US travel curbs force Cuba exodus

According to a BBC report, hundreds of Cuban Americans have been returning to the US, as tough new curbs on travel to Cuba imposed by Washington came into effect on Sunday. Cuban Americans will only be allowed to go back to the island once every three years instead of once a year. President George W Bush says the new policy is designed to restrict the flow of money to what he describes as Fidel Castro’s repressive regime. (ed. note: Not mentioning the increasingly repressive nature of his own regime!)

But Havana says the new rules will merely keep families apart.

Havana airport departure lounge was packed with tearful Cuban families getting together for a long, emotional farewell.

Parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and cousins all wanted to say goodbye to their relatives.

Cuban Americans had been told by the US authorities they had to leave the island by the end of July or face heavy fines.

According to the new Bush administration rules, they cannot now come back for at least three years and then only for two weeks.

The restrictions have proved highly controversial.

Many Cuban Americans, who as a group have traditionally backed a hardline approach against Fidel Castro, have said they cannot support a policy which stops them from seeing their families.

In Cuba, mass rallies have been organized against the new measures.

The Cuban government, which itself prevents its people traveling unless with special permission, says President Bush’s policy is brutal and cruel.

The FAA may extend the compliance deadline from 2007 to 2010 for airlines to formulate more streamlined inspection and maintenance schedules for structural problems on aircraft 14 years and older.

Extending the deadline to inspect planes for fuel tank problems and age-related cracks, in the near term, relieves airlines of additional maintenance requirements that take jets out of service and cost them money.

Other plans under consideration by the FAA to redraw proposals on inspections for aircraft corrosion, wiring and hydraulics problems will save air carriers even more money. The FAA estimates the extended fuel tank deadline and its other proposed changes will save airlines $200 million.

The FAA is satisfied for now that current safety requirements for fuel tank and structural inspections and maintenance are adequate for now.

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