US charges citizen with $6,500 fine for visiting Cuba

Zachary Sanders, 38, traveled to Cuba as an unauthorized tourist 14 years ago. He was 23, and had been teaching English in Mexico. He decided to travel to Cuba for a couple of weeks in 1998. "I wanted to learn about how a socialist country worked in practice," Sanders says. "I had no illusions. ... I'm not like some diehard supporter of the (Cuban) government or anything like that." The U.S. Treasury Department penalized him for not having filled out the proper forms, and a long-running legal battle ensued. Today, Sanders reached a settlement with the government: he must pay $6,500 for his mistake.


  1. And yet, still no valid reason for that legal prohibition. It’s basically a legal tradition, rather than a rule with any actual merit.

    1.  It’s about Republicans and Democrats wanting the Cuban immigrant vote in Florida.  And about Commies being bad people who steal casinos from the Mafia. 

  2. Read the article.  He was fined the standard $1,000 for not filing the required forms and for smuggling cigars.  He fought the whole thing for 8 years and has now settled for $6,500.  Had he filed the forms there would have been no fines.  Had he accepted the initial punishment, he would have paid $1,000.

    1. That’s not really the point. It’s embarrassing that the US government is so terrified of its citizens bringing back political cooties if they visit a tiny, impoverished country.

      1. My Canadian friends would take cheap vacations in Cuban and had a great time except for food a notch below a bus station.

        But we knew to never ever go with them or there would be a big tax penalty or fines. 

      2. Political cooties? I though this was about economic warfare and depriving Cuba of an income.

      3. Agreed 100%, but it is the law of the land. Break the rules, risk the repercussions, and maybe try to get the rules changed. Good luck. Floridian RepubloCubans love the embargo.

        1. “Floridian RepubloCubans love the embargo.”
           Not to mention the cruise ship and US casino industries. If you could go to exotic Havana or to a casino in an everglades swamp to throw your money away, which would you choose?

    2. I thought getting paperwork official permission to go somewhere was a reviled feature of Nazi Germany and the USSR – not the USA?

      1. The USA? Doc, you’re invoking a dead concept. I think anyone under 25 simply has no clue, having no living experience, of what this country is, or rather, was. “Freedom” is an even less meaningful concept to them. It gave the vapors to the public school marm bureaucrats who supposedly educated them. The idea of principle itself probably escapes them.

    3. So is that how the system is supposed to work? The punishment increases if you go to court to challenge the ruling?

  3. You could get around the rules if you wanted to, by being a journalist.  An Old Left friend of mine used to visit Cuba as a reporter for his union’s newspaper.  When he was younger, he’d help The Revolution by cutting sugar cane; when he got older he’d mainly go to the beach, drink rum, and smoke cigars, but either way he’d write up reports about what The Workers were doing in Cuba.

    Last time I was in western Canada I could have gotten some Cuban cigars, but unfortunately they still make the things out of tobacco, so yuk.  (And the shops at the ski resort didn’t sell the other stuff you smoke in B.C., except maybe under the table.) 

    1.  There are more approved group visits to Cuba. The local bar association went in May of this year. Student and business groups go.  You just need a thinly veiled reason, e.g.,  studying the Cuba legal system; the effects of the US trade embargo; learning Cuba culture, etc.  File the paperwork, and you should be good to go.

    1.  Yet how many people try sneaking *in* to Cuba as opposed to risking their lives trying to leave the Workers’ Paradise?  I always figured that was a good way to judge how happy a place is: Which way the guns point.  Are they fighting to keep people out or fighting to to keep their own people from fleeing?

      Since the Soviet Empire stopped propping them up, they are pretty much running on empty and their health care system is a bit….iffy….. and what there is favors the rich and the quality is that of the curandero and other third world fun:

      1. The wealthiest and most powerful country in the world has been trying to destroy Cuba for half a century. I can’t imagine why Cuba has any problems.

  4. I honestly don’t think it’s political cooties, fear of Cuban influence, even fear of bringing back actual Cuban people or having contact with them in any way while there.  I honestly believe it is simply a capricious, unbounded American need for control.  As if Floridian Cubans would suddenly stop voting one way or the other.  But nobody wants to find out, so it’s just American voodoo.  Most of our laws are voodoo at this point.  Basic principles twisted and shrunk and morphed into something other than what they were intended to be.  Just think of the Bill of Rights, and how all those principles have been morphed into the ugly frankenstein stepchildren that they are now. Free speech, EXCEPT for blah blah blah and under these conditions, blah blah. Free press, EXCEPT for blah blah blah and under these conditions, blah blah. Freedom of Assembly, EXCEPT for blah blah blah and under these conditions, blah blah. Right to bear arms, EXCEPT for blah blah blah and under these conditions, blah blah. No double jeapordy, EXCEPT for separate criminal charges years later due to new evidence and civil suits for monetary damages. Slaves are 3/5 of a person… I mean come on, who are we kidding?

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