U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter today to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control regarding efforts by certain travel agencies to circumvent U.S. law by promoting tourist travel to Cuba. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"In accordance with its mandate and mission, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control must immediately take decisive measures to thwart ongoing efforts by some to undermine, and potentially violate, U.S. law regarding tourist travel to Cuba.
"Last week, we learned of a photo contest being held by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana which essentially promotes tourism to the island. This week, we see a local travel agency in the U.S. soliciting travelers for pre-packaged tours of Cuba.
"Not only is the Obama Administration easing sanctions on the Cuban regime, but it would appear they are also ignoring the regulations in place. It is critical that the Office of Foreign Assets Control strictly enforce U.S. regulations on travel to Cuba and duly impose the corresponding penalties."
Text of the letter is as follows, and a signed copy may be viewed here:
July 18, 2011
The Honorable Adam J. Szubin
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20220
Dear Director Szubin:
I am writing to express my concern regarding efforts by certain travel agencies to circumvent U.S. law by promoting tourist travel to Cuba.
A recent piece in the Monroe News Star entices readers to travel on a seven night pre-packaged tour to Cuba by Monroe Travel Service, stating that the "first wave of pure tourists from America will hit the friendly skies Aug. 11." The article offers an egregious misrepresentation of the current guidelines regulating travel to Cuba and is indicative of potential schemes by other travel agencies to encourage the participation of U.S. citizens in illegal tourist tours of Cuba.
With this in mind, I would like to request, within all applicable rules and guidelines, information regarding what measures OFAC may be taking to prevent or correct for this type of activity by travel agencies.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter.