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Vol. 12, No. 3 March In the News The Famous Five Lawyers for 5 jailed Cuban spies prepare for Mar. 10 hearing in Miami...Page 3 Cohibas, anyone? Cigar exports to recover in 2004,
Vol. 12, No. 3 March In the News The Famous Five Lawyers for 5 jailed Cuban spies prepare for Mar. 10 hearing in Miami...Page 3 Cohibas, anyone? Cigar exports to recover in 2004, say experts at VI Habano Festival...Page 4 Political briefs UN appoints human rights czar for Cuba; exiles forge transition plan...page 5 Census silence 18 months after Cuban population census still no word on results...page 7 Newsmakers When it comes to Cuba, British entrepreneur Steve Marshall has his finger in just about everything...page 8 Beautiful babes Despite red tape, modeling agencies hire Cuban girls on the cheap...page 10 FAR extends reach Manuel Marrero is latest military man to occupy high tourism post...page 11 Business briefs Havana Club ranks 50th on top spirits list; La. port seeks Cuba trade...page 12 Best pollo in town Opened in 1947, Havana s Restaurante El Aljibe still lures crowds...page 14 CubaNews (ISSN ) is published monthly by Luxner News Inc All rights reserved. Subscriptions: $429/year. For subscription or editorial inquiries, call toll-free (800) , send a fax to (301) or us at Treasury announces Cuba crackdown; opponents smell election-year politics BY VITO ECHEVARRÍA Given the number of online services that thrive on the Cuban exile community in South Florida and elsewhere, many in the e-commerce industry are wondering if the U.S. Treasury Department s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will expand its growing blacklist to include their ventures too. These companies cater mainly to U.S. creditcard holders who order consumer products to be delivered to relatives and friends in Cuba. Some of the most successful are the online supermarkets, such as PreciosFijos.com and CubaGiftStore.com, and money transfer outfits like Cash2Cuba.com, Duales.com and Transcardinter.com (Transcard Canada) as well as online travel agencies like CubaLinda.com and GoCubaPlus.com. Enzo Ruberto, who runs ICC Corp. out of an office in Thunder Bay, Ontario, has 30 employees and 140 websites including Cash2Cuba.com BY LARRY LUXNER E arly last month, the Treasury Department announced that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) would freeze the assets of Cuba-run travel companies and pursue civil and criminal action against U.S. citizens who do business with those companies. Then, on Feb. 26 the same day OFAC lifted the U.S. travel ban against Libya President Bush signed an executive order that expands Washington s authority to inspect U.S. yachts sailing to Cuba, place guards on vessels and in some cases confiscate the boats. Bush justified the tough new policy, warning U.S. boaters that they could be injured or even killed by the Cuban military s potential use of excessive force if they entered Cuban waters. There s also talk that OFAC might slash the $1,200 in annual remittances that Cuban-Americans may send their relatives each year, while maybe eliminating the $100 allowance for rum, cigars and other souvenirs which licensed travelers are permitted to bring back from Cuba. Revoking that $100-per-passenger allowance would further squeeze the Castro regime and reinforce the seriousness of U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba, according to the OFAC website. Treasury official Juan Carlos Zarate, however, declined to comment on specific measures his office might take with regard to Cuba. We re reviewing our current regulations to see if any improvements can be made, he told CubaNews. We re talking about taking a fresh look at existing laws and regulations, with no promise to change anything. Zarate s official title is deputy assistant secretary for the Treasury Department s Executive Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crime. As such, he oversees not only OFAC but also U.S. efforts to fight money laundering by al- Qaeda and other terrorist groups. In an exclusive, hour-long interview at his office one block from the White House, Zarate See Zarate, page 2 Foreign firms that offer Cuba-related websites fear they ll be targeted next and PreciosFijos.com. He wouldn t disclose annual sales, but did say he has 20,000 clients. Like the 10 entities singled out by Treasury, most of these companies have no interests in the United States; they therefore fall well outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Even so, owners of such companies are reluctant to talk on the record. In a recent to CubaNews, Philip Agee the former CIA agent who now runs the travel site CubaLinda.com said I know of the new [OFAC] measures, but I don t have any comments to make at the moment. Since the beginning, these Cuba-based online entities have used online credit card processing firms such as InternetSecure in Canada and WorldPay.com, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland to circumvent the embargo. That lets U.S. clients have their credit cards debited by a non-cuban entity, while still paying See OFAC, page 6 2 CubaNews March 2004 Zarate FROM PAGE 1 said the most significant action taken yet by OFAC against Castro was the Feb. 9 designation of 10 companies involved in Cuba s lucrative tourism industry. It s the first time we ve actually identified entities that are owned by the Cuban government, he said. In so doing, we re trying to raise awareness with the American people and internationally as well. TRANSFERS MUST BE BLOCKED The 10 entities singled out by Treasury Secretary John Snow during his speech to cheering Cuban-American exiles in Miami are all owned by the Cuban government. They include Havana-based Corporación Cimex S.A. and Grupo Cubanacán, along with subsidiaries operated by those state-owned giants in the Caribbean, Canada, Europe and South America (see box, page 6). We have notified U.S. financial institutions that any assets or transfers related to those entities must be blocked, said Zarate. So if you have a dollar transfer in place between Cubanacán and Havanatur and the funds are clearing throught New York, that would now be blocked. Absent a license to do business with these designated parties, it is now illegal for U.S. citizens to provide services to any of those companies. On the other hand, Zarate reassured us that it s not OFAC s goal to punish non-cuban companies from providing services to the Castro government. Our powers are limited, but the power of any sanctions the U.S. wields stems from the use of the dollar and access to the U.S. financial system, he said. We don t want to affect commerce underway between Cuba and legitimate 3rd-party countries like Canada. There is a qualitative difference between entities owned by the Cuban government and foreign companies merely doing business in Cuba. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart (R-FL), a staunch supporter of the embargo, praised the recent White House crackdown on Cuba, telling the Miami Herald that the Castro regime harbors terrorists and has repeatedly hampered U.S. anti-terrorist efforts since Sept. 11, President Bush s commendable action will reduce the resources available to the Cuban terrorist regime. RAISED EYEBROWS IN MIAMI AND HAVANA OFAC s threats are meeting, however, with a great deal of skepticism from observers on all sides of the Cuba debate. This is not new, says Enzo Ruberto, a Canadian businessman who runs Precios- Fijos.com and Cash2Cuba.com. The foreign travel companies identified [by Snow] are all 100% owned by Cuban government corporations. For the past 40 years, Cuban companies have been banned from doing business inside the U.S. There s no change here, other than that the Bush administration has now decided to enforce this during an election year. Even Joe García, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, said Treasury s Juan C. Zarate: Time to get tough. OFAC s new policies particularly the one restricting U.S. boaters from sailing to Cuba don t really amount to much. This is the United States government applying existing law, he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Zarate, 32, is one of more than a dozen high-ranking Bush administration officials of Cuban origin who are directly involved in formulating Cuba policy. Others include the State Department s Otto Reich; top USAID official Adolfo Franco; Emilio González, chief of the Cuba portfolio at the National Security Council, and Mauricio Tamargo, chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. Zarate has had direct oversight of OFAC ever since his office was established one year ago in the reshuffling that followed establishment of the mammoth Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Before that, OFAC reported to the Treasury Department s undersecretary for enforcement. AN ABUSE OF PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE LICENSES The product of a Cuban mother and a Mexican father, Zarate was born in California, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997 and worked as a prosecutor in the Department of Justice s Terrorism and Violent Crime Section before taking on his current job. LARRY LUXNER For those of us who have close personal ties to Cuba, the destruction of civil society is a sheer travesty, he said. I ve never been to Cuba, but it s long been a topic of discussion in our family. And it s always been clear to me that Cuba is in a very different category from the other countries under U.S. sanctions. One reason for that is Cuba s proximity to the United States; the island is certainly a lot closer than Libya, North Korea, Iran, Iraq or Sudan. It also attracts many more tourists than the five other countries combined. That s why Zarate is particularly proud of the White House for eliminating the so-called people-to-people licenses, most of which expired on Dec. 31. What we saw was an abuse by the companies marketing those programs, he said. People were traveling on tourist packages instead of engaging in academic pursuits. The flip side of that was that the regime itself coopted the process and in many instances began taking control of those programs. So we eliminated that licensing provision. ZARATE: CASTRO SQUANDERED HIS CHANCE At present, roughly 13% of OFAC s budget goes to enforce Cuba-related sanctions. While critics accuse the White House of squandering taxpayers money when it should be fighting al-qaeda and other terrorist groups that threaten Americans, Zarate claims the administration s current Cuba policy is justified. President Bush well over a year ago provided the Castro regime with an opportunity to re-engage in a relationship with us, he explained. As a precondition, the president indicated that Castro would have to allow for free elections and open up Cuba s economy as an important first step. It was a historic crossroads for relations between the U.S. and Cuba, and the Castro regime rejected it outright. That has resulted in increased enforcement of existing law. He added: The reason we re focusing so intently on the travel industry is that it s such a seminal part of the regime s ability to survive and perpetuate itself. Over 70% of Cuban tourism is segregated, and it doesn t allow the interactions that we all want. On Oct. 10, the Department of Homeland See Zarate, page 3 DOC rules against piano donations to Cuban schools T he U.S. Department of Commerce has revoked the export license it has granted annually since 1995 to Send a Piana to Havana, a non-profit group that donates pianos to music schools in Cuba. The DOC s Bureau of Industry and Security told group founder Benjamin Treuhaft that after reviewing your application to export pianos and other musical parts and instruments, bicycles and building supplies to Cuba, the Department of Commerce, upon the advice of the State Department, has concluded that export of these items would not be consistent with U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba. Last year, the Treasury Department refused to renew the group s license to tune the pianos once they arrive in Cuba. With the force of three U.S. agencies arrayed against them, it will be hard for them to continue their humanitarian task, said Treuhaft, though he promised to find a way. The Cuban kids incredible motivation and will to succeed is infectious, he said. Details: Benjamin Treuhaft, Send a Piana, 39 E 7th St. #3, New York, NY URL: March 2004 CubaNews 3 LEGAL AFFAIRS Lawyers for Miami 5 spies await crucial Mar. 10 hearing BY LARRY LUXNER Attorneys for the Miami Five a group of five Cuban nationals serving long jail sentences after they were convicted in 1998 of spying for the Castro regime will argue at a Mar. 10 hearing in Miami for a retrial. The five men are Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, René González, Fernando González and Gerardo Hernández. They were sentenced to terms of between 15 years and double life in prison, on charges of conspiracy and acting as foreign agents. The Cuban government, which regards the five as heroes, counters that they were merely gathering valuable intelligence on rightwing extremist groups in Miami that have perpetrated terrorist activities against Cuba. Leonard Weinglass, a New York lawyer representing Guerrero, told CubaNews that the lengthy sentences these men received were unjustified, since not a single page of classified information was ever passed to Havana. Right from the beginning, this case has been a political case involving U.S policy toward Cuba, rather than a typical criminal justice case where charges are being brought for violations of domestic law, he said. Weinglass also criticized the fact that the State Department has denied visas for wives of two of the men to visit their husbands in prison. The five Cubans are now doing time at federal penitentaries in California, Colorado, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. This is a basic denial of human rights, said Weinglass, because under the Constitution, spouses cannot be prevented from see- Propaganda poster urges freedom for the five. ing their inmate husbands, even under Bureau of Prisons regulations. He added: I visited three of the five, and they re very strong men who are holding up very well under very difficult circumstances. A San Francisco-based group, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, sponsored a full-page ad Mar. 3 in the New York Times. The ad itself cost $43,000, not including $7,000 more in related publicity costs. We received over $10,000 from the Cuban community in Miami alone, which is surpris- ing, said committee coordinator Gloria La Riva in a phone interview with CubaNews, though she added that some people are afraid of donating to the charity due to the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The U.S. Treasury Department s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had held up $1,200 in donations from overseas because the name Cuba appeared in the bank drafts, according to Ian Thompson, a lawyer with International Peace for Cuba. La Riva said this has affected the timeliness of the donations, so we re going to have to find alternative means for other donations to come in for future advertisements. Besides La Riva, those endorsing the Times ad include Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Rigoberta Menchu, the National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. La Riva said her group will stage a major protest Mar. 5 in New York, with similar demonstrations planned for Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago and elsewhere. Another protest is set for Mar. 10 in Miami, to coincide with a hearing by three judges from the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Details: Gloria La Riva, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, 2489 Mission St., Room #24, San Francisco, CA Tel: (415) URL: Zarate FROM PAGE 2 Security acting on orders from the White House and in conjunction with OFAC and other agenices began inspecting 100% of all Cuba-bound charter flights originating in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, the three designated gateway cities for such flights. As of Feb. 10, according to OFAC, 569 flights had been targeted for outbound inspection. More than 44,000 passengers were screened as they departed the United States, and some 50,915 passengers were screened upon their return for Cuba. OFAC says 275 passengers were prevented from boarding after examinations revealed that they didn t qualify for travel to Cuba under any OFAC category. In addition, more than 1,000 flights returning from Cuba were targeted for inspection, resulting in 376 Cuba now ranks 35th in U.S. food purchases C uba is now the 35th-largest market in the world for U.S. food exports, according to the New York-based U.S.- Cuba Trade and Economic Council. That s up from 50th in 2002 and 144th in 2000, says Council President John Kavulich. He said Cuba s purchases of U.S. farm commodies doubled last year to $256.9 million. One company, Archer Daniels Midland of Decatur, Ill., accounted for 50% of total sales to Cuba, followed by Cargill and FCStone. Exports consisted mainly of 10 commodities led by soy, wheat, corn, rice and poultry. A smaller volume of processed foods, lumber and even newsprint have also been exported to Cuba under the Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000, which allows agricultural exports to Cuba on a cash-only basis. U.S. food sales to Cuban food purchasing agency Alimport made the United States Cuba s 7th-largest trading partner in 2003, according to official figures. While the Bush administration is trying to intensify pressure on Cuba and sever business links with the Castro government, such an attempt is increasingly at odds with the position of the U.S. business community and its allies in Congress, said Paolo Spadoni, a Cuba analyst at the University of Florida. Spadoni told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that with Cuba s food purchases from the U.S. up by more than 80% in 2003 after an impressive 2002, it is likely that anti-embargo forces will keep pushing for a lifting of trade and travel restrictions with the island. LARRY LUXNER seizures most of them related to the unlicensed importation of Cuban cigars and rum. If people are engaging in activities that run afoul of U.S. law, they re subject to OFAC fines, said Zarate. What we re trying to do is enforce the law more effectively. One way of catching those who break the law is by stepping up enforcement at airports throughout Canada and the Caribbean. Customs inspectors are now stationed at pre-clearance facilities at six facilities in Canada, looking for telltale signs that tourists have been to the forbidden island. Similar inspectors are on the job in Bermuda, Nassau and Aruba, Zarate told CubaNews. It s not about harrassing people, but effectively enforcing U.S. law, he said in response to a question about the wisdom of punishing little old ladies for bringing Bibles to Cuba in violation of the travel ban. We look at each situation on a case-by-case basis. The fines range from very low amounts up to $55,000, depending on how forthright the person is. Asked about a possible link between OFAC s get-tough attitude against Castro and the president s need to win Florida s 25 electoral votes in November, Zarate sighed. This is not about politics, it s about good policy, he insisted. The enforcement of U.S. law is something this administration is proud of, and if God willing the president is re-elected, we will move forward on this policy. 4 CubaNews March 2004 EXPORTS Cuban cigar exports to recover in 2004 after difficult year BY OUR HAVANA CORRESPONDENT Cuban tobacco production has recovered from devastating damages left by two severe hurricanes in 2002, said Oscar Basulto, president of TabaCuba and co-chairman of Habanos S.A. Losses due to the 2002 hurricanes affected mainly tobacco processing houses in the westernmost province of Pinar del Río. More than 54,000 of those houses had to be rebuilt. This year s crop looks promising, said Basulto, speaking at the VI International Habano Festival held Feb in Havana. According to TabaCuba figures, Cuba produced 303 million cigars in 2001, of which 153 million were exported or sold at dollar stores across Cuba. The remaining 150 million units were sold to Cuban nationals in pesos. No production figures have been released since 2001, though the Cuban government reports that ciga
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