Monday, June 28, 2004

See You In C-U-B-A?

Like the old Desi Arnaz song, a lot of people are suddenly trying to get to Cuba.

On the last Sunday before strict new U.S. regulations on travel to Cuba are to take effect, hundreds of Cuban-Americans lined up at Miami International Airport to get on board flights to the communist island.

Many in the two hour-long check-in lines expressed frustration with the new rules ordered by President Bush, which limit family visits to once every three years instead of annually. Those caught in violation face a $7,500 fine.

The restrictions also have huge political implications in a presidential election year, especially in South Florida, where Bush and presumed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry are vying for Cuban-American voters. The new regulations go into effect Wednesday.

Terry Aparicio, 46, standing in a check-in line for a charter flight to Havana before the looming deadline, described the new policy as “an outrage,” but said Bush still could count on her vote.

“To prevent me from seeing my parents, it breaks every human rights rule that exists,” Aparicio said. But she added: “I think Bush means well. He wants a free Cuba. He’s just not thinking of the people who have family. It breaks my heart.”

[edit]

The new measures are part of a broader tightening of U.S. sanctions on Cuba ordered by Bush last month that also include limits on remittances. Officials say the restrictions are intended to hasten the fall of Cuban President Fidel Castro’s communist government.

Kerry has said the travel restrictions and new limits on remittances are harsh on families and will do little to dislodge Castro. He said he would encourage increased travel to the island. [Miami Herald]

The blockade has been a real success – for Castro. Even hard-core red-state Republican congressmen are saying the blockade locks American farmers out of one of the largest markets in the hemisphere, leaving it wide open to countries like Canada and the EU who have not observed the embargo. In fact, the only other country in the world who goes along with it is Israel. The only people who think the embargo is having any impact against Castro is the old crowd down on Calle Ocho here in Miami who refuse to accept the fact that it has done nothing but harden the resolve of Castro to keep his grip on power. And Bush, who will do anything to keep the Cuban-Americans happy for Jeb, is going along with it. Que lastima.