Monday, June 21, 2004

Cuba: Agencies Brace for Tougher Rules for Travel to Cuba:

The strict policy goes into effect June 30, 2004

You're out of luck if you've booked a trip to Cuba after June 30. Many U.S. travelers were used to yearly trips to see relatives, now the new rules will allow them to travel to the island only once in three years.

Other new restrictions:

1. Cuban Americans may go only to visit family members: parents, spouses, siblings, grandparents, and children. Visits aunts, uncles, and cousins, previously allowed, are out.

2.They may spend no more than $50 a day while there-a big drop from the previous limit of $167 a day - and stay for no more than 14 days. In the past there was no time limit placed on the stay.

3.They may only send money to immediate family members and not to Communist Party officials.

That last rule will affect many businesses, especially as it takes place during the peak summer travel season. Many businesses based on travel fear that they will have to close and lay off their employees.

On top of the tougher restrictions, the paperwork is more complicated and cumbersome, involving “special licenses” from the Treasury Department of Foreign Assets Control.” As of yet, the new forms have not been sent to the travel agents, causing confusion among those that previously booked. Some are getting refunds and others are in Cuba and don't know about the new restrictions. They may be considered “illegal” upon their return from the island, especially if arriving after the deadline and having spent more than the new dollar limit.

One feels for these people. The old restrictions were tough enough on Cuban Americans and on the population in Cuba. It appears that the Cuban governmental officials were lining their pockets with dollars, a policy frowned on by Washington. The Embargo has lasted for more than forty years and no one really believes that it will cause the fall of Communism. And as long as world travel is safe, European and Canadian tourism will become the mainstay.

In any case, Castro will get his cut no matter what, as he set the rules. In fact, the Embargo could have ended years ago were it not for Castro's intransigence. He insisted on calling the shots and refused to accept the many deals offered throughout the decades, putting his people's lives and comfort at risk. He routinely blames the United States, but he could end at moment's notice. Apparently his dignity is more important that the wellbeing of the people. What a bummer!


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