In December 2016, the U.S. government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) agreed to dismiss its case against Albert A. Fox, Jr. and the Alliance for a Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, in which OFAC sought a $100,000 penalty for travel to Cuba and encouraging others to do so, in 2010 and 2011.
This was the only such case that OFAC brought against an individual in some 10 years. “My client continues to believe he did nothing un-American, illegal, immoral, or unethical and that OFAC’s 14 years of harassment of him has been solely politically motivated,” stated Atty. Arthur Heitzer who represented both Fox and the Alliance, and chairs the National Lawyers Guild’s Cuba subcommittee. Heitzer criticized OFAC’s “selective prosecution” as being illegal retaliation for Fox and the Alliance’s active role in helping to bring about a change in U.S. policy towards Cuba and particularly in influencing the sentiments on this issue in the state of Florida. He praised them for vigorously resisting OFAC’s punitive attempts and costly prosecution since May 2015.
OFAC originally asserted the respondent could be liable for $1,430,000 in fines, and ultimately agreed to have the entire case dismissed based on the Alliance agreeing to pay $10,000. “While we view any payment as being unjust, this is a very small amount compared to the cost of the legal defense against the resources of the US government. It is a modest payment compared to the payments that OFAC has extracted from others, such as a series of recent cases under Obama with payments in the range of $1 billion each against European banks for transacting with Cuba,” Heitzer stated.
Speaking on behalf of the NLG and its Cuba Subcommittee, Heitzer stated, “We call on OFAC to permanently cease all such prosecutions, and to allow the peoples of the US and Cuba to freely interact and learn from each other. Congress should repeal these unique restrictions on the right of our own people to travel.”
Given the uncertainty regarding the future of US policy, Heitzer said that he and the NLG have been asked to re-activate the network of lawyers which advised and represented hundreds of U.S. travelers to Cuba when the George W. Bush administration attempted to prosecute and harass them in the early 2000’s. “We hope that will not be necessary, but we need to be prepared,” Heitzer added.
Heitzer noted the crucial assistance in this defense by other members of the National Lawyers Guild, and invited all interested lawyers and legal workers to contact him if willing to be part of the revived legal defense network regarding travel to Cuba.
For further information, or to volunteer to help defend the right to travel, contact Atty. Heitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.