Cubans Question Restrictions on Access to Tourist Areas

By Daniel Benitez  (Cafe Fuerte)

Control point at the entrance to the Moron tourist resort area. Photo: Invasor.
Control point at the entrance to the Moron tourist/beach area. Photo: Invasor.

HAVANA TIMES — Free access to beaches and tourist facilities in Cuba’s northern keys is now being demanded by the population of a country where economic changes are prompting more and more difficult – and explicit – questions about citizen rights.

The beaches located in the northern keys of the province of Ciego de Avila, in the Moron region, have become areas restricted to Cubans living on the island, who require authorization from government officials or must “buy” access at three Convertible Cuban Pesos (CUC).

The measure does not apply to foreigners and Cubans living abroad, who can enter freely and are only required to present their IDs at the control and sales point of the Empresa Cubana de Turismo (CUBATUR) in the municipality of Moron.

There, at the entrance to the keys, a voucher affording users 2 CUC in products sold at the beach is sold, and a third CUC gives visitors permission to continue on their way. Those who do not purchase this voucher or do not come from abroad, however, see their wish to spend a day at the beach end at this control point.

Letter of Authorization

The alternative is obtaining a letter of authorization, which can be issued by a mere eight government officials: the First Secretary of the Provincial Communist Party headquarters, the chair or vice-chair of the Provincial People’s Power Assembly, the head of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) office in the province or the MININT official assigned to the keys or the First Secretary of the Moron Party headquarters, with the co-signature of local government chair or vice-chair for the locality.

This bureaucratic nightmare has caught the attention of the weekly periodical Invasor, which has described the hardships faced by those seeking to spend a day at the beach in an extensive report.

One case involved a woman who requested a letter of authorization in January (and later in May) to avoid having to pay 3 CUC. Her request was turned down by a receptionist at the provincial house of government, who informed her these letters are only issued during the summer.

Apparently, people who are not employed by any State institution have a harder time, as the application requires the name of the person, the date of the trip, the license plate of the vehicle, the number of people visiting the beach and the State entity one works in.

In her statements for the provincial newspaper, vice-chair of the provincial government Nohemi Iglesias alleged that access to the keys is restricted owing to limited capacity and because the area is not designed to receive large numbers of visitors outside the months of July and August. The curious thing is that only Cubans face such restrictions or are required to pay, not foreigners.

On “Instructions from Above”

Iglesias claims those are the “instructions handed down from above,” but the Council of State bureau responsible for the keys, from Villa Clara to Camaguey, denies any such instruction and insists that the norms governing entrance to the keys are defined by local governments.

Though all Cubans are entitled to unrestricted access to public beaches under the constitution, access to these keys is regulated by Resolution 113, passed on March of 2014, which allows for the admission fee of 3 CUC, or 75 Cuban pesos at the current exchange rate.

The Ministry of Tourism representative in the province, Iyolexis Correa, says that the admission fee is optional. “There’s nothing in writing saying that one has to buy a voucher from MINTUR to access the beaches,” the official claims.

The periodical points out, however, that anywhere from 10 to 20 people are barred daily from entering the key area when they do not have the permit and refuse to pay this “optional” fee.

Though a manuscript titled Regulations Governing Measures Controlling Access to the North Keys is currently being studied, the rights of those required to secure authorization or pay for access to the beaches continues to be violated.

The chief prosecutor at the Citizens’ Rights Department of the Provincial District Attorney’s Office, Neisa Garcia, acknowledged in a local television program that no one had approached her office to register a complaint in this connection.

11 thoughts on “Cubans Question Restrictions on Access to Tourist Areas

  • Haha! I remember that. She took a stand for gay rights. Oooooh!

  • Yeah…., the same when the only opposed vote in Parliament came from Castro daughter…

  • The situation in Canada is a lot more complicated than you describe. Any body of water large enough to be deemed navigable is Crown Land, owned by the federal government. Since the water level in many lakes and rivers will rise and fall over the years, the water’s edge in any given month can change. The actual “waterfront” boundary is a line defined by the first line of permanent vegetation. That’s obviously open to interpretation and was set by Provincial surveyors decades ago. Beyond that line is a road allowance of 66 feet, which is under the jurisdiction of the county. But the county rarely if ever opens these road allowances, and over the decades the cottage owners build on these lands. It’s not uncommon to find quite valuable cottages, bunks and boathouses built on country & provincially owned land adjacent to the privately owned lot.

    Absolutely any beach along the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water including the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts are 100% public access, even if somebody with a house next to it tries to tell you otherwise.

    I noticed the difference between the way the police or security guards on Cuban beaches treat locals and how they treat locals in Jamaica. In Cuba, the guards tend to take a very hard line and escort the Cubans off the beaches and away from the tourists (although not always, and if the Cubans stay close to the shore and aren’t aggressive, they are sometimes tolerated in some locations). In higher end resorts, the Cubans are kept well away.

    In Jamaica, the guards take a cut from the local Jamaicans, in return for which they are allowed to approach the tourists to offer goods & services, both legal or not. I suspect the same practice holds true in Mexico.

  • It is funny how all of you didn’t know about the apartheid in Cuba. Oh well..

  • Some animals are more equal than other animals.

  • There are 1000’s of km of coastline in Cuba, why do locals need to access where the tourists are at high season? Most of the best beaches are public anyway. Visitors pay for all the freebies they get & usually the taxes are more than the cost of the vacation -not 3CUC. Locals should understand that tourist activity sustains their collective existence & not be so self important. Visitors to these areas need to feel safe & carefree, not have their stuff vanish from the beach if they dare go for a swim (with their relatives or whatever). The only reason for certain locals to access an area designed to be tourist mecca may be to fill the trunk with whatever can fit into a beach bag. Personally, I am sick of losing sunglasses, transistor radios, towels & wrecking my camera & wallet by getting them wet.

  • I live in Canada where people have been allowed to purchase land to the water’s edge thereby restricting access to the waterfront. Yes there are many public beaches, but I believe this is one thing we got wrong. Waterfront should be accesible to everyone, not just people rich enough to buy it. We have visited Cuba many times and have never been harassed on the beaches like in Mexico. The beaches belong to the Cuban people and they should have unfettered access.

  • One of the highlights of my many Cuban is to meet the people, whom I consider to be genuinely friendly and helpful, please reverse this silly decision and not lose sight of what the revolution was all about, to give Cuba back to the Cuban’s.

  • The debate concerning Cuban people being able to use the beaches freely, should not even be on the agenda. Cuba belongs to the cuban people . so why is this an issue?
    As a tourist who has visited Cuba several times now, and enjoyed myself on each vacation, then i shall tell you what i expect as a tourist whilst on vacation. A good standard and comfortable hotel, civility and good service decent/good food. decent transport links. decent beaches with an adequate amount of sun loungers and deck chairs available, good and varied entertainment at the hotel at all times. Here is what i have experienced during my last holiday in Cuba, at the weekend the hotel was literally invaded by local people, nothing wrong with that , except the place was manic and sorry i would not return to this place again, during the week it was magic however at the weekend it was manic, sorry but that is how it was!.

  • Very good article.

  • If it is to be believed, the news story here is that a Castro-controlled weekly periodical has publicly criticized a Castro-government policy.

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