Bush Administration ads new sanctions against Cuba by Mitch E. Perry

10/11/06

The Bush administration announced the formation of a new law enforcement task force yesterday that will aggressively pursue violations of trade and travel sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Cuba for more than four decades.

Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta said the task force will focus on prosecuting criminal violators of U.S. laws governing such things as prohibited commercial business with Cuba, currency reporting requirements, money laundering and illegal travel to the island. (roll tape#1 o.q.�comprehensive sanctions program�)

Joining Acosta yesterday were officials from the FBI, Treasury, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other law enforcement agencies. And Acosta said the government is serious – including penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

The sanctions have been in place since Fidel Castro took over Cuba back in 1962.

Sylvia Wilhelm is Executive Director of the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, a Miami based group which favors the easing of the embargo. She says it’s all about the mid-term elections (roll tape#2 o.q.�more democratic government�)

The Cuban Sanctions Enforcement Task Force includes the FBI and security or law enforcement units of the Treasury, Homeland Security and Commerce departments.

Its creation is the latest move by the Bush Administration to crack down on the communist nation. 2 years ago the President limited family travel to Cuba to once every 3 years instead of annually and enacted new limits on the sending money to the country.

As to the question why now, U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta denied that it had anything to do with next month’s elections or the recent illness of Fidel Castro said (roll tape#2 o.q.�speed up the transition to Cuba�)

This move comes 3 months after Fidel Castro handed over authority to his brother Raul, after gastro-intestinal surgery. Over the weekend Time Magazine reported that U.S. officials speculated Castro was suffering from terminal cancer, but Raul Castro denied that report earlier this week.

Nevertheless, for the first time in over 4 decades, the very real chance that Castro will not be the leader of Cuba seems to have energized Bush Administration officials.

Again, Silvia Wilhelm from the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights –a group that works on trying to bring Cuban Families together, says with the uncertainly in Cuba right now, this is the time to try to unify, not divide the Cuban community in the U.S. and Cuba (roll tape#4 o.q.�were winning in Iraq�)

Criminal violators of the Cuba sanctions can face up to 10 years in prison, $1 million in corporate fines and $250,000 in individual fines. The government can also seek up to $55,000 per violation in civil penalties.

Under U.S. law, the sanctions will remain in place until multiparty Cuban elections are planned, political prisoners are released and both Castro brothers are out of power.

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