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Ileana Ros-Lehtinen rips Obama Cuba policy changes; Kathy Castor applauds

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says the Obama administration's decision to ease travel and remittances to Cuba "will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them.

"These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime."

But Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor said she sees benefits to Cuban-Americans in Tampa who won't have to drive to Miami to visit family in Cuba. She said she's been prodding Obama since before he was sworn-in to make the changes.

"The Tampa Bay region has one of the highest Cuba-American populations in this country, but for too long, families have had to travel to Miami in order to get to Cuba. That has been too expensive and too difficult for many families already on tight budgets. With the addition of Tampa International Airport as an entry/ exit point to Cuba, our hard-working families will have one burden lifted when traveling to and from the island nation.

"Allowing charter flights to Cuba from Tampa International also opens doors to create jobs in our community and plan for economic growth in our region,” Castor continued. “Charter flight companies likely will hire local residents, and our travel industry will benefit from a much-needed boost. This couldn’t come at a better time for our economy.

I am confident Tampa International Airport will be first in line to apply for final approval for expanded eligibility,” Castor said.

Castor has been working for years to have Tampa International Airport designated an airport for charter flights to Cuba. She sent several letters, beginning with a letter to President-elect Obama in December 2008, requesting a fresh look at U.S.-Cuban relations and lifting travel restrictions for families.

In 2009, she continued putting pressure on the administration, communicating with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the National Security Council as well as with Commerce Secretary Locke, Secretary of State Clinton, and Treasury Secretary Geithner.

In 2010, Castor cosponsored a bill that would open travel to Cuba to all Americans, again stepping up pressure on the administration to approve charter airline flights to Cuba from Tampa International. Castor was the first member of Congress from Florida to call for modernization of the longstanding ban on traveling to Cuba.

According to recent news reports, the United States is now sending the second-most visitors to Cuba, about 1,000 a day. Charter companies are reporting increased passenger loads. Tampa Bay area families traveling to Cuba have had to pay an additional $400-$500 per person to travel to Miami in order to go to Cuba.

“My office hears the personal struggles of those with limited travel opportunities to Cuba,” Castor said. “Families are trying to get there to visit loved ones and see sick or dying relatives. Being able to travel directly from Tampa to Cuba will make this trip all the easier and affordable to those enduring difficult times.”




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John McAuliff

This step to move toward more normal travel is unquestionably positive and in the interest of both countries.

However, it is puzzling why the Obama Administration did less than was reported in August to enable non-tourist travel and humanitarian assistance.

It would not have gotten any more grief from the extremists, received more enthusiasm from its friends and had a greater impact inside Cuba and the US.

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

The Dude

How dare we fight communism with capitalism! The "threat" of the Cuban-American vote is a complete facade, and is absolutely watered down in a presidential election. President Obama made it very clear during the 2008 campaign that he would loosen the poster child of special interest policy, and he still won Miami-Dade with more than 65% of the vote, and since Cuban-Americans make up about 60% of the voters in Miami-Dade (and you KNOW they turn-out) I'd say ole Barry got about half of the Cuban-American vote (mostly younger generations I'm sure). This will not change in 2012.

carlos gonzales

it is true that isolation has not change many things in Cuba and some adjustments maybe are long time due in the relation between UNITED STATES and CUBA ,but that aside is scary how many high officials in the OBAMA administration call FIDEL CASTRO ,his brother and HUGO CHAVEZ old friends literally and the deep admiration ,you can see it clearly they don't conceal it,is scary for all the innocent spill for this mass murder ,in my case i did not read it ,my family suffered in their own finger ,because they torture my father EN LA CABANA and broke all his fingers ,his teeth ,some bones and his testiculos ;we the American people change the world with the true in our side,with the same true that we claim for women ,homosexual and human right all the things that we hold dear and this murder don't care at all ,do not believe what I say find out by your self what happens to the homosexual community in Cuba then and even now and what is happening in places like VENESUELA to the same communities,with lies we did not achieve any of those freedom,so wise up ;forgive my. english

carlos gonzales

I have a question to those that say ,that a total opening no conditions ,no strings attach will be good for Cubans ,in what they base their opinions ,what exactly is going to change that ;till now there is no freedom of any kind ,any liberties to prosper,like open your own business ,no private property at all ,you can not sell your own house since is not yours ,neither a piece of land or a horse ;all aspect of your life is control by the goverment ,do you have forgaten what was like USRR =RUSSIA DO YOU HAVE POLITICAL AMNISIA ORE WHAT...HYPOCRISY....IF THE RIGHT DO SOMETHING REMOTE,THAT YOU FEEL GO AGAINST YOUR PERSONAL O PRIVATE LIBERTIES,YOU WILL HEAR A LOUD SCREAM,LIKE SHOULD BE.....HYPOCRISY....SHAME,SHAME OF YOU ALL.

carlos gonzales

it's sad to see the leftish getting so concern about the Cuban families and their struggles ,when they are, when Fidel and his brother Raul put the ladies in white in prison for the only crime of speak their mind and ask for human rights ,for their husban and children in prison for the only crime of having e different opinion that the goverment allows ore where they were when PANFILO a cuban men, ask for food and was put 10 years in prison ...hypocrisy....hypocrisy....freedom is for all human race ,no for an specific idiologi ore form of thinking....

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