Thursday, June 19, 2008

Uncle Sam's Hate: USA's government vs. Cuba and childrens playgrounds

It's Just the Kids

Dear Friends of IJTK:

On April 3, 2006, we received a fax from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) stating that they were amending the terms of our travel license. Our original travel license enabled us to take up to 25 volunteers (per playground site) to install playground equipment and it expired on April 30, 2007 . The license permitted us to stay in Cuba for up to two weeks (our previous projects have taken approximately one week to complete). The amendment we received stated that we can now only bring 3 volunteers per playground site, the project must be completed within 4 days and the term of our license was shortened to expire on April 30, 2006 , which has now passed. These new terms prevent us from moving forward with the scheduled playground project in June. However, we are taking several measures to get the terms of our original license reinstated.

The implementation of our project in Cuba requires us to obtain an export license and a travel license. We remain optimistic because in April 2006, we received a new export license which permits us to ship 8 playground sets to Cuba . Therefore, as well as making attempts to reinstate the terms of our original travel license, we have also applied for a new travel license so that our volunteers may travel to Cuba to install the equipment. We are pursuing both avenues simultaneously in the hopes that we can continue this project in the Fall.

We currently have 67 volunteers who have committed to participate in this year’s project. As you may imagine, we’re all extremely disappointed and frustrated with OFAC’s decision to amend our license. Many more people have requested to participate this year but we have temporarily suspended registration until such time that we can move forward with the project. Meanwhile, let me tell you what efforts we are engaged in to secure these licenses:

1) Bill just returned from Washington, DC having had discussions with a representative at OFAC and an attorney trying to assist IJTK efforts to reinstate our license. Bill formally submitted a 25 page travel license application requesting the same terms as our previous license. This license request is in support of our new export license that we received in early April that permits IJTK to ship 8 new playgrounds to Cuba during the next two years.

2) A Former Republican Secretary of State and a long-time friend of IJTK has sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking for an opportunity to review the IJTK program and its accomplishments in the context of requesting reinstatement of all the original terms of the OFAC travel license. This Former Secretary has also sent a letter, and will be following up with a phone call, to a very senior Republican Senator who has also been a long-time friend to IJTK, to ask for his assistance with the Department of State and the Secretary of State.

3) We also have a Washington, DC attorney who has been in contact with several representatives at the State Department requesting a meeting to discuss the IJTK program and our need for reinstatement of our original OFAC travel license.

4) Several volunteers have also put us in touch with their local Congressional Representatives who have offered their assistance also.

Bill and I have not wavered from our commitment to get this license reinstated and we will continue to pursue all avenues to achieve this objective. We will update you again as soon as we have more information. Bill intends to head back to DC soon and continue his follow-up in each of the areas we have described above.

At this time, we request that you refrain from contacting us for more information about our license status. If you are an email subscriber, you will automatically receive updates regarding our situation and updates will also be posted here.

If you have contacts that know high level officials in the Congress or at the State Department or at the White House, please contact us before you initiate any activity. By coordinating our activities, our effort can be the most efficient.

Thanks so much to each of you. There would be no IJTK program without your continued enthusiasm and support.

Debbie Watterson
Operations Manager
It's Just The Kids, Inc

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