The head of the American Farm Bureau, representing 5.5 million USA farmers has called for unfettered travel to Cuba by USA citizens as well as private financing of agriculture sales to Cuba. Under current law, sales to Cuba must be "cash only". The Bush Administration is unlikely to support further easing of the USA Embargo until substantial changes internally in Cuba are adopted. Congress will likely pass more liberal travel to Cuba in 2007 but these bills will likely be vetoed by the President.
The European Parliament's Conference of Presidents has announced Oswaldo Paya, founder of the Varela Project, as its 2002 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought winner. Paya was given a last minute visa to go to Europe to receive the award where he also criticized USA policy towards Cuba.
Oscar Elias Biscet, the 41 year old, Cuban physician turned activist has been released, on October 31, 2002, from Cuba Si prison near Holguin after 3 years imprisonment. There are believed to be 320 other prisoners of conscience held in Cuban prisons under vague allegations of inciting crime, dishonoring national symbols and disorderly public conduct.
Japan has restructured its debt with Cuba again. Japan is one of Cuba's largest creditors. The debt restructuring gives Cuba more flexibility to purchase food and medicine from the USA.
Director Steven Spielberg was the guest of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry during the first week of November, 2002. He met with admirers, members of the Jewish community and President Castro before returning to the USA.
The Association of Travel-Related Industry Professionals [ATRIP], formed last June, is heading the lobbying efforts to lift the travel ban. The industry's argument: Easing restrictions could boost the U.S. economy in the long term by as much as $1.6 billion annually and create as many as 23,000 new jobs.
In 2007, the Bush Administration is increasing the USA Embargo against Cuba. OFAC licensed travel to Cuba has been sharply curtailed. Raul Castro is the new President of Cuba effective February 2008. No change in USA policy towards Cuba is expected in 2008.
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