[Marxism] Miami Herald: Cuba remittance limits feared

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 16 11:31:30 MST 2004

The Bush administration's latest trial balloon,
threatening to cut off remittances from Cubans 
living in the United States to their families 
residing on the island isn't new. This idea was
floated last spring as well, though no practical
measures were implemented at the time. Whether
this is election-year rhetoric designed to give
support to the most reactionary elements in the
Miami right wing, or presages an even further
tightening of Washington's blockade remains to
be seen. After the invasions and occupations of
Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing can be put past 
the Bush administration today. Nothing a tall.

It's amazing to read the calm, brazen remarks
of Rodolfo Frometa, a known anti-Cuban terrorist
militant who is here quoted by the Miami Herald
as if he were some kind of "academic specialist"
rather than the gun-toting gangster he really is.
Imagine, for a moment, the Miami Herald or some
other US newspaper, quoting "Osama bin Laden, a
Saudi expert on Afghanistan's political situation
explained today that..."

An article in Miami New Times described Frometa:

It's important also to keep in mind that when
Washington unveiled this talk last spring the
Cuban government made a prompt, defiant and
very educational response titled "Possible US
measures against Cuba have been anticipated 
and will be confronted." This response showed
how such steps would affect the Cuban people,
and explained the role of remittances in the
island's political economy. Read the statement:

And please note that the new Prensa Latina
English-language website, covering a wide
range of issues, not just Cuba, officially
begins operation tomorrow. It's already been
up for some weeks, but the formal inauguration
is tomorrow, here: www.plenglish.com 

No, this isn't an appeal for money since this list
is and has always been a free and volunteer-driven
production. But if you would like to help out with 
the work here, by volunteering your time to cover
a specific area, please write to me off-list and
I'll be happy to work with you about adopting one
news source, how to see to it that the work of 
this list flows steadily and is easy to read, etc.
I'm happy to do the bulk of the work, but any of
you who'd care to volunteer would be welcome, so
please get in touch. Thanks. 

Walter Lippmann, Moderator
CubaNews group

The Miami Herald
Posted on Mon, Feb. 16, 2004  

Cuba remittance limits feared

The possibility of new Bush administration curbs on 
money remittances to Cuba worries many Cubans in 
South Florida, who say their relatives desperately 
need the funds sent to the island.
dovalle at herald.com

Arnaldo Rangel works 12-hour shifts as a security guard,
usually seven days a week, to earn only about $1,200 a
month. But every few months, the Opa-locka resident scrapes
together $40, maybe $100, to wire to his wife and two adult
children in Cuba.

He knows where his money goes. His wife in Cienfuegos uses
the funds to buy staples such as rice, beans, cooking oil
and soap.

The U.S. government is not so sure.

The Treasury Department announced this week that it would
''take a hard look'' at restricting ''remittance'' rules
that allow Cuban Americans to send as much as $1,200 a year
to relatives on the island.

The government wants to be sure that the money really is
''going to where it's supposed to,'' Treasury Secretary
John Snow said during a press conference announcing a
crackdown on Cuban-owned companies conducting illegal
business in the United States.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department said Friday that
details of how remittance rules would be changed are still
to be determined.

The move to restrict remittances, spokeswoman Tara Bradshaw
said, stems from President Bush's speech in October that
condemned Cuban President Fidel Castro for recent
crackdowns on dissidents.


Despite the vagueness of Snow's statement, his words have
stirred worries among many Cuban Americans in South Florida
who regularly send money to family members on the island.

It has also spurred debate in South Florida's
Cuban-American community and, observers say, highlighted
the rifts between older political exiles and newer economic
refugees from the island.

''The [Cuban Americans] who are in a position to try and
influence U.S. policy are not the same people who have
relatives in Cuba,'' said Lisandro Perez, a sociology
professor at Florida International University.

Many Cuban Americans have family members on the island who
depend on the remittances because many goods can be bought
only with dollars. Some send only tangible goods such as
blankets and medicine because they fear hard cash will end
up in the hands of Cuban officials.

Others say they have heard the threats of remittance
restrictions before and dismiss such talk as election-year
pandering to Cuban-American voters. And some, like Rangel,
the security guard, say that if the government does
restrict remittances, Cuban Americans would still find ways
to get cash to their families.

''The wages are so low in Cuba,'' said Rangel, who left his
family eight years ago after being granted a U.S. visa.
``They need dollars to survive.''

Various estimates say remittances contribute between $400
million and $1 billion to the island's economy each year,
making it the largest source of revenue behind tourism.

Sending cash to Cuba is a cottage industry in South
Florida, sometimes legal, sometimes not.

Wire transfer services, such as Western Union and hosts of
smaller agencies, are authorized to send money to the
island. The legal option, however, is not always popular.

When Western Union began wiring money directly to Cuba in
1999, many people shied away because they had to fill out
an affidavit and pay a $29 flat fee. A year ago,
Miami-based UNO Money Transfer, which has 500 locations
nationwide, stopped sending money to Cuba because it was
averaging only about 10 orders per month.


''My sense is that if they restrict it, [remittances] will
still go through anyway,'' said Oscar Garcia, UNO Money
Transfer's president.

Indeed, Cuban Americans say they sometimes circumvent the
rules by paying travelers a commission, sometimes as high
as 15 percent, to smuggle bundles of bills to the island.

Travelers to the island can take up to $300 per household
for people who are related to them; it is illegal to carry
money on anyone else's behalf.

Hard-line anti-Castro activists, many who left the island
decades ago, have long derided remittances as contributing
to a brutal government. Cuban households with senior-level
Cuban government or Communist Party members are not
supposed to receive remittance money.

''The money goes to the dollar stores, and who are the
owners? The government,'' said Rodolfo Frómeta, the
director of the exile group Comandos F-4. ``The Cuban
government gets it all.''


The president of the Cuban American National Foundation,
Francisco ''Pepe'' Hernandez, called the remittance
proposal a ''diversionary tactic'' by the Bush
administration to avoid tackling tougher issues such as
revising the controversial policy for Cuban migrants
detained at sea.

Political nuances mean little to the Cuban Americans who
gather at the beginning of each month at the Western Union
in a crowded strip mall on Southwest Eight Street near
Southwest 82nd Avenue.

Pedro, who works at the front counter and asked that his
last name not be used, sees the same faces every few

He knows the stories about the customers' families, and how
poorly they are faring in Cuba.

He sympathizes because he has more than 20 family members
in Cuba, including his three children. Pedro obtained a
U.S. visa four years ago and wires money to his family
through Western Union.

''I get a certain satisfaction from helping Cubans send
money to their families,'' he said. ``The older Cubans,
they don't feel the pain we do.

``They don't have family to send money to.''


A few miles east, at El Almacen Español, Mario Delgado sat
with his wife last week and filled out paperwork to send
packages to his elderly sister in Cuba, where a salary of
200 pesos a month equals about $10.

Delgado sighed in exasperation when asked about the
possibility of restricted remittances. Across the Florida
Straits, in the countryside outside Matanzas, his
65-year-old sister lives in a shack made of slabs of
cardboard and tin.

She is the only family member left on the island, but she
has not been able to secure a visa to the United States.
So, she waits for the few dollars and packages her brother
sends every few months.

''Politics don't matter to me,'' Delgado said. ``My sister
only lives to eat.''

Herald staff writer Elaine de Valle contributed to this

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