Trump´s Measures On Cuba

Published in Spanish in El Nuevo Herald on 11-15-2017 (Translated by CubaCívica)

We were expecting them. The strange thing is that they took so long. A few months ago, President Donald Trump had announced that the change the rules regarding travel to Cuba. His motives are to destroy everything that was done by the Obama administration, and to please a few politicians and part of the Cuban-American community. In doing so, he believes he will be able to count on the first group in Congress, and on the second, at the ballot box. It is ironic that the new rules whose expressed intention is to jeopardize the Cuban military and favor Cuba’s self-employed people (cuentapropistas) were announced the very same day Trump was in China, all the while ignoring that country’s human rights violations, as well as its barely ethical business practices, both of which he had denounced so often during his campaign.

President Trump announces his new policy towards Cuba surrounded by Cuban-Americans in Miami in June 2017

Relations between the White House and the State Department are not good. There has been a 60% reduction in the number of U.S. ambassadors, and applications for employment with the Foreign Service are down by 50%. There are numerous, important positions that remain vacant. I don’t know if that could be one of the reasons the new measures regarding travel to Cuba are so ridiculous. Even if the Treasury Department is issuing them, it would be logical for it to take the advice from foreign relations experts under consideration.

On the one hand, the first extremely obvious item is the publication of a detailed list of hotels where Americans should not stay, and of products, including even soft drinks, they should not consume because they allegedly benefit the economic interests of the military and former members of the armed forces. On the other hand, a series of services controlled by the Cuban State are accepted and promoted. When American tourists were able to travel alone, they were likely to have many more opportunities to interact with Cuban people than they will from now on, when going in groups. The manner in which these official rules are now written the end result will be exactly the opposite of the original intention was.

The new regulations prohibit tourist from consuming some soft drinks, like “Cachito.” When tourists from any country spend money in Cuba, part of it irremediably goes to the State, and part of it circulates amongst Cubans. There is no doubt that the government benefits from the very moment a currency exchange turns dollars or Euros into convertible currency. However, paladar owners, taxi drivers, waiters, musicians, those who rent rooms in private homes, and many, many more, also benefit from this. Even if someone stays at a hotel that is now forbidden, it may still help the military who are now technocrats, but it will also help the hotel’s employees, who receive better salaries, tips, and the benefit of reading some forgotten magazine left by a guest, or hearing stories from some other guest about what life is like in his or her country.

The new regulations prohibits tourists consuming some soft drinls, such as”Cachito”

When tourists from any country spend money in Cuba, part of it irremediably goes to the State, and part of it circulates amongst Cubans. There is no doubt that the government benefits from the very moment a currency exchange turns dollars or Euros into convertible currency. However, paladar owners, taxi drivers, waiters, musicians, those who rent rooms in private homes, and many, many more, also benefit from this. Even if someone stays at a hotel that is now forbidden, it may still help the military who are now technocrats, but it will also help the hotel’s employees, who receive better salaries, tips, and the benefit of reading some forgotten magazine left by a guest, or hearing stories from some other guest about what life is like in his or her country.

Tourists lunch at El callejón del peluquero.

The more people travel to Cuba, the more the island’s self-employed will prosper. These economic benefits separate the individual from the State because he or she no longer depends on the miserly salary earned at a previously owned stall; he or she also feels freer, in every sense. I’ll say it again: far from benefiting the Cuban people, the current measures hurt them.

The humblest of the self-employed, the bicitaxi driver, benefits from tourism. Photos by Uva de Aragón

There’s more. While we Cuban-Americans can freely travel to the island, U.S. citizens cannot. I believe this is a form of discrimination that has gone on for years, one that should infuriate any American citizen. I fear, however, that soon, there will be new regulations that will also limit travel for those born in the Pearl of the Antilles.

I would like for those who read this column to think on what possible objective these measures might have, since they are cumbersome, difficult to implement, limits the rights of Americans, and no doubt are overwhelmingly detrimental to the Cuban people, who already endure too many scarcities.

Perhaps the Cuban-American politicians who have urged President Trump to make these changes are not really in tune with the community that elected them. It would suffice for them to read surveys conducted by Florida International University (FIU). For example, last year, 67% of Cuban-American voters favored unrestricted travel to Cuba for Americans. I am hopeful that those voters will clearly communicate this to the next election’s candidates.

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Esta entrada fue publicada en Actualidad norteamericana, Cubanoamericanos, Cubanos famosos, Derechos humanos, Diáspora cubana, Economía cubana, Elecciones 2016, Estudios sobre Cuba, Historia de Cuba, Historia de Estados Unidos, Mi columna semanal, Miami, Política en Estados Unidos, Realidad cubana, Reconciliación de los cubanos, Viajes, Vida en Cuba, Vida en Estados Unidos. Guarda el enlace permanente.

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