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Message from the Cuban Five

Ramón is in lockdown since December 11 and for that reason he has not been able to send all the letters and salutations for the new year to his friends around the world...
Message from the Cuban Five.

Brothers and sisters:

Ramón is in lockdown since December 11 and for that reason he has not been able to send all the letters and salutations for the new year to his friends around the world.
In a very brief telephone call of five minutes this morning, Dec. 20, he asked that I send this message to all the compañeros and compañeras who do so much to spread the word about the cause of the Five and to win true justice in their case.
So I very quickly have prepared this message in the name of Ramón and our family, full of the love that motivates us to continue struggling for the freedom of our loved ones.
Receive also in the name of our daughters, an affectionate greeting and wish that you enjoy a Merry Christmas and prosperous 2008.

Elizabeth Palmeiro Casado

Dear brothers and sisters of the world:

As the Christmas and New Year 2008 celebrations approach, we want to send you our congratulations together with all the appreciation and affection, for supporting us in this cause that unites us: solidarity with Cuba and freedom for the Five.
For these days one makes an assessment of what was accomplished and what is to be done. This is why, in remembering all the actions that were carried out in 2007 in order to gain more solidarity for our cause, we are filled with strength and more optimism in our inevitable victory.
No matter how long this cruelty lasts, victory will be ours. We will continue to struggle alongside you, to put an end to the double standard of the empire, which claims to fight terrorism, yet keeps us imprisoned, denying the history of terrorist attacks against the Cuban people.
From Argentina to Canada and the United States, through Central America and the Caribbean; on the other side of the Atlantic; from Spain, to Viet Nam and Australia, on the African continent: In every corner of the planet we have heard the voice of justice demanding our freedom. Your letters inform us each day of all these actions, events and displays of solidarity. Count on us always for every just cause, we will be with you soon.
Many thanks, sisters and brothers, for knowing that we can depend on you always, to put an end to so much injustice that for almost 10 years has separated us from our loved ones and our beloved homeland.
For Cubans, the holidays include the one we celebrate, of another anniversary of the Revolution, which returned the dignity and freedom that the peoples of our continent struggle for.
Long live the 49th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban people!

Ever onward to victory!

Ramón Labañino Salazar

USP Beaumont, Texas

Dec. 20, 2007

From:  http://www.freethefive.org/updates/Comuniques/CORamon122207.htm

Message from Antonio Guerrero.

December 2007

Dear Friends:

Thank you for your words full of encouragement and brotherhood.
This year 2007 is coming to its end and in one way or another we all make an appraisal of our achievements and failures, as well as of our joys and sorrows in these 12 months. We know that time is relative, but we cannot avoid to measure it and within it to trace new goals, our near and far away dreams.
There is something that clearly comes to view in our evaluation of this year: it is the incessant growing of the solidarity with our struggle for justice and freedom.
Of course, we know that still we have much to do in order to reach the truth to all corners and with it to gain the door to justice, but we can count on the tenacity that each one of our friends has demonstrated, on your indestructible attachment to reason and honesty and on your immense love to Cuban people and its Revolution.
Most of the time my answer to your letter comes with delay because I have so many commitments and I am involved in various projects, but you should know that you are and you will be forever in the hearts of the Five.

Happy New Year 2008! We wish you health, peace and love. A strong embrace from the Five.

¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Greetings to friends

In solidarity, Antonio Guerrero

Write to the Cuban Five:


Birthday: June 9

Luís Medina
U.S.P. Beaumont
P.O. Box 26030
Beaumont TX 77720-6035
(NOTE: the envelope should be addressed to "Luis Medina," but address the letter inside to Ramón)

Birthday: June 4

Gerardo Hernández
U.S.P. Victorville
P.O. Box 5500
Adelanto, CA 92301

Birthday: October 16

Antonio Guerrero
U.S.P. Florence
P.O. Box 7000
Florence CO 81226

Birthday: August 18

Rubén Campa
FCI Terre Haute
P.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808
(NOTE: the envelope should be addressed to "Rubén Campa," but address the letter inside to Fernando)

Birthday: August 13

René González
FCI Marianna
P.O. Box 7007
Marianna, FL 32447-7007

International Commission supports visitation rights for wives of Cuban Five

MORE than 100 prominent individuals from 27 countries, among them Nobel Peace laureates Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina and Rigoberta Menchú of Guatemala, as well as actor Danny Glover and writer Alice Walker from the United States, are members of the International Commission for Family Visitation Rights, supporting Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, wives of René González and Gerardo Hernández respectively, two of the Five Cuban anti-terrorists imprisoned in the United States for nine years. The U.S. government has denied the women visas to visit their husbands eight times; they have not been able to visit them since their arrests.
The initiative taken by the International Committee to Free the Five was announced yesterday to the Cuban and international press through a press release, in which the group indicates that its position is based on humanitarian rights and family rights defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture.
Graciela Ramírez, coordinator of the committee, reiterated the call for action by human rights organizations, women's organizations, social movements, religious groups, trade unions, political and government officials, to be directed in particular to the U.S. Secretary of State, Attorney General and Congress, as well as the United Nations Human Rights Council, among others.
Olga Salanueva indicated that the battle was part of a broader struggle to free the Five and that "The pain we feel grows stronger every instant they remain in prison."
Roberto González, René's brother, insisted that political efforts "that go beyond the courts" need to be intensified.
Also present were Rosa Aurora Freijanes and Magali Llort, wife and mother of Fernando González; Mirta Rodríguez and María Eugenia Guerrero, mother and sister of Antonio Guerrero and Elizabeth Palmeiro, wife of Ramon Labañino.

Translated by Granma International


Sustained Injustice Amplifies Reasons for Innocence

The statements made by Fernando Gonzalez and Antonio Guerrero before those that tried and unjustly sentenced them, amplifies the validity of their content by the sustained injustices committed against them for almost ten years.

By Roberto Perez Betancourt

Gonzalez and Guerrero, together with Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Rene Gonzalez are the five Cuban anti terrorist fighters that, since September 1998, have been in US prisons unjustly accused and punished by Washington. The Cuban Five were gathering information on right wing anti Cuban terrorist organizations that freely operate from southern Florida with the objective of alerting the island against their crimes. This reality was ignored at the time, and continues to be so for the last 9 years and successive US administrations, in particular the W. Bush government determined to destroy the Revolution and once again annex the island.

On December 18th and 27th of 2001, Fernando and Tony, made their statements before the judges. Six years later, the content of the evidence that they had on the real significance of their work in Miami has more relevance before the double morals maintained by W. Bush in its so called anti terrorist crusade. The truth exposed by Fernando was enough at the time to prove his arguments: "I thought that the Prosecution would come to the court to request a sentence of one year probation. After all, that is the same offered by the prosecution to Mr. Frometa (terrorist resident of Miami) when he purchased a Stinger missile, C 4 explosives, grenades and other weapons from a government
under cover agent".

"It does not matter that Mr Frometa had confessed, to the under cover agent himself, his terrorist intentions and the use he would have for those materials". "I thought over later and I realized that to receive that same treatment on behalf of the prosecution towards me was an illusion, I was a Cuban, from the island and that implies that accusing me would bring into play things like ignorance of what Cuba is really like, the hate and the irrationality against my country, stimulated by an extremist sector that controls what is said about Cuba and silencing any other more rational opinion.?

With the serenity of knowing the truth, Antonio Guerrero unmasked the true criminals during his statement:

"Cuba, my small country has been attacked and slandered for decade after decade, by a cruel, inhuman and absurd policy. A true war, ferocious and that is open to terrorism, forerunner of horror; sabotage, generator of ruins; assassinations; pain, most profound pain and death."

"Not just the documents and data of the Cuban government have uncovered this aggression, but also the US government's secret documents themselves, which have been declassified."

After recalling that the hostile actions have inflicted over 3,400 deaths and over 2,000 people have suffered total or partial physical injury as well uncountable material damage to the economy, Antonio asked: "Why so much hate against the Cuban people? Because they have chosen their own path? Because its people want socialism? Because they eliminated rich land owners and eradicated illiteracy? Because they gave free education and medical assistance to its people?
Because children wake up in a free nation?"

Six years after formulating these questions, the US government still has not found the answers.

In reality these questions can be used as a guide to US journalists and others that are truly interested in finding the reasons for innocence.


An important message from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five to supporters of the Cuban Five

Announcing the Billboard Campaign and the "Day After" Campaign

Nov. 7, 2007

Dear Friends of the Cuban Five:

In recent months there has been a significant rise in news coverage of the Cuban Five case by major media. CNN's The Situation Room aired a 13-minute segment. BBC and Reuters conducted radio interviews with Gerardo Hernández. An important article appeared in The New York Times, National Public Radio broadcast a recent segment, and the Associated Press story on the Aug. 20 oral argument hearing was picked up by almost 100 U.S. daily newspapers. All of this coverage is easily accessible on this website:  http://www.freethefive.org
The news reports have not only covered the legal case of the Five but the worldwide campaign to win their freedom as well. In fact, without the political support campaign, it is extremely doubtful that the case would be receiving the kind of attention it has. We believe the time is now for us to raise even higher the level of public awareness about the Five in the United States, and demand that the Bush administration end the unjust imprisonment and free them immediately. We can only hope to succeed with your support.
The case of the Cuban Five is at another critical juncture. While we now await the decision of the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, after the Aug. 20 court hearing, it is clear that we cannot depend on the legal battle alone to win justice for the Five. History has shown that political cases are won with the people's support and by exposing the truth. The struggle of the Cuban Five is no exception.
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is launching an exciting new campaign for the next stage of the struggle, with two components:
1. A Billboard Campaign to raise public awareness and support for the Five in Washington DC, Los Angeles and other cities, with Billboards and Transit Shelter ads. The Billboard Campaign has the potential to bring the case to the attention of hundreds of thousands or millions of people. The scope of the campaign will depend on the funding.
2. An International and U.S. "Day After" mobilization and Week of Action immediately upon the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision. Regardless of the outcome of the court decision, it will be vital for all supporters of the Five, organizations and individuals, to respond the day after. We are calling for press conferences, emergency rallies in front of government offices in the U.S. or U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, and a massive letter-writing campaign to the President and Attorney General.
We do not know when the court decision will be issued, it could take weeks or months. But we do know that if all support organizations prepare NOW in a coordinated fashion, we can be at a maximum level of preparation and effect possible.
If the court decides favorably on any of the appeals issues, it is highly likely that the U.S. government would appeal to the full panel of 12 judges of the 11th Circuit. It is important that we oppose any government appeal against any victory for the Five, and make it known that the U.S. government is harboring terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles while legally persecuting the Cuban Five anti-terrorists.
If the court decides negatively, or with a mixed decision that does not fully grant them justice, it will be just as important to hold the same events on the Day After and Week of Action, to demand the Five's immediate freedom.
Many of you have contributed generously in the past to support the courageous struggle of the Cuban Five. The critical importance of their case rests not only in the terrible injustice done to the Five as individuals, but also the nearly half-century of U.S. war, blockade and terrorism against Cuba, a small neighboring country.
Please take a moment to click here :  http://www.freethefive.org/donations.htm and support these campaigns with as generous a donation as possible. Thanks in advance for your support.

In peace and solidarity,

The Appeals Process and the Need for a Worldwide "Day After" Campaign

Speech to the "Breaking the Silence" Conference, Toronto

by Gloria La Riva, Coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

Nov. 9, 2007

Special to  http://www.freethefive.org

Sisters and brothers, I want to first thank all our Canadian hosts, our wonderful friends in the Canadian Network on Cuba, in the Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Canada, and of course, our sister coalition in the United States, the National Network on Cuba, and all the affiliate organizations, for the great mobilization of forces from our two countries to share experiences, make plans, and fight even harder for the freedom of the Cuban Five.
As Rene González' brother Roberto has said before, "Prison is not a place for men who were saving lives." But U.S. policy from day one of the Cuban Revolution, and even before, is to wreck as much havoc, damage, destruction, and suffering as it possibly can on the Cuban people. From Eisenhower to the current administration, blockade, invasion, biological warfare, terrorist attacks have been financed and planned by Washington. And if you do a good enough job as a terrorist against Cuba, you can even become President, as George Bush Sr. did.
Most of you are aware that one of the biggest acts of terrorism against Cuba was the bombing of the Cuban airliner on October 6, 1976 in which 73 defenseless people suffered terrifying moments, were burned, and died on a plane before it crashed into the sea. That was Oct. 6, 31 years ago, and George Bush Sr. was the director of the CIA, and the two architects of the bombing, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, were long-time CIA agents, trained by the CIA in explosives, armed by the CIA, given passports by the CIA, given every green light to do what they have done in these long 40 years.
And not only was Bosch given permanent residence in Miami in 1990 by George Bush Sr. as President, but his partner in crime, Posada Carriles, knew that he could come into the U.S. two years ago, and despite or in the midst of a very fake kind of prosecution by the Government, of which farce we are still seeing today, he is now living in Miami a free man, and in fact, right now, his art, his so-called art, is being exhibited in a gallery in Miami, as we speak.
In the city where confessed terrorists are heroes, there is no way that the Cuban Five could have had any hope of a fair trial. Of course, they should never have been arrested in the first place. Our esteemed attorney of the Cuban Five, Leonard Weinglass, who represents Antonio Guerrero, will speak next on the legal aspects of the case. But I need to remark on one part of the case, and that was the first appeal of the Five, the appeal that was made to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the first stage of the federal appeals in the United States, which was heard before three judges. They heard the appeal and 26 months after the briefs were first handed in, in Atlanta, 26 months later after the briefs were filed, on August 9, 2005, over two years ago, an historic decision was issued. The three-judge panel ordered a new trial and overturned the convictions of the Cuban Five. It was unprecedented, and I hope we'll hear more from Len about it.
It was August 9, 2005. And I'll never forget that day, when Len called us in the morning, and said, "We won!" It was a sweeping victory. We were screaming and shouting, laughing and crying, and I know we would call people from all over the country and you could hear the hubbub in the background. It was unbelievable. Because we know that if there were another trial in another city in the United States, with the experience gained by the attorneys, with the discovery of even more terrorist attacks since the first trial, with being outside of Miami, we were extremely optimistic that the Five would have been exonerated.
And the U.S. Government knows that. In fact, by law a trial would have already taken place by February of this year. It would already have been over. But the U.S. Government does not want a trial, because the U.S. Government, and its policy of terror against Cuba, would have been the ones put on trial.
And what happened to our victory? Disgracefully but not surprisingly, the U.S. Government, through its agent Alberto Gonzalez and the Justice Department, appealed, and the Miami Attorney's office appealed the decision. And one year later, exactly the same date, in what could only have been a political decision to make it that day, on August 9, 2006, the full panel of 12 judges, in an extremely conservative court, ruled to uphold the trial and reinstated the convictions and sentences of the Five. It was a cruel and very bitter blow to our brothers — Gerardo, Ramon, Antonio, Fernando, and René — who have had to suffer two more years of imprisonment, and face possibly years more. It was horrible to the families who are missing the warmth and presence of their loved ones. And to all the Cuban people, who have had to endure another ordeal of U.S. injustice for being Cuban and being independent.
Sisters and brothers, we're meeting here to strategize on what to do in the coming period until the Five are free. I want to stop here a second to say that, as probably most of you know, and you can read on the different websites including freethefive.org, we are waiting for a decision right now on the remaining issues that were set aside by the three-judge panel before. So we don't know when that decision, but we are waiting for the appeal, and we are cautiously optimistic. But until the Five are free, we're talking today, and we'll talk tomorrow, about every day as our brother Ernesto mentioned, every day being an action for the Five of all sorts. I won't even go into that, of the outreach, day-to-day work.
And we in the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five in the United States, we've had the experience, since we formed six years ago, days after the conviction, that when we all pull together, was when we were most effective. Of course, all the initiatives have to take place in our local areas. But when everybody pulled together for the New York Times ad, which was the biggest victory at that point, for March 3, 2004, only a week before the oral arguments were heard in Miami, every committee in the world that existed at the time, sent us donations, and did organization in preparation for the ad, without a word of text being issued until the last moment when it finally published. With faith and solidarity, everybody cooperated. And before that, a year before, when the Five were put in these horrible solitary confinement, which is more than the usual punishment, cells, it was a special administrative measure, by then Attorney-General John Ashcroft, we didn't know how long it would last but it was a minimum one-year order, when we issued the emergency call, and people sent letters instantly to Washington, to the different Government agencies, and to the Bureau of Prisons, that helped a great deal, along with the work of the attorneys, to get them out of the hole after a month.
That was an order by John Ashcroft that was interrupted. It was when we worked together. And we are making a call, we are announcing it today, we're going to issue it through a massive mailing in the United States this weekend, and also through our website this week, we're issuing an international and national call to every organization across the globe, to coordinate in every city, to work with other organizations who are not currently involved, to prepare for an emergency Day After, and "Week of" actions after the court decision. The concern isn't so much a decision in the three-judge panel that we're waiting for now, the problem is that the Government appeals. And if there's any part of a victory, partial, any kind, whether it's an overturning of any part of the conviction, or a total victory for them, or an ordering of a new trial, the Government will appeal. And we have to demand, "No more appeal! Free the Cuban Five now!"
So if you realize when the decision came down on August 9, 2006, there was denunciation by many groups, including ours, we had a press conference, we issued a statement, but it wasn't a sufficient response to it. We've got to do that now, to prevent the appeals. We have to shame the U.S. Government, and don't that we can't do it. We believe that what we ought to do in the cities, and we should talk about this in the coming days and also by our communiqué when we leave, is that emergency call, get everyone's name, tell them ahead of time say that when we issue that call let's all meet at so-and-so place, whether it's a consulate, embassy, or a U.S. Government symbol, in the United States we have to think of places to go, so that a clamor around the world is heard. And a week of action. We will probably be mobilizing for an emergency demonstration and perhaps direct action in Washington, D.C. as well.
All kinds of things have to be done instantly, as soon as the decision, no matter what the decision is. If it's completely negative, we say "Free the Five!" If it's a partial victory, we say "Free the Five!" And we say "No more appeals!" We shame the Government. See, we have an advantage right now. Posada Carriles is in Miami. And Orlando Bosch is in Miami. And that has helped, greatly, to show the hypocrisy of the U.S., because the media has covered that aspect of the double standard of Posada and Bosch in Miami and the Five in prison. We have a great deal to do, sisters and brothers, but we hope that with this, we are prepared. It could happen tomorrow. The decision could happen next month. It may take a year. It might be another Administration. It might be another party in office. But what we do know is that we will fight every way we can to free the Five.
And they will be free! Que viva Antonio! (Viva!) Que viva Gerardo! (Viva!) Que viva Ramon! (Viva!) Que viva Fernando! (Viva!) Que viva René! (Viva! Volveran!)

Download this speech as a PDF file here :

The day after this speech, the "Day After" and "Week of" campaigns were adopted by a vote of the approximately 300 people, representing dozens of Cuban Five solidarity groups, as part of the conference resolution, which can be read here:


More money for chocolates and canned crabs?

More than half of the money meant to promote subversion on the island remained in Miami, swelling the counter-revolutionary and terrorist ringleaders' personal accounts

By: Eda Diz Garcés

Not satisfied with stealing the US taxpayers in the name of their obsession for Cuba, now George W Bush wants to cajole others in the world in order to create an International Fund to speed up the transition towards "democracy," as he announced in his most recent anti Cuba speech.
But it will be a difficult task. The misuse of funds created with similar purposes is public and well known, immersed in scandals like the one after an audit was made last year to investigate how the federal government and its agencies manage the federal budget and the efficiency with which they carry out their functions and programs.
Therefore, when these multi-million resources meant to promote subversion on the island and pay US mercenaries were revised, the Government Accountability Office, GAO published a 63 pages report entitled "Assistance to democracy in Cuba needs better administration and overseeing."
According to what was known then, more than half of this money, never reached its destination, but remained in Miami, forming part of the personal accounts of counter revolutionary and terrorist ringleaders. Another part of the total was used in dubious shopping for Nintendo and Play Station games, a mountain bike, canned crabs, an electric wheel chair, cashmere sweaters and Godiva chocolates, anybody knows for whom.
Explanations were all a joke, expensive fur coats for the constant intense cold of the island, fine chocolates "for people who are starving", video games for "entertaining" the bored "dissidents", in the end as Frank Hernandez Trujillo, Executive Director of the so called Group of Support towards Democracy in Miami said: "It is part of our work, to show the Cuban people what it could get if it were not living under the (Communist) system."
However, we have to say, that the funds for Cuba were not the only ones wrongly used, since stealing and fraud are a regular practice in the US government. This can be seen with the money supposedly allocated for Iraq's reconstruction after the material and humanitarian disaster caused by the invasion and US occupation.
At the beginning of this year, we heard the news that of the 57 billion dollars supposedly meant for this goal, one in six was fraudulently used, or some 10 billion dollars coming from US government funds were lost in unjustified surcharging and expenses, carried out by different hiring companies, according to data released by the GAO, the Pentagon and the State Department.
With such precedents, one might ask if there are any people in this world naïve enough to entrust their money to the "Lord of the Wars" for the announced International Multi Billion Fund, meant to turn the struggle for a freedom already achieved, into another lucrative imperial business.


Report Finds U.S. Agencies Distracted by Focus on Cuba


19 December 2007

Catching Americans who travel illegally to Cuba or who purchase cigars, rum or other products from the island may be distracting some American government agencies from higher-priority missions like fighting terrorism and combating narcotics trafficking, a government audit to be released Wednesday says.

The report, from the Government Accountability Office, says that Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, conducts secondary inspections on 20 percent of charter passengers arriving from Cuba at Miami International Airport, more than six times the inspection rate for other international arrivals, even from countries considered shipment points for narcotics.

That high rate of inspections and the numerous seizures of relatively benign contraband "have strained C.B.P.'s capacity to carry out its primary mission of keeping terrorists, criminals and inadmissible aliens from entering the country at Miami International Airport," says the audit, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

The audit also called on the Treasury Department to scrutinize the priorities of its Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces more than 20 economic and trade sanctions programs, including those aimed at freezing terrorists' assets and restricting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but has long focused on Cuba.

Between 2000 and 2006, 61 percent of the agency's investigation and penalty caseload involved Cuba embargo cases. Over that period, the office opened 10,823 investigations into possible violations involving Cuba and just 6,791 investigations on all other cases, the audit found.

Critics of the American embargo on Cuba seized on the report as evidence that Washington's policy, which began in the Kennedy administration and has grown more stringent ever since, was outdated.

"This is not good policy," said Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York, who requested the report a year ago with Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California. "It's vindictive. It's stupid. It's costly. And now we find out it's a threat to our national security."

The State Department, in a statement responding to the audit, said enforcing the Trading With the Enemy Act, which prohibits Americans from spending money in Cuba without authorization from Washington, remained an important tool to isolate the Cuban government. Loosening the embargo, which the leading Democratic presidential candidates have called for in the campaign, would "provide increased revenue to the successor dictatorship run by Raúl Castro, and prolong its tight control over all aspects of Cuban life," the department said.

The Bush administration's tightening of the Cuba sanctions in 2004 appears to have discouraged many Americans from visiting the island. Manuel Marrero, Cuba's tourism minister, acknowledged as much in a recent interview in Havana, blaming the "blockade," as Cubans call the embargo, for scaring Americans away.

"Sooner or later, there will be justice for the people of the United States, and they will be allowed to visit and share with our people," Mr. Marrero said.

Even with the number of American visitors down 37,000 in 2006, from 84,500 in 2003, according to the Cuban government, the United States government devotes significant resources to pursuing those who still go.

Most passengers arriving in Miami from Cuba are American citizens or residents who fly on charter flights and have American government permission to visit relatives on the island. But they are forbidden to bring Cuban products back to the United States. Still, searches regularly turn up cigars, bottles of rum and pharmaceutical items in the travelers' luggage.

Most of the charter flights from Cuba arrive in Miami around midday, with five flights landing between 11:30 and 11:40 a.m. and additional flights in the afternoon.

As those passengers collect their luggage, most of the three secondary inspection facilities and most of the customs personnel are focused on them. As a result, the audit found, inspection of other arrivals is sometimes delayed.

Most of the Americans who visit Cuba each year do not go directly from Miami but use third countries like Canada, Mexico, Jamaica or the Bahamas. Catching them is difficult but not impossible. In some cases, American immigration officials simply observe them getting off flights from Havana at foreign airports where the United States has a presence, officials say.

Those who are caught violating the embargo are referred to the Treasury Department. Officials there say that Cuba cases, most of which involve unlicensed travel and the importation of Cuban cigars, consume a relatively small portion of staff time and do not affect enforcement of other sanctions programs.

The Treasury Department relies on warning letters and informal settlements for lower fines than on formal administrative hearings. On top of that, officials said they have recently begun focusing more of their resources on other programs and less on Cuba enforcement.

The statistics bear that out. Between 2000 and 2005, there were 8,170 violations of the Cuba embargo, which accounted for more than 70 percent of the agency's total penalty cases.

In 2006, however, the number of cases pursued dropped significantly. That year, only 290 people were fined for violating the embargo, accounting for 29 percent of the agency's penalty cases.

Although the Treasury Department can assess civil fines of up to $55,000 for those who violate the embargo, most penalties are considerably lower. Between 2000 and 2006, the average violation brought a $992 fine.

In 2007, 13 people have been fined, most for under $1,000, for ordering Cuban cigars over the Internet, an increasingly common violation. One of the largest fines went to Travelocity, the Internet travel agency, which had to pay $182,750 for booking nearly 1,500 flights to Cuba from 1998 to 2004.

James C. McKinley Jr. contributed reporting.


See also :