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House GOP bill blocks new air flights, cruise ships to Cuba

House GOP bill blocks new air flights, cruise ships to Cuba
BY ANDREW TAYLOR ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON
House Republicans unveiled legislation on Tuesday to sharply curb the
Obama administration’s recent moves to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba.

The provision by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American from Florida,
would block new flights and cruise ship travel to Cuba. The provision
was attached to a must-pass transportation spending bill that the House
will consider next month.

Diaz-Balart’s move comes in response to new rules issued by the
administration in January that would significantly ease travel
restrictions to Cuba and permit regularly scheduled flights for the
first time, the result of a rapprochement after a half century of Cold
War animosity.

Diaz-Balart said that the Obama administration is skirting U.S. law,
which bans tourist travel to Cuba.

“The expansion of regularly scheduled flights to Cuba is an obvious
attempt to circumvent the tourism ban,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement.
“Similarly, allowing cruises to dock in Cuba would violate both the
spirit and the letter of U.S. law. Increased travel to Cuba directly
funds the individuals and institutions that oppress the Cuban people.”

The GOP plan would thwart the new flights but leave in place new rules
permitting the import of limited amounts of goods like cigars and rum.

The provision is sure to spark controversy and a veto threat from the
White House. It also faces votes in the Appropriations Committee and in
the House, where there is significant sentiment, even among some GOP
conservatives, to ease the five-decade-plus Cuba trade embargo and
travel restrictions to the island.

The embargo and travel restrictions, however, have not moved the Castro
government toward democracy.

Agriculture organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other
business interests have expressed support for the administration’s
outreach to Cuba.

The administration rules lifted a requirement that U.S. travelers obtain
a license from the Treasury Department before traveling to Cuba.
Instead, all that is required is for travelers to assert their trip
would serve educational, religious or other permitted purposes.

Cuban-American Republicans from the Miami area opposed to the Castro
regime have had an outsized influence on the government’s Cuba policy
since the 1980 mass emigration.

Obama took steps earlier this month to remove Cuba from the list of
state sponsors of terrorism, another step toward normalizing relations.

“Congress cannot look away as the president implements policies that
channel dollars to an anti-American dictatorship,” Diaz-Balart said.

Source: House GOP bill blocks new air flights, cruise ships to Cuba |
Miami Herald Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article19808334.html

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