June 24, 2011
By Isabel Morales, The Miami Herald
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee passed a bill on Thursday carrying an amendment to annul President Barack Obama’s measures that ease travel and money transfers to Cuba.
The amendment, presented by Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, was made part of the Financial Services Appropriations Bill for 2012 that was discussed in the committee.
“The amendment eliminates Obama’s measures [on travel and money transfers] and goes back to the status quo under [George W.] Bush,” said Diaz-Balart, who is optimistic that the entire House will pass the amendment. “The changes [implemented by Obama] have been the largest source of revenue of the [Castro’s] dictatorship. We have the bipartisan votes to [win] this issue.”
Requiring licenses for family visits to the island, hardening the definition of “family,” and limiting visits to once every three years for 14 days are among the proposed changes. The amendment also reduces money transfers by immediate relatives to $300 quarterly.
The bill passed by the committee grants funds for the operations of the Department of Treasury, the President’s Executive Office, the Small Business Administration, the General Services Administration, the Security and Exchange Commission and other independent agencies.
“This amendment is a matter of national security and an issue of human rights and freedom,” said Diaz-Balart.
The congressman said his bill does not eliminate travel or money transfers by Cuban Americans, but rather traveling for other purposes. “Touristic travels are the Cuban regime’s main source of revenue,” he said.
Diaz-Balart said he hopes the bill will be debated in the House before the summer recess.
On Jan. 14, Obama announced measures to ease travels to the island by educational, religious, cultural and humanitarian groups from more U.S. cities with the purpose of strengthening the island’s civil society and allowing more Cubans to act independently.
t In February, Cuban-American Senators Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Marco Rubio of Florida sponsored an amendment seeking the elimination of flights to Cuba. That amendment, part of a bill to fund the Federal Aviation Administration, did not pass.