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House Votes to Overturn Gift Parcel Restrictions to Cuba

July 9, 2004

House Votes to Overturn Gift Parcel Restrictions to Cuba
July 9, 2004 – The House voted 221-194 on Wednesday to overturn restrictions that the Bush administration issued on gift parcels sent by American citizens to family members in Cuba.

New rules set by the Commerce Department went into effect July 1, 2004, barring Americans from sending items such as clothing, veterinary medicine, seeds and soap-making ingredients to Cubans. Items cannot be sent to relatives who are not parents, grandchildren, spouses or other immediate relatives. Nonfood gifts cannot be shipped more than once a month to each household of relatives. Americans were previously limited to shipping items no more than once a month to each individual relative in a household.

"Its hard to think of an economic sanction that does more harm to the welfare of families in Cuba, or does more to make the U.S. seem mean-spirited towards families who already have the misfortune to live under communism," said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

The Bush administration and its supporters have claimed restrictions will weaken communist leader Fidel Castro. They allege that the Cuban government confiscates such packages and demands money from the families in order for them to be delivered. These payments are said to earn Castro millions of dollars each year.

Opponents suggest that these rules and others limiting trade and travel will do little to thwart Castro. They have also accused Bush of politically motivated restrictions in this election season.

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