- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow yesterday announced new administration measures to clamp down on travel to Cuba further, barring 10 companies that promote travel to the island from doing business in the United States.

Mr. Snow said the companies, all based outside the United States, were front organizations for Cuba’s dictatorial government.

“We’re cracking down. We mean business,” Mr. Snow said, speaking in Miami before more than 100 Cuban-American businessmen. “We are cutting off American dollars headed to [Cuban President] Fidel Castro. At the same time, we are reaching out to the freedom-loving people of Cuba.”

The 10 companies named yesterday were: Canada Inc., Montreal and Quebec; Corporacion Cimex S.A., Havana and all other locations worldwide; Havanatur S.A., Havana and other cities in Cuba; Havanatur, S.A., Buenos Aires; Havanatur Bahamas Ltd., Nassau, the Bahamas; Havanatur Chile S.A., Santiago, Chile; Cubanacan Group, Havana; Cubanacan International B.V., Zevenhuizen, the Netherlands; and Cubanacan U.K. Limited, London. A gift company — La Compania Tiendas Universo, S.A., Cuba, that operates an Internet shopping site — also was listed.

“Today’s actions will put a stop … to another illegal pathway for U.S. dollars to Castro’s wallet,” Mr. Snow said.

Joe Garcia of the Cuban American National Foundation called it a start.

“It is a small first step that put a shot across the bow of those doing business with Cuba. We are pleased that the U.S. government is enforcing U.S. law,” he said.

John Kavulich, president of the U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said the announcement raises the potential for more severe penalties for those who travel to Cuba illegally.

“It has no bearing for authorized travel to Cuba, but for unauthorized travel, it raises significantly the enforcement issues. It adds more severity to the penalty process,” he said.

Juan Zarate, Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said the real significance of the move was to put U.S. and international travelers on notice that if they use these companies, they are supporting the Cuban government.

“We want American citizens to be aware that they are doing business with the Castro regime,” Mr. Zarate said by telephone from Miami.

He said Americans with proper travel “license” still are permitted to make travel arrangements through these companies. He said any assets of these companies found in the United States would be frozen.

“We are investigating, and we will find out if they have any money here … more than likely there is not any,” he said.

The Bush administration has been vocal in its desire to see democracy come to Cuba. Given Florida’s importance in the 2000 presidential election, yesterday’s announcement before a strongly anti-Castro audience was seen by many as timed to help the president’s campaign in 2004.

Matias Traviso-Diaz, a lawyer with Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge, said the net effect is largely symbolic.

“If the companies are not based in the United States, there is precious little the government can do,” he said. “The United States has been tightening the clamp for the last 40 years. There is little we can do now that hasn’t been already thought of.”

The Bush administration has clamped down on casual illegal travel to Cuba, an activity that largely was overlooked under the Clinton administration. Last year, the Republican-controlled Congress voted to lift the travel ban on Cuba, but the language was stripped out of the bill to fund the Treasury and Transportation departments, because any bill containing the measure faced a Bush veto.

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