Cuba People to People | Marco Rubio wake up call to Obama Administration
This all started with Senator Marco Rubio who recently slammed the Obama administrations travel openings in the United States senate. Here is an excerpt of his floor speech:
“When I look at this stuff, you know what I want to say? Come on, man! This is about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba? This is not about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba. This is nothing more than tourism. This is tourism for Americans that, at best, are curious about Cuba and, at worst, sympathize with the Cuban regime”
“Now, you may ask, ‘we’re a free society, why would we restrict that?’ Well, here’s why: because this is not just a source of irritation. This is a source of hard currency, of millions of dollars in the hands of the Castro government that they use to oppress the Cuban people”
So what is Mr. Rubio implying? Where does he get his facts from and, if Cuba is apparently promoting broader self employment and allowing competition into their market, how can Mr. Rubio claim that US dollars go straight to the Castro Government? The answers are, as soon as President Obama implemented the changes the Cuban Government did the following:
1. It banned outright any travel agency in Cuba from dealing with Americans.
2. It ordered Cuba´s MINTUR (Ministry of Tourism) to caution, in writing, all foreign owned and controlled agencies, both inside and outside Cuba, that they were forbidden from booking Americans. These include our fellow Canadian or Mexican agencies that would have been a logical choice for Americans to use due to proximity.
3. It imposed stiff penalties against foreign travel agencies which, would result in the loss of their licenses if they helped a single American to visit Cuba.
4. It set up separate divisions of the government controlled travel agencies Havanatur, San Cristobal and Cubatur to deal exclusively with American bookings.
The above measures were swiftly implemented and were designed to guarantee that every single American dollar derived from the changes implemented by the Obama administration would go straight to government coffers. Americans who called agencies in Toronto Canada were turned away, even though, when visiting on a general license is legal for them, the Canadian agency had been banned from selling to (and thus receiving commission from) American tourists.
So, the moment the door opened, the Cuban government slammed it shut and banned all of its allies in the Travel industry from selling to Americans, literally overnight. Basically, shunning these long time allies and stifling any chance they had of capitalizing on the emerging American market.
The Cuban government’s back peddling in this regard is not new however. Just last month, our article concerning stiff new taxes designed to put those who chose self employment, prior to the Pope´s revisit to Cuba this year, deliberately put them out of business. Another set of broken promises for the Cuban people to deal with.
Consequently, Mr. Rubio appears to have a point. Once again, just as soon as an olive branch was thrust forth by the American Administration, Raul Castro ordered that the whole nascent US travel market be placed directly under government control. Eliminating commissions to travel agents worldwide and, out-and-out barring Canadian, French, Spanish and British agencies, located in Cuba, from benefiting in the bonanza.
For many in the travel industry this is simply more of the same and, a sure fire sign that, if/when US citizens can visit Cuba again, the move will be accompanied by the blanket cancellation of licenses across the board for international travel companies based in Cuba, as the Castro government scrambles to encircle and then monopolize the whole market, banishing all those who had waited in vain for this eventuality.
As a final note for those who still don´t get what Mr. Rubio was stating.
“This is a source of hard currency, of millions of dollars in the hands of the Castro government”
So, not only “in the hands” but, the Cuban government actively moved to ban all other participation, domestic and international by limiting the freedoms of foreign travel agencies, shunning travel professionals worldwide and in Cuba who attempted to derive minimal commissions from the sale of officially contracted Cuban travel services like Hotels, Car Rentals and Tour packages.
Despite Mr. Obama´s better judgement, It seems that absolute and unadulterated control is still the order of the day from his counterpart in Havana