[Ccs] FW: Tuner strikes sour note with U.S. over Cuba

Barrios, Maura barrios at iac.usf.edu
Tue Feb 17 10:25:21 EST 2004

You may remember Ben T. who brought the Camaguey kids to perform at USF

Here's an article from NBC....

>________________________________ > >10 febrero 2004 > >MSNBC > >Tuner
strikes sour note with U.S. over Cuba >Treasury bars New Yorker from
sending pianos to Havana > >By Mary Murray >NBC News >Updated: 12:47
p.m. ET Feb. 10, 2004HAVANA - Ben Treuhaft thinks the U.S. >Treasury
Department got its wires crossed. > >Last week, the New York piano tuner
received a Treasury license to donate a >pair of crutches and a walker
to a Havana music conservatory instead of a >renewal of his 8-year
license to ship used pianos, musical instruments and >piano parts. >
>Was it some sort of a mistake, a bureaucratic mix-up? Treuhaft doubts
it. > >"Someone in the Bush administration is mad at us. Somebody
decided we weren' >t with their program on Cuba so they decided to shut
us down." > >After the Cuban government jailed 75 dissidents last March,
President Bush >announced a harder line against the island. > >In
Treuhaft's case, the Commerce Department explained the license was
>rejected "upon the advise of the Department of State." > >In a letter
dated Monday, Commerce said that piano donations are "not >consistent
with U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba." The only exceptions to >this
policy from this point on will be food, medicine and medical supplies. >
>"Suddenly they've noticed that pianos aren't food and medicine--after
eight >years," Treuhaft said. > >License to export pianos >In 1995,
Treuhaft set up a non-profit "Send a Piana to Havana" and obtained >a
Treasury license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to
>export pianos to the island's 90 music schools. Under that
authorization, >the group collected and shipped 237 pianos and a ton of
spare parts to the >island. > >The bulk of the instruments are played in
classrooms across the island, >including at Havana's National Music
School, a haven for the island's most >talented teenagers; others were
gifts to musicians too poor to buy their >own. Just last week the music
school unpacked another 27 of Treuhaft's >pianos. > >This latest
shipment is the one that could get him in trouble. > >Treuhaft explained
the group became annoyed after waiting months for OFAC to >renew its
license after being told it was imminent. > >It finally sent off the
donation without the U.S. administration's seal of >approval. "To have
waited any longer," Treuhaft said, "would have insulted >the memory of
Newton Hunt." > >Hunt was a partially sighted piano tuner from New
Jersey who died last year >and left his entire workshop to his Cuban
counterparts. > >Of particular value were his specially fitted tools for
blind tuners. Cuba >has many and they operate using techniques the
Russians showed them 32 years >ago. > >Under the U.S. trade embargo with
Cuba started by the Kennedy White House 40 >years ago, all travel and
exports, including donations, to the communist >island must be licensed.
Violators face fines up to $75,000. > >Previous violations >If federal
authorities decide Treuhaft violated the "Trading with the Enemy >Act,"
it won't be the first time he'll find himself in trouble with the U.S.
>government. > >'I want to know why they consider pianos subversive.'-
Ben Treuhaft > >He traveled to Cuba without Treasury's permission in
1994 to personally tune >dozens of antique pianos suffering from age,
the sea air and tropical >termites. > >OFAC sought to fine him $10,000,
which he refused to pay. Instead, he and >his tools took another trip
south to tune more Cuban pianos. > >Treasury then threatened to increase
the fines to $1.3 million. > >"It's laughable," he said, noting that
tuning pianos for 37 years has not >made him a rich man. However, if
Treasury decided to prosecute, he risks >losing the small business he
built, Manhattan's "Underwater Piano Shop." > >Although the penalty was
eventually reduced to $3,500, Treuhaft still >refuses to accept the
punishment. "I've done nothing wrong." > >He wants his day in court, he
said, to hear a judge explain, "exactly how >tuning a piano aids
America's enemies." > >Out of tune >With or without the license,
Treuhaft vows to continue his musical mission - >even if he has to break
the U.S. trade embargo to do so. "I can't believe >anyone can get in
trouble for smuggling pianos to these kids." > >Treuhaft says he's not
trying to be rebellious just "trying to get these >pianos down to these
kids who deserve working instruments. I do want the >embargo to end.
Maybe you could say I'm cantankerous." > >He's also persistent and
someone with a quirky sense of humor. > >"I'm a piano tuner who got
caught up in Cuba's piano crisis and, in helping >out, found I had to
circumnavigate the ridiculous embargo." > >Treuhaft once took a picture
of himself dressed up as a piano in front of >the American Mission in
Cuba and sent it to former Sen. Robert Torricelli >after the lawmaker
accused the tuners of propping up the Castro regime. And >Republican
Senator Jesse Helms, a strong advocate of the embargo, has >reportedly
received dozens of "Wish you were here" postcards mailed from the
>Havana airport. > >Almost every day Treuhaft calls the Treasury office
looking for information >to appeal their decision. "I want to know why
they consider pianos >subversive." > >(c) 2004 MSNBC Interactive > 


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