Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama officials ask court to overturn Florida Cuba travel law

McClatchy Newspapers

Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009

By Lesley Clark

WASHINGTON — Wading into a legal battle between the state of Florida and 16 Miami agencies that sell travel to Cuba, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday that controversial amendments to a state travel law "interfere with the federal government's ability to speak for the U.S. with one voice in foreign affairs."

The Justice Department argues in a 35-page "statement of interest" that the 2008 amendments to state law that seek to cut travel to Cuba were "not a consumer protection measure... The Florida amendments are instead an attempt by the state of Florida to conduct its own foreign policy."

The court filing notes that the legislative history "demonstrates that the amendments were enacted to denounce the Cuban government and its practices."

The government argues for the amendments to be struck, noting that they could "limit travel that the federal government has deemed consistent with U.S. foreign policy initiatives." The government argues the amendments could put travel sellers out of business.

And noting that Treasury recently relaxed Cuba travel rules, it argues "by effectively reducing the number of sellers of travel to Cuba, the Florida amendment will limit the federal government's intended expansion of family travel."

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