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U.S. Bishop urges Bush to reconsider travel restrictions to Cuba

.- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement July 27, urging the Bush administration to reconsider the recent restrictions it imposed on travel from the United States to Cuba.

These restrictions, say the bishops, "will serve only to exacerbate the situation" in Cuba.

Earlier this year, the Bush Administration announced more stringent restrictions on the amount of baggage licensed travelers to Cuba may carry and on the types of items that can be sent in gift parcels to Cuba.

The measure, aimed at financially strangling Castro's regime, is severely affecting the economy and living standards of Cuban families, who receive significant support from U.S. resident relatives.

"We believe the goals of improving the lot of the Cuban people and encouraging the democratization of the governance of Cuba are best accomplished through more rather than less contact between the Cuban and American peoples," said Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Bishop Ricard is the chairman of the USCCB International Policy Committee.

Bishop Ricard thanked members of the U.S. House of Representatives for their support of an amendment, offered by Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona to the Commerce, Justice, and State appropriations bill. The bill would bar the Commerce Department from enforcing the new restrictions.

"The Flake amendment addresses a small part of the larger structure of travel limitations, sanctions and the embargo imposed by the U.S. government against Cuba," said Bishop Ricard. "We encourage you to revisit the more significant Treasury Department's Cuba travel regulations later this year with a view toward softening their unnecessarily restrictive aspects."

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