cockamamie cuban culture crackdown
Post #211 • February 11, 2004, 8:43 AM • 7 Comments
US authorities have refused to let five Cuban Grammy Awards nominees travel to Sunday's ceremony in Los Angeles. Musicians up for best tropical Latin album award - including veteran star Ibrahim Ferrer - have not got visas. Ferrer, 77, told press in the capital Havana: "I am not a terrorist. I couldn't be one. I am a musician."
An American traveler in Havana spent nearly $10,000 last November buying paintings from Cuban artist Sandra Ramos. The buyer received the proper documentation from the artist, and when she arrived at U.S. Customs in Miami - her artwork neatly boxed as carry-on luggage - she was whisked through without any problem.
The buyer belonged to a group of collectors on a licensed cultural trip with The Metropolitan Museum of Art. But with the Bush administration's recent crackdown on travel to the island, such trips have now become a thing of the past. The administration has canceled most licenses for culture-related Cuban travel, and the Treasury Department recently stepped up prosecution. Americans who are caught taking unlicensed trips to Cuba from, say, Canada or the Caribbean now face hefty fines, reportedly up to $10,000.
Why is this happening? NBC summed it up nicely:
Some of Cuban President Fidel Castro's most ardent opponents have criticized the Bush administration for not doing more to bring about democratic change in Cuba. Florida, a vote-rich swing state, is one of the states Bush has visited most since becoming president. The votes of Miami's Cuban-American community could be crucial in the 2004 presidential election.
American foreign policy towards Cuba is impossible to reconcile with policies it has towards the rest of the world. Its centerpiece is a forty-year-old embargo that has no defenders outside of South Florida except a small contingent of conservatives who are willing to make an exception to their belief in free trade when it comes to Castro. Most of the planet thinks that the embargo is a bad idea. It causes worse problems than hardships for the arts, but arts aficionados ought to remember that their interests are being thwarted by a policy that remains in place only because Bush wants to maximize his chances of being re-elected. (To be fair, John Kerry isn't going to take a stand against the embargo either.)