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Cuban artists kept out of U.S., 3/6/04

Current U.S. Policy Re: Entry Of Cubans Into The U.S., 2/5/04

Travel From Cuba News


World News


February 9, 2004 JS-1160
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow Remarks to Cuban American Leaders Miami, FL

Thank you; it's great to be here in Miami. I've been at the G-7 summit this weekend just a few miles north in Boca Raton, and we had a very productive meeting. I was pleased to be able to report to that group some very good economic news from the U.S., and I'd like to share that news with you as well.

But first, there is another area of economic policy that I really want to talk to you about today, and that's the United States' policy on Cuba. Let me be perfectly clear and candid: The President loathes what the Cuban government has done to Cuba. Castro's regime has crushed freedom and has held Cuba back from its enormous potential as an economic power and a friend to the United States.

The President is, however, very dedicated to the people of Cuba, who long for freedom and have suffered so much under Castro. Because of his dedication to the people of Cuba, President Bush offered, in 2002, to ease U.S. bans on trade and travel… but only if the Cuban government held free and fair elections and allowed free speech and free enterprise. Rather than take this opportunity to move toward a new day for the Cuban people, Castro was contemptuous in response to that offer. Instead, he followed with a new round of brutal oppression of the Cuban opposition that sickened all those who respect human life, dignity and freedom.

You know this better than anyone: Until Castro's reign is ended, any money that is spent in Cuba ­ for products or tourism ­ benefits only that oppressive government, not the hard-working people of Cuba. Any economic benefit is used not to benefit the Cuban people, but instead to perpetuate the regime's strangulation of its population. .

That is why sanctions, especially on travel, are being vigorously enforced by the Bush administration, and why the President told Congress he would veto any attempt to weaken the prohibitions on travel and trade. As you know all too well, dollars spent at Cuban hotels go to the dictator's government coffers. That government in turn pays only a few measly pesos to the staff who work at those hotels.

We must not and we can not have American dollars lining Fidel Castro's pockets and those who would perpetuate his oppressive regime… and enforcement actions by the Department of the Treasury, along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are making sure that does not happen. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is working closely with Customs agents on inspecting all direct flights to Cuba at Miami, JFK and LAX. That's hundreds of aircraft and tens of thousands of passengers… and agents are being extremely meticulous.

OFAC has provided on-site training, specifically on Cuba embargo travel restrictions, to over 500 DHS Customs inspectors. We have accomplished this training on-site in Miami, Los Angeles and JFK, and are now expanding our training efforts to reach Customs inspectors stationed at U.S. Customs Preclearance Facilities in the Caribbean and Canada. We've already trained Preclearance Customs staff in Bermuda, Nassau and Aruba. The training will assist inspectors in their efforts to detect illegal U.S. tourist travelers to Cuba.

We are also providing training to Customs inspectors on a monthly basis at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia.

OFAC's Miami Office is working with the Coast Guard to provide Cuba travel embargo training for its personnel.

By increasing training and awareness of existing law, we are tightening the economic noose around the regime. We expect that this will result in an increase in OFAC civil penalties imposed.

Since October 10th, 264 cases have already been opened by OFAC's enforcement division for investigation of alleged travel to Cuba. Three cases have been referred for criminal investigation.

Also since the training and inspection efforts have intensified, at the direction of President Bush, nearly three hundred passengers have been denied travel after an examination revealed they did not qualify under any legitimate license category for travel to Cuba.

Stepped-up inspection efforts have also had a positive ripple-effect on our financial offensive. For example, using information gathered from these inspections, OFAC has been able to suspend licenses issued to two organizations previously authorized to engage in travel transactions allegedly related to humanitarian or religious activities in Cuba. OFAC is now investigating allegations that the licensees may have engaged in activities outside the scope of their licenses.

Homeland Security has assisted the OFAC sanctions program against Castro with almost 400 seizures of products like Cigars and alcohol… again, Cuban profit on these items is Castro's profit, not the Cuban people's, and that will not be tolerated by the United States government. On March 24th, new OFAC rules eliminated the "people to people" educational license that had allowed educational travel unrelated to academic coursework. The license had increasingly been abused for trips that amounted to little more than tourist travel, thus undermining the intentions of the U.S. sanctions against Cuba. So we got rid of it. Because we're serious about enforcing the sanctions.

I'm pleased to announce to you, today, another enforcement action that is part of these rigorous efforts to choke off Castro's supply of dollars:

OFAC is identifying and blocking ten entities that it has determined are owned or controlled by the Government of Cuba or Cuban nationals. They include entities organized and located in Cuba as well as entities organized and located in Argentina, the Bahamas, Canada, Chile, the Netherlands, and England. Nine of the ten are travel companies specializing in Cuba travel and one is a forwarder of gift packages to Cuba.

As a result of today's action, all property of these entities that is in the possession of persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction is blocked and no persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may engage in any transactions with these entities unless authorized by OFAC.

These companies have been providing easy access to Cuba to those U.S. individuals who chose to break the law. Today's action will put a stop to that, and a stop to another illegal pathway for U.S. dollars to Castro's wallet.

We're cracking down. We mean business. We're cutting off American dollars headed to Fidel Castro, period. At the same time, we're reaching out to the freedom-hungry people of Cuba.

While we will not tolerate illegal travel to Cuba, we sympathize with those desperate to travel here from Cuba. Because until Cuba is free, people will risk their lives to come to these shores of freedom.

That's why President Bush's administration is dedicated to finding safe routes for Cubans who are fleeing Castro.

The President also established the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. The purpose of that Commission, as the President said when he announced its creation, is to "plan for the happy day when Castro's regime is no more and democracy comes to the island."

The Commission will draw upon experts in our government to plan for Cuba's eventual transition - for example, best practices on the establishment of democratic institutions; how to ensure a respect for human rights and rule of law; how to create the core institutions of a free economy; how to modernize infrastructure; and how to quickly meet basic needs in areas of health, education, housing, and human services.

President Bush is also breaking the information embargo that Cuban government has imposed on its own people. We're doing that by increasing the amount and expanding the distribution of printed material to Cuba, of Internet-based information inside of Cuba, and of AM-FM and shortwave radios for Cubans.

Radio and TV Marti are bringing the message of freedom to the Cuban people. Earlier this year, we launched a new satellite service to expand our reach to Cuba. On May 20th, we staged the historic flight of Commando Solo, an airborne transmission system that broke through Castro's jamming efforts. On that day, our President was honored to speak to the Cuban people in the native tongue.

Until the Cuban people are free, President Bush and his administration will do everything in our power to keep dollars out of Castro's pocket while extending the hand of freedom to the Cuban people.

Because we know that these efforts will lead us to a day when we will celebrate Cuba's freedom together. A day when we will see and embrace Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Martha Beatriz Roque, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Leonardo Bruzon Avila, Juan Carolos Gonzalez Leyva… you know the names. They are in your hearts and prayers every day.

I look forward to that day of Cuban liberation, and dedicate myself and my office to speeding its arrival.


Current U.S. Policy Re: Entry Of Cubans Into The U.S., 2/5/04
From: unknown US Government Source

Current u.s. laws and policies generally do not allow entry into the u.s. by officers and employees of the cuban government and communist party. There are few exceptions allowed.

Since most cuban artists are compensated by the cuban government, they are rightly considered to be its employees. The proceeds from the sale of material associated with a cuban artists...[deleted?]

Work financially enriches the regime, not the artist.

We continue to make decisions on visa applications for cuban artists on a case-by-case basis, and we issue visas only when applicants qualify under u.s. law.

Specifically, all cuban visa applicants, including artists seeking to attend the grammys, are subject to presidential proclamation 5377 of october 4, 1985, issued under section 212(f) of the immigration and nationality act.

In march 1999, we exempted broad categories of cubans, including artists, from the visa restrictions of presidential proclamation 5377. Our purpose then was to encourage people-to-people exchanges and thereby help advance the prospects for a democratic transition in cuba.

We decided to return to the policy in effect before march 1999, because the castro regime has taken advantage of the exemption to enrich the government, not to enhance people-to-people exchanges. Visa records are confidential and we do not comment on individual cases.

Cuban artists kept out of U.S., 3/6/04

By David Cázares 
and Vanessa Bauzá Staff Writers 
Posted March 6 2004 

The Bush administration's efforts to take a tougher stance against the Cuban government has hit what some in South Florida's arts community are calling the wrong target: cultural exchanges between the United States and Cuba.

The latest example is a decision by the Department of Homeland Security to cancel a visa for Cuban troubadour and rock musician Carlos Varela, days before he was to launch a U.S. tour that included a concert Wednesday in Miami.

Varela, an internationally acclaimed composer, last visited Miami in 1998 for a songwriters' event and a private concert. But unlike that year, which fell during the middle of a Clinton administration that encouraged cultural exchange between the United States and Cuba, the climate is no longer so inviting.

Hoping to address a growing tide of fierce criticism from Cuban-American state legislators and other Cuban exiles -- a key constituency for the Republican Party in a presidential election year -- the administration has cracked down on travel to and from the island.

Since November, when tough rules went into effect, dozens of Cuban performers -- including those nominated for Grammy Awards -- have been denied visas on the grounds that the island's artists are representatives of Fidel Castro's government.

Although Varela, 38, has made a name for himself perfecting a genre that Cuban authorities once despised as an excess of North American culture -- and has a reputation as a rebel who does not see eye-to-eye with his government -- the State Department's approval of his visa was not good enough. Homeland Security exercised its veto, the singer's U.S. associates said.

Varela said U.S. officials did not give him a reason for the denial. "I think it's lamentable that Cuban musicians and artists are paying for misunderstandings between the two shores," Varela said. "It pains us to know that thousands of Cubans who live there, who constantly follow us and have already bought tickets for the March 10 concert in Miami, will be unable to hear us because of the whims of some dinosaurs with power."

A U.S. Interests Section official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said recently that all Cuban visa applicants, including artists, are subject to a 1985 presidential proclamation signed by President Reagan.

It bars Cuban government employees and Communist Party officials from entering the United States. During the Clinton administration, broad categories were exempted, however, including artists. "Most Cuban artists are compensated by the Cuban government and are therefore its employees," the official said. "Proceeds from the sale of materials associated with an artist's work financially enrich the Castro regime."

In Havana, Jorge Gonzalez Riera, director of international relations of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists, said about 85 Cuban musicians have been denied visas to travel to the United States since November.

A Cuban-American state legislator who had been critical of the administration's stance on Cuba could not have been more pleased.

"I wholeheartedly agree that any representative of the Cuban government, particularly if they're involved in the arts, should be barred from entrance into the United States because as far as the arts is considered a tool of the regime," said State Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami.

As a result, Rivera said, Varela lives a privileged life, one that is out of reach for ordinary Cubans.

The singer's U.S. supporters say that isn't so. Because Varela has been critical of the Cuban government, officials there have not allowed him the kinds of freedoms afforded other artists who don't rock the boat, said Maria Romeu, a New York publicist and friend.

"It hasn't ever mattered how successful his career has been internationally or how much money he might have in his pocket, he hasn't been allowed to improve his living conditions," Romeu said.

For Cuban-Americans who advocate a hard line against Castro, Varela's continued presence on the island justifies his being denied permission to come to the United States.

Ninoska Perez, a board member of the Cuban Liberty Council, said it was "very hard to separate politics from art" in Cuba when some artists and intellectuals signed petitions supporting the government soon after the imprisonment of 75 dissidents and executions of three ferry hijackers.

"I understand it's really very difficult for people inside the island," she said. "But dictatorships have ended because people have spoken up. The fact is they haven't spoken against it [the imprisonment of the dissidents]."

Varela, who is committed to living in Cuba, rejects any suggestion that he is a tool of the island's government.

"That's not true," he said. "It's as ridiculous as saying that all North American musicians are instruments of their government. At least I'm not an instrument of anyone, or of any government. I've never been one and am not now."

Angel Estrada, director of international relations for the Cuban Music Institute, said he had no doubt that the visa denial had to do with the "electoral carnival that is being assembled" -- a reference to President Bush's re-election campaign.

Some members of the South Florida arts community agree.

"It's totally happening because of politics," said Beth Boone, artistic director for the Rhythm Foundation. "I think it is influenced by election year hard-line politicians."

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