Letters from the Issue of January 23, 2002

Go to Cuba, but do so legally

Erin Ploss-Campoamor

Inside Cuba, Outside the Law?

Bad, bad idea: Regarding Kirk Nielsen's story about Will Adams and his dispute with the U.S. Treasury Department ("The Will Adams Embargo," January 9), although Will's experience is unfortunate and unfair, the article sends a dangerous and irresponsible message -- that it's safer to travel to Cuba illegally than it is to travel under the legal guidelines. This is not true, as increasing numbers of people are being fined and prosecuted, sometimes months after the fact.

Whether we agree with the laws or not, it's important that we respect them and do our homework. Apparently Will Adams tried to respect the law but didn't do his homework. His problem is not that he reported his trip to Cuba, or that he didn't spend any money there, or even that he went to Cuba at all. It's that he was unable to substantiate, on paper, that local expenditures were covered by a third-country entity -- namely "Canadian Jack." This falls under the category of "fully hosted" travel, which has lately come under increased scrutiny anyway. A letter and some grocery receipts from Jack might have made all the difference for Will.

Rather than focus on the value of sneaking under the radar in order to go to Cuba, I would like to point out that thousands of people do travel to Cuba legally every year, by boat and by plane, whether as journalists, family members, or as part of intercultural and academic exchanges. Travel to Cuba is something not to be done informally or lightly, but almost anyone who really wants to go can find a way to do it legally.

I truly hope Will receives the appeal he deserves and that he reaches out to the Center for Constitutional Rights (http://www.ccr-ny.org/). The lesson to be learned from his experience is not that it's better to forget the rules and travel freeform, but the importance of following the letter of the law, not just in action but also in documentation. I would hate to think this article will encourage people to drop the effort to travel legally and to just go, risking five-figure fines and other consequences.

Rachel Faro
Miami Beach

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