Cigar Aficionado

Wrong Again on Cuba

I told you so.

It is always a little dangerous for a journalist to openly pronounce, “I told you so.” But I had one of those moments today when I opened the front section of the New York Times. On page 2, there was an article headlined: “Report Finds U.S. Agencies Distracted by Focus on Cuba.”

Here’s the lead paragraph:

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.

Duh! I’m been saying the same thing for years, complaining that investigations into the importation of cigars were costing millions of dollars as well as posing an unintended danger. I always complained that if U.S. Customs agents were being vigilant for cigars, what else were they missing.

The NYT story, based on a report by the Government Accountability Office, said that in Miami, custom agents conduct “secondary inspections” of people arriving on charter flights from Cuba at more than six times the rate of passengers arriving from nations know for illegal drug exports.

And, the story says, between 2000 and 2006, in the Office of Foreign Asset Control, the Treasury Department agency that enforces the Trading with the Enemy Act, “61 percent of its investigation and penalty caseload involved Cuba embargo cases.” Furthermore, the New York Times story said that during that same period the OFAC opened 10,823 investigations into possible violations involving Cuba and just 6,791 investigations on all other cases.

Guess what. OFAC is also in charge of operations to freeze terrorists’ assets overseas. But seizing cigars is more important than illegal narcotics and terrorist funds. Oh, I’m sure they would deny that charge, but the agency’s actions speak louder than whatever excuses they want to make. Look at the stats: nearly double the number of investigations into Cuba as other targets, which implicitly means terrorist funds.

Even if you’re not a cigar smoker, you should be mad as hell. This is not only a misuse of our tax monies, but by stupidly pursuing an out-dated policy toward Cuba, the government is endangering everybody.

I could go on and on. I know the “I told you so” phrase is hollow in cases like this. But I didn’t know what else to do over the year except throw some light on the absurdity of OFAC’s actions. I just didn’t know how absurd. Now, I do, and you do too.

"I concur wholeheartedly... and how about the money and time spent on passing anti-smoking laws, both indoor & outdoor. Imagine what politicians and government could actually accomplish if they got focused on real issues... " —December 20, 2007 08:33 AM
"Jorge I think that you and Gordon are right,the Goverment has more important issues than trying to catch guys with some cubans cigars, this thing with Cuba will one day go away, and history will judge who was right." —December 20, 2007 15:37 PM