Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Castor calls for Congress to reject limits on Cuban Americans' trips to Cuba

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, on Wednesday called on Congress to reject a proposed measure that would roll back Obama Administration rules allowing Cuban Americans unlimited travel to visit family in Cuba.

The legislation, which is wrapped into a larger appropriations bill to keep the government running, would limit such trips to once every three years, as it was implemented under the George W. Bush administration.

Limiting the trips would have "harsh" humanitarian effect on Cuban Americans and their families, and would be an economic blow to the Tampa area, Castor said in a news release. Direct flights from Tampa to Havana were recently launched, in conjunction with the relaxed travel rules.

“The Republican-imposed travel restrictions would deal a devastating blow to Cuban-American families who have embraced the freedom to travel to Cuba more regularly to visit their loved ones. New jobs and charter airline flights would be eliminated under the Republican bill as well,” Castor said. “Tampa International Airport alone has added four weekly flights to Cuba and generated new economic activity in Tampa. The Republican proposal would hurt our neighbors and our economy.”

Advocates of tighter restrictions on travel to Cuba, like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, argue that unlimited trips help finance the Castro regime in Havana. Diaz-Balarat's measure would also tighten the definition of "family" and limit to $1,200 per year how much money in remittances Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the island.

The Miami Herald reported that Diaz-Balart's measure would have no effect on "people-to-people" trips like the one the Manatee Chamber of Commerce is organizing for next spring. Those trips are covered by a different set of sanctions on Cuba.

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