septiembre 29, 2005
Alliance of Baptist - Cuba, partnership under investigation.
A mission’s partnership between Baptist groups in the United States and Cuba may be in jeopardy, pending the outcome of an investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Department officials notified the Alliance of Baptists that the group's special Cuba travel license was suspended effective immediately. Alliance Executive Director Stan Hastey said the suspension was tied to an investigation of alleged violations of the visa's terms by a team from the Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Ala., who visited the island nation in March.
The church group visited Cuba in what Hastey and church leaders described as a visit to begin a partnership with a Cuban Baptist congregation. The Alliance has a mission’s partnership with the Fraternity of Baptist Churches in Cuba, one of several indigenous Baptist denominations in Cuba.
The Birmingham church group studied whether to establish a mission’s partnership with Shalom Baptist Church in Boca de Mariel, in central Cuba. Both congregations since have approved the project.
Due to the U.S. government's economic embargo on Fidel Castro's communist regime and corresponding travel restrictions, the Alliance must use a renewable travel permit for religious activity to enable U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.
According to the letter, the Treasury Department's office of foreign assets control investigated whether the Birmingham team had engaged only in "transactions directly incident to a full-time program of religious activities in Cuba," as department guidelines require.
The letter indicated Treasury officials reviewed a trip itinerary and determined the team spent only four hours per day on religious activities and spent much of the rest of their time visiting farms and tourist sites.
Hastey said that, while he "can understand why someone reviewing the itinerary would conclude there was a lot of free time in it," the examples the Treasury officials pointed to were misconstrued.
"For example, the reference to visiting farms had to do with retreat center sites that the Fraternity of Baptist Hastey said.