About 500 mobilized Cuban Americans with family on the island demonstrated this past Saturday outside Lincoln Diaz-Balart's district office in West Miami-Dade. Protesters carried signs that read, "The family is sacred" and "Bush: Don't divide the Cuban family." Diaz-Balart was not inside, but the crowd shook their signs anyway and chanted in Spanish: "Where are you, Diaz-Balart? Where are you, Diaz-Balart?" and "Yes I'm going to Cuba! Yes I'm going to Cuba!" One of the protesters, Juan Carlos Herrera, is a 35-year-old computer technician who defected from Cuba four months ago while in Mexico. He left behind a four-year-old son and is frustrated that he can't send him toys or clothes for his upcoming birthday. Herrera also worries about the distress the new rules are inflicting on his 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in Miami, and his father, who remains in Cuba. "In three years a lot could happen," he says. "My grandmother could die without seeing my father again."
But in the Washington war rooms where Bush administration officials are busy laying plans for the president's 2004 campaign, people like Juan Carlos Herrera simply don't matter.
Aboard Air Force One (left) Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has the president's ear
Policy shapers and supporters (from left): Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fisk, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
All U.S. citizens and legal residents are now governed by the following rules on traveling or sending remittances and parcels to Cuba:
Tourist travel is still prohibited.
One trip every three years to visit immediate family. Must receive Treasury Department license for each trip. "No additional visits will be authorized." Visits are limited to fourteen days. Traveler may spend $50 per day, plus an additional $50 per trip for transportation within Cuba.
Travelers are limited to 44 pounds of luggage, except for government officials, businesspeople licensed to trade with Cuba, members of licensed religious and humanitarian groups, and journalists.
No "fully hosted" travel permitted.
Travelers can no longer return to U.S. with $100 in Cuban merchandise for personal use.
A maximum of $300 in remittances per three-month period may be sent to an immediate family member (children, spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, grandchildren). Certain government officials and Communist Party members excluded.
Nongovernmental organizations may apply for special licenses to send money to "Cuban pro-democracy groups, independent civil society groups, and religious organizations." Banks may also apply for special permission.
No other remittances are allowed.
Travelers can carry one $300 remittance for an immediate family member.
Educational visits are allowed with a Treasury Department license but must last at least ten weeks.
College employees and graduate students conducting research may stay for shorter periods. High school students are prohibited from study in Cuba.
Authorized gift items: food, vitamins, medicine, medical supplies and equipment (including hospital supplies and equipment for the handicapped), receive-only AM/FM or shortwave radio equipment, and batteries for same.