Tag Archives: tourism apartheid

Is it right to vacation in Cuba’s oppression?

 

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Newsweek, by Elliott Abrams

The motto of the American Bar Association (ABA) is “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice.”

It should perhaps be revised to “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice, and Travel to Cuba.” Right now the ABA is sponsoring at least two trips to Cuba–but neither one has anything to do with liberty or justice.

One could dream of an ABA-sponsored trip that would try to visit political prisoners, or meet with the “Women in White” and other peaceful protesters for human rights. One could envision a confrontation between ABA members and officials of the Cuban regime’s “courts” or its “Ministry of Justice.”

But don’t hold your breath. The two tours advertised in the ABA Journal right now are “Cuba: People, Culture and Art” for next March and “Cuban Discovery” for next February.

In the latter, one does not “discover” anything about Cuba’s dictatorship and its complete disrespect for law–theoretically of some concern to the ABA. “People, Culture, and Art” has nothing to do with those Cuban people who are trying desperately to gain a measure of freedom and live under a system of law.

The brochure describes the latter trip this way:

A uniquely designed itinerary provides opportunities to experience the Cuban culture, history and people in four destinations: Havana; Cienfuegos; Trinidad; and Pinar del Río. Discover the arts during visits to art, dance and music studios, and talk with artists, dancers and musicians about their craft and their lives in Cuba.

Savor authentic flavors of Cuban cuisine at state restaurants and paladars, privately owned and operated restaurants. Learn about contemporary and historic Cuba during insightful discussions led by local experts.

Want to bet how many of the “local experts” are dissidents or human rights activists, fighting for a state of law?

The actual state of life in Cuba is described this week in The Economist. Here is an excerpt:

Queues at petrol stations. Sweltering offices. Unlit streets. Conditions in Cuba’s capital remind its residents of the “special period” in the 1990s caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, the benefactor in trouble is Venezuela. For the past 15 years Venezuela has been shipping oil to Cuba, which in turn sends thousands of doctors and other professionals to Venezuela.

The swap is lucrative for the communist-controlled island, which pays doctors a paltry few hundred dollars a month. It gets more oil than it needs, and sells the surplus. That makes Cuba perhaps the only importer that prefers high oil prices. Venezuelan support is thought to be worth 12-20 percent of Cuba’s GDP.

Recently, the arrangement has wobbled. Low prices have slashed Cuba’s profit from the resale of oil. Venezuela, whose oil-dependent economy is shrinking, is sending less of the stuff. Figures from PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, suggest that it shipped 40 percent less crude oil to Cuba in the first quarter of 2016 than it did during the same period last year. Austerity, though less savage than in the 1990s, is back. Cuba’s cautious economic liberalisation may suffer.

The regime ought to be worried indeed–but help is on the way, suggests The Economist:

Tourism has surged since the United States loosened travel restrictions in 2014, which will partially offset the loss of Venezuelan aid.

So that’s where the ABA—remember, “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice”—comes in. This vicious, repressive regime depended on the Soviets, and then the Venezuelans, and may now depend on American tourists.

Will it be enough? One cannot know. One can only know that the American Bar Association wants to lend a hand.

This is unconscionable, and in fact no American should be lending a hand to oppression in Cuba. No Americans should be dancing and dining their way through Cuba, enjoying the beaches and the architecture while those struggling for freedom lie in prison.

That American lawyers are willing to do this, and that their main professional association wants to promote it, is a sad reflection on the profession. If the ABA said we want our members to visit if and only if they can do something to promote liberty and law and human rights in Cuba, such visits might be a genuine contribution.

Perhaps the ABA has secretly done this and actually all these trips do include spending time with dissidents and pressing officials to respect the rights of the Cuban people. I wouldn’t place a lot of money on that wager. If it has not, it is betraying the cause of justice and assisting the most repressive regime in the Western Hemisphere.

That isn’t “Defending Liberty” or “Pursuing Justice.” It’s shameful.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

 

A visit to Cuba is like a trip to prison

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Observer-Dispatch

You say you would like to go to Philadelphia for the Fourth? Do you have permission to leave your home town? You do? Then do you have permission from Philadelphia to visit?

Oh, you also want to go to Cuba in September? In other words, you want to go to jail?

This is how I react when people rave to me about Cuba. Maybe they have visited. Maybe they have read propaganda from Cuba.

And this is how I think when I read about the Pope’s visit to Cuba. And when I see stuff about the president’s visit and schmoozes with the Castros. And when I see anything from anyone who cozies up with anything to do with communism.
Sure, Cuba has its charms. Sure, many Cubans enjoy many things about life there. And how about those cigars? Don’t forget the cool music.

Ahh, but those who sing Cuba’s praises overlook a simple sobering fact: Cuba is a type of prison. The prisoners are most of the Cuban people.

This is true of China as well, although China has certainly loosened its controls over its people over the last few decades.

If you feel like shooting off to Bermuda, you can. Book your flight today. Fly next weekend. If you happen to be Cuban you cannot shoot off to Bermuda. Try to and there may be another type of shooting — with you as the target.

The Cuban government owns you. It imprisons you. It tells you whether you can leave Cuba. And by the way, it also tells you who your leader is. You have no voice and no choice in this. One man has chosen himself to be your leader since the late 50’s. He decided a few years ago to let his brother be your leader. Nice of him.

Imagine being owned by a government. Imagine if Obama told you today he has decided to remain as your president for the next 30 years. After that he will let his wife rule you.

Imagine that if you managed to escape this country the family you left behind would suffer. They might get booted from their homes or demoted in their jobs.

This is what happens when Cubans risk their lives to sail to Florida on jury-rigged rafts and boats.

In China in the 80’s people needed permission from authorities to leave their town or city to visit Mom in another city. They needed permission from authorities in Mom’s city to enter.

Those who sing the praises of countries under communism ignore such. They tell us the hotels were modern. They tell us the people are so friendly and so happy. You should learn about their healthcare, they tell us.

You should learn about their jails, I suggest. That is where Cubans and Chinese land if they try to exercise what we regard as basic freedoms.

Ronald Reagan had the courage to cry out for the prisoners of communism. He called the Soviet Union an evil empire. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” he demanded. I call this courageous. Because his advisers insisted he not say such things. Leaders and critics around the world attacked him.

I call this courageous because neither the Pope nor President Obama dares say the same today. Imagine how inspiring either could have been in Havana if he had sung out “Mr. Castro, open the gates of this prison!”

For years much of the world censured and isolated South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) because whites subjugated blacks in those countries. Today the same countries approve of the slavery in Cuba. Cuba is a slave state, pure and simple.

By not speaking out about the slavery, President Obama and the Pope give tacit approval. Leaders around the world are just as guilty. It is pitiful that speaking up for the most basic freedoms requires such courage. Yes, pitiful.

Tom Morgan is a veteran columnist whose column appears weekly in the Observer-Dispatch. Contact him at tomasinmorgan@yahoo.com.

Carnival cruise to Cuba discriminates against a class of Americans

carnivalapartheid1

En Español Martí Noticias

Fabiola Santiago, The Miami Herald

Cuban government: Cuban-Americans need not apply for cruises

Carnival refuses bookings, says they don’t set the rules

Would they ban blacks, Jews or any other class of U.S. citizen if Cuba asked?

Imagine a cruise line that won’t take African Americans on sailings to Africa. Or won’t take bookings from American Jews to Israel. One class of U.S. citizen banned while others get access. No company in contemporary America would ever survive such blunt discriminatory business practices.

But that’s exactly what Carnival Corporation is doing in cahoots with the Cuban government and with the endorsement of the U.S. Treasury — banning Cuban Americans from its upcoming cruises to the island starting May 1.

“They’re imposing repressive Cuban laws on American citizens,” says Maria de los Angeles Torres, a respected expert on Cuba and a longtime pro-engagement and anti-embargo academic who directs Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “It’s like they’re bringing Cuban law here.”

Torres also happens to be a Cuban American, sent to the United States as a child during the Pedro Pan exodus. She has been traveling to Cuba since 1978 to visit family and for academic research. But despite all her liberal credentials, in the age of engagement she has been refused a place on the Carnival cruises to Cuba.

“We didn’t build bridges to have others close them,” she tells me.

The Carnival Cruise Line website beckons: “Be the first to cruise to Cuba in over 50 years. Visit our sister Fathom Travel and reserve your spot now.” There’s not one mention that Cuban Americans need not apply. I’m a believer in free travel, so I proceeded to book an October sail, my U.S. passport in hand.
The itinerary promises a seven-day cruise with stops and off-shore excursions in Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba, plus all the bells and whistles of cruising. Only difference is that “cultural immersion” and designated “people-to-people” activities are mandatory, allegedly by U.S. Treasury design. I say allegedly because Cuba’s official travel office imposes or approves itineraries. They decide with whom travelers “engage.” Propaganda-peddling at its best.

Reason enough to ditch Cuba travel, but I continued booking with a Fathom agent who merrily took my personal information, put me on a waiting list for a $2,470 ocean view room and assured me I’d be generously upgraded if no one canceled. Even that far out in advance, only expensive balcony ($3,150 a passenger) and suites ($7,350 a passenger) were available. Port fees are an additional $283 per passenger. Carnival and Cuba are making a nice profit. Discrimination seems to be working for them.

After the agent said that my deposit was due in 24 hours, I asked the usual consumer questions: What happens if there’s a hurricane? I’ll get my money back or be rebooked. Finally, we get around to the passport. When I tell her it says I was born in Cuba, she asked me to hold. She returned to read me a statement from the legal department: “Current Cuban law prohibits Cuban-born individuals from entering Cuba via ship or other sea vessel, regardless of U.S. citizenship status. For that reason, at the present time, Fathom cannot accommodate Cuban-born individuals.”

Just like that, my booking was canceled.

Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell tells me that the cruise line is “just following the laws that have been set up. We have requested a change in policy, which has not yet been granted, but our hope and intention is that we can travel with everybody. We will continue to have conversations [with Cuba] and that’s the process we would work through.”

I ask him if Carnival would have been willing to take cruise ships to South Africa during the apartheid era and not carry black people because that was the law.

He repeats that Carnival follows the laws of the countries it travels to. I guess that means the answer is yes.

Forty-seven years in this country, 36 as a U.S. citizen, a voter — and I cannot sail on an American cruise ship because Cuba says so.

Now I know how Cubans felt when they arrived in 1960s Miami and found signs like this on rentals: “No blacks. No Cubans. No dogs.” Or no Jews.

I suppose you can call it progress that at least Carnival isn’t agreeing to ban African Americans or Jews.

Something precious is lost when a foreign government dictates what kinds of U.S. citizens can sail out of the Port of Miami.