Monday, August 10, 2009


I was saving some articles like this one about recent travelers to Cuba who couldn’t seem to get arrested or even questioned by U.S. authorities at the border on their way home. This in spite of the fact that they had gone to Cuba without a U.S. license, in some cases bringing donations to Cuba without an “export” license, a second violation. The AP photo above shows one group, members of the Venceremos Brigade, crossing into the United States from Canada to Buffalo, New York.

But what is really interesting was this report in the Los Angeles Times, which quoted Treasury and Justice officials; with the latter seeming to indicate that the U.S. government has better things to do with its investigative and prosecutorial resources than to nail people who go to Cuba. An excerpt:

“Treasury spokeswoman Marti Adams said the agency doesn’t comment on individual violations but pointed out enforcement guidelines that allow fines of up to $250,000 for the most egregious infractions.

“During the Bush administration, the Treasury Department deployed dozens of agents to stake out airports frequented by illegal travelers and fined them or confiscated goods purchased in Cuba. The Obama administration has focused its attention on more important security issues, said Tony West, assistant attorney general for civil affairs.

“‘As a general matter, should laws be obeyed? Yes. Should laws be enforced? Yes. But we’re a government of limited resources and we have to make priorities,’ West said.”


leftside said...

OFAC (in the Treasury Dept.) has not been issuing many Cuban travel fines for a while now. There has been zero in 2009 only a couple throughout 2007 and 2008 that I can tell. Much more common is getting caught for selling Cuban cigars on the internet. You can find the list of OFAC fines, by month, here.

It appears to me, at some point, certainly unanounced, OFAC just decided the criticism was right and they had to devote resources elsewhere (like drugs and terrorism). I don't know whether administrative letters are still being sent out and if there is just no interest in doing the necessary legal/administrative fight to collect, or whether the whole regime has been shuttered (ie. no letters as well).

Now, it will be interesting to see if anything happens to these "flagrant" violators - Venceremos Brigage. They were not arrested at the airports/border because that is never the way it was done. The proof of a real change will be in the months to come. If letters are not even sent to blatant violaters like this, travel to Cuba has basically become fair game without notice.

Anonymous said...

obviously OFAC made a judgment that a few left-wing nuts looking for publicity isn't worth the effort. porbably a good call but the law is the law...


Anonymous said...

atta boyo chingon, lets make damn sure those criminal grannies don't come back from cuba without being punished. send them all to GITMO for some good old USA justice. the law is the law, enforce it against these commie sympathizers to the fullest extent. we'll show those commies how we have freedoms in america.

Anonymous said...

sounds like things are back to the way they were under clinton. then under bush they had more OFAC officials working on collecting fines from illegal travel to Cuba than they had tracking down terrorist money.
anyone who goes to cuba and gets letters from government, just ignore it. they don't have judges to hear any cases. also there are dozens of lawyers waiting to test the travel restrictions again, now that there is no national security threat from cuba, like there was any in the first place.
still, to have those restrictions in place is an insult to our side saying how great we are to have the freedoms the cubans dont.
end the restrictions completely, not doing it this half assed way

Anonymous said...

Here's my question:

does one have to present come kind of documentation to get on the direct flights from the US to Cuba?

Does one have to "prove" one is "Cuban-American" ?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous August 13, 2009 3:07 PM,

The Cuban government insists that anyone traveling into Cuba presents proper documentation in the form of a valid passport with the required visas,etc. The airlines act as agent of the Cuban government by only permitting those with proper travel documents to get on the flights. US passports list the the place of birth as part of the basic information so it's easy to identify who is a Cuban-American. More complicated is the issue of determining who needs the special Cuban passport (this is determined by the date of exit from Cuba).

All of the above except the last item is customary for international travel. What is not customary is the requirement that people born in Cuba who have become naturailized in another country must travel with a Cuban passport/travel document if they left Cuba after a certain date (1972?). The last item is what prompts the US State Department to warn Cuban-Americans that they have no consular protection when traveling in Cuba. They are deemed Cuban nationals by the Cuban government.

Vecino de NF