -- in our lifetime)

You can find the names and contact information for Representatives, Senators and the President at a single website:

www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

If you have trouble finding what you need on this website, here are others more specific (click to go to link):

House         Senate        White House   

White House Phone:  202-456-1414 

Call and write now while it's on your mind. 

Thank You.
  
Merri Ansara
Common Ground Education & Travel
People to People Exchanges
359 Main Street #2A, Easthampton MA  01027
info_AT_commongroundtravel.com

www.commongroundtravel.com

Don't  "wait and see":  Fight to keep Cuban American travel, for all our sakes 
Common Ground Travel, 7/6/11
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As you know, on June 23, the House Appropriations Committee voted 27 to 21 to include in the FY 2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill an amendment rescinding the Obama measures to ensure that Cuban Americans could travel regularly to see their families and could send remittances to help them through difficult times. 

August 2nd, when Congress goes out on summer recess, is being pushed as a deadline for passing the FY2012 budget. 

If this measure stays in the FY2012 budget bill as it passes through the House and Senate and on to President Obama's desk for signature into law, as of October 1, 2011, Cuban Americans will be permitted to visit their families in Cuba only once every three years, with a limited definition of what constitutes family, and with no humanitarian exceptions.  

We cannot permit this to happen.  Not only is it a cruel and vindictive measure against a sector of our fellow Americans, but it opens the door to further steps back in travel policy to Cuba for all of us.  

Despite the supposed August 2 deadline, the budget bill still has many steps and many votes to pass through before the final vote by both House and Senate that will send the final bill to President Obama's desk for signature.  Here's an easy to read description of the steps that a bill goes through on its way to becoming law.  How a bill becomes law.

We all have to act.  Now.  We don't have much time.  We don't know that Congress has the will to reverse or stip out this amendment.  There has not been a lot of publicity about the measure since the  amendment was included in the House appropriations bill.  We don't know what the Senate thinks.  And we don't know if Pres. Obama will decide that it is worth keeping his 2008 promise to Cuban Americans over his commitment to ensure a budget is in place. 

Call your Congressional Representative.  Let him or her know that you insist on cutting the Diaz-Balart amendment from the FY2012 budget bill and insist that no other restrictive measures be added.  Let him or her know that you expect full travel rights to Cuba, for all. 
 
Call both your Senators.  Let them know that you expect them to ensure that the Diaz-Balart amendment does not find its way into the Senate version of the bill and that you expect your senators to preserve the rights of Cuban Americans and to move forward on the right of all Americans to travel. 

Call our President.  Let him know you count on him to keep his promise to the Cuban American community.  Let him know that all of us deserve and insist on the right to travel. 

You can find the names and contact information for Representatives, Senators and the President at a single website:

www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

If you have trouble finding what you need on this website, here are others more specific (click to go to link):

House         Senate        White House   

White House Phone:  202-456-1414 

Call and write now while it's on your mind. 

Thank You.
  
Merri Ansara
Common Ground Education & Travel
People to People Exchanges
359 Main Street #2A, Easthampton MA  01027
info_AT_commongroundtravel.com

www.commongroundtravel.com


Articles
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Cuba Travel Restrictions in the Spotlight in Brooklyn and Beyond  7/5/2011 Americas Quarterly: "Opponents of ending travel restrictions to Cuba have long relied on the ambivalence of everyday voters for whom—under the decades-long policy of isolation—visiting the island has never been a practical possibility. For much of the past five decades, most Americans have never questioned the rationale for restricting travel. But, as academic and cultural ties grow, thousands more are bound to ponder that very question. Diaz-Balart and others will find it increasingly difficult to come up with convincing answers—and that might be the reason for all the fuss."

US Congressman Diaz-Balart Seeks to Punish Cuban-Americans  6/24/2011 Havana Times: "Puerto Rican legislator Rep. Serrano warned that we should not be trying to define what constitutes “family” because the scope varies among different ethnic groups and Virginia Democrat Rep. Moran decried the amendment as un-American and “totalitarian”… Florida Rep. Diaz-Balart said that remittances have become a huge cash windfall for the Cuban government, ignoring the fact that the money is helping the Cuban people to become less economically dependent on the government and that much of it has gone toward starting up small businesses."

United States Cuba Policy: Cuba Travel? You Are Not Serious  6/24/2011 United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog: "Now here is the good news. There are more of us than there are of them. It is time to prove it in votes and money. What happened in the House Appropriations committee can and will likely be stopped. Only if you choose to finally get serious on this issue, follow all the rules of the political game, and play to win."

House Appropriation Committee Approves Restriction of Travel to Cuba through the Power of the Purse Strings  6/23/2011 Common Ground Education and Travel: "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… 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."

Family travel to Cuba reverts to cruel Bush-era regs  6/23/2011 LAWG: "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."


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