Passport to Paradox

The Cuban embargo is supposed to be getting tougher on travelers, but it's just getting weirder

Michael Larrow, the Bahamian travel agent, says that the Federal Express letter from the siblings arrived at his office with a strip of tape across it and a notice that it had been opened by U.S. Customs. It was not the first time he'd seen such mail intercepts, he claims.

Law enforcement officials can open Federal Express letters, which are considered packages; they may not open regular U.S. mail. Larrow insists that many people send him checks by mail with no problem and that the siblings erred by including a letter with a detailed itinerary. An informal survey of travel agencies in the Bahamas failed to turn up similar stories of packages or letters arriving opened.

Some lawyers involved in OFAC cases suspect the agency's strategy is to send out ever-increasing numbers of notices, collecting money when it can and writing off the ones who resist.

"If that is the case, then it's a procedural house of mirrors without any substance to it," says Rona. The situation, he adds, although ridiculous, is probably not illegal.

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