Bush Angers Cuban Americans

The latest anti-Cuban regulations have done much to bring Cubans living in the US together. One issue more than any other has provoked their outrage: the definition of 'family.' The 500-page report from Bush’s Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba announced a few weeks ago is cunningly designed to starve Cuba of vitally needed dollars and international support.

Among its stipulations is a rethinking of what constitutes a family, allowing Cuban Americans and Cubans living here to visit loved ones on the island only once every three years. To do that they must seek a license from the US government. Under these new regulations 'family' now consists of immediate family: parents and siblings. Cuba, like many other countries, embraces the concept of the extended family, which includes uncles, aunts, cousins and even long-time friends. Not so, says the president, and Cubans are boiling mad.

No other group must apply to the government for permission to visit loved ones; no other group is limited to one visit every three years; no other group is told how much money it can take or is their visit limited to only 14 days. This is clearly discrimination, and they’re mad as hell and won’t take it any more.

This one issue has done more to unite Cubans of all political strips than anything else. Immediately after the regulations were announced, Cubans gathered here in Miami to voice their outrage, sending a barrage of faxes, letters and phone calls. Several spokespeople flew to Washington to visit congressional representatives pointing out that this is clear discrimination against Cuban and Cuban Americans living here. No other national or ethnic group is targeted in this way. Our Constitution forbids discrimination against US citizens and legal residents. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the upcoming election.

One of the local policemen assigned to 'guard' the meeting of about 300 people at a local hotel told me that he was so angered that if Bush 'wins' again, he will move to Spain. But Spain has a socialist prime minister, I pointed out. It’s better than Bush, was his response.

Further, tightening restrictions to deprive the Island of much-needed hard currency will increase even further the pressure that shortages bring. Dollars in remissions and from these family visits and tourism from the US amounts to about 200 million dollars annually. Most Cubans in the United States don’t want to see their loved ones suffer more hardship. Cutting the flow of dollars will reduce the island’s ability to import food and medicine. Further, Cubans who are allowed to visit family will be limited to taking but $50 per day and only 44 pounds of luggage. Heretofore they took duffel bags and suitcases of clothing, appliances and medicine. Now they will be severely restricted in bringing such assistance. Yet another hardship for their families.

Come the elections it will be interesting to see who they back. Many are US citizens and can vote. And at this juncture, Bush is persona non grata on Calle 8.

--Barbara Collins is a contributor to Political Affairs.