U.S. Treasury Department Hinders Travel Program to Cuba

Escambray

The United Status Treasury Department applied new measures to block the program People to People established by the Obama administration in 2011, to expand traveling opportunities between the U.S, and Cuba.

New bureaucratic measures complicate the renewal of licenses issued to travel agencies last year and the application forms of an authorization to operate trips to the island increased from six to hundreds of pages to fill in.

According to the new rules imposed by the US Treasury Department to apply for license renewal it is necessary to comprehensively document each minute of the trips carried out in the last year, to demonstrate no regular tourism activities were made.

A recent article published in the daily Detroit Free Press, revealed that almost no organization licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to sponsor trips to Cuba received their renewal forms.

The Detroit daily adds that many of the trips announced by the different authorized entities have been retained or cancelled.

Jim Friedlander, president of the Academic Arrangements Abroad in New York, a travel services provider, commented that they work with about 30 different non profit organizations which have travel programs to Cuba over the next 12 months and 100 percent of them have not received their license renewal papers.

The groups who have been unable to renew their travel licenses to Cuba include Harvard Alumni, the Metropolitan Art Museum of New York, National Geographic, Cuba Insight and the National Trust for Hiostoric Preservation.

The newspaper Detroit Free Press highlights that the University of Harvard website announces a trip to Cuba planned for next December 27 is pending license renewal. The Metropolitan Museum temporarily eliminated the Cuba destination from its travel list and National Geographic, which made 29 visits to the island with over 700 persons during 2011, is only booking without deposits.

Insight Cuba suspended all trips to the Island planned for the last two months and continues suspended waiting for its license renewal as its license expired last June.

National Trust has four tours organized to Cuba for the rest of 2012 but it warns those interested that it waits for the renewal of its license.

On its part, Jeff Braunger, director of the licensing program for trips to Cuba of the Treasury Department, dismissed accusations and commented that around 140 licenses have been issued.

“We are doing our best effort to process the first application and the renewal of existing licenses”, underlined Braunger.  (Taken from PL)

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