I’ve always dreamed of going to Cuba, but fears of hefty fines and prison time have so far kept me from doing so. As it turns out, maybe I shouldn’t have been worried. Mytchell Mora, a U.S. citizen, has been to Cuba four times in the last tens years and hasn’t managed to get in any trouble – despite his best efforts.
Mora actually wants to get arrested for violating the United States’ ban on travel to Cuba (which was reduced slightly by President Obama to allow restricted travel by those with family in Cuba) as a way of protesting a policy he thinks discriminates against non-Cuban Americans and unfairly punishes the Cuban people.
Mora flew to Cuba in 1999 and 2000, after which he received a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department asking why he went to Cuba and how much he spent, and threatening fines or jail time if he failed to respond. Mora sent back a letter saying he chose to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights (you know, the old “right to remain silent”) and never heard from the government about the matter again. In 2002 he made another trip to Cuba. He was stopped by customs officials at the airport when he returned and was questioned and released again.
On Friday, Mora returned from his most recent trip with a suitcase full of Cuban souvenirs. Mora says that when he told U.S. authorities that he was coming from Cuba, a supervisor was called over. The supervisor typed some info in a computer, but ultimately let Mora go with little hassle. According to an AP article, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said their officers won’t detain U.S. citizens returning from Cuba, but will report them to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Mora is hoping that they do report him, and that this time he is charged with the crime. He hopes to bring the case to court, to challenge the Cuba travel ban and have it lifted.
I thought I’d have to wait until then to visit Cuba but now, I’m not so sure I do.