Florida Senate Bill 1310, which will further limit the ability of Cuban families on both sides of the Florida Straits to stay in touch with each other, is both cruel and discriminatory, say members of the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights (CACFR) as they prepare to take their case to the governor’s office in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning. Joined by a group of other organizations and Cuban Americans from Miami, Commission directors will meet with key staffers from the governor’s office to discuss how this bill will negatively impact not only families, but businesses, jobs and in the end, Florida residents’ pocketbooks. A peaceful demonstration is planned for that same morning in Tallahassee in front of the Capitol Building and the governor’s office. A group of Miamians will have traveled all night in buses to attend the rally.
“Our hope is to stop this cruel and discriminatory law from going into effect on July 1,” said Alvaro F. Fernandez, Commission president. “If 1310 does become law, family travel to Cuba would become even more arduous and expensive. It is why we will appeal to the governor’s humanity and understanding of what is good for our state and our people,” added Fernandez.
“It is a sad state of affairs when for the sake of electoral politics basic family rights are violated”, said Silvia Wilhelm, Commission executive director. “I thought we had seen the end of it after the 2004 regulations.”
CACFR was created in June 2004, solely for one purpose, to combat the cruel regulations imposed by the Bush Administration limiting family travel to Cuba to once every three years, with no exceptions, not even for humanitarian reasons. Included in the new measures was a limit of remittances one could send to those family members. Most insulting, some felt, was the fact that the administration deemed fit to define who a Cuban family member could be — excluding aunts, uncles and cousins, for example.
A recent Florida International University (FIU) poll revealed that 66 percent of Miami Cuban Americans were in disagreement with these regulations. Two years ago when there was hope that U.S. Rep. William Delahunt would present a bill in Congress eliminating the anti-Cuban family measures, more than 14,000 persons signed a CACFR petition in favor of the Delahunt bill.
The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times have both written editorials very critical of the Florida legislation (SB 1310) which takes effect July 1. Businesses affected by the new Florida measure on travel to Cuba have categorically stated they will file a lawsuit against the state if the legislation is signed by Governor Crist. According to experts, this is a losing case for the state and will therefore end up costing all Florida taxpayers in court expenses and time wasted.
The state has yet to address Senate Bill 1310’s regulations and procedures. Companies flying to Cuba at this time are at a loss as to what the next steps will be. Experts agree that one of the immediate results of the law will be chaos. It is also expected that the 45-minute air flight will be prolonged since a third leg to the flight will probably be added making the trip also more expensive.