Cuba Has Tourism Dilemma over Passports

Havana reinforces valid documentation requirement for travelers from the USA

Cuban immigration check at the Havana International Airport

HAVANA TIMES — Travel agencies selling tickets from the United States to Cuba are trying to prevent Cubans with expired passports from boarding planes to the island, after the Cuban government hardened its requirement on revalidated passports, reports Daniel Garcia Marco from the dpa news agency.

The measure mainly affects hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans that under the Obama administration have been traveling annually to Cuba.

“There is a policy that says the documents have to be up to date. Until now Cuban immigration was turning a blind eye, letting the Cuban Americans enter with expired documents. Now they say that you must meet the resolution,” Santiago Castro, president of the Association of Travel Agencies to Cuba, headquartered in Miami, told dpa news.

“We have canceled many trips and we are calling on passengers to not go to airports and for them to come in and collect their money,” Castro said.

The agencies that organize charter flights to Cuba from the United States received on Thursday a letter from Havanatur, the Cuban state tourism agency, which now requires charter services to not let passengers board their planes with expired documentation, under a warning of penalties. However Havanatur did say that the entry of travelers to the island will not be prevented.

“We received information from the immigration authorities of Cubans residing in the United States arriving to Cuba without the required extension on their expired passports,” reads the letter from Havanatur, sent to travel agencies on Thursday.

The letter stated that the new requirement is immediately in effect and that the travel agencies will face penalties if they allow passengers with outdated passports to board planes. “Passengers arriving in this condition will be accepted in Cuba and the charter company will be penalized under current legislation.”

Cuba issues passports valid for six years but requires an extension to be purchased every two years. Until Thursday, the country had accepted the entry of travelers without the revalidations if they obtained them in Havana, due to problems providing the service at the Cuban consulate in Washington.

“The big problem is that the consulate does not provide consular services, so people have no way to get their papers in order,” said Santiago Castro.

Cuba announced in February a new suspension of consular services in the United States due to the “impossibility” of finding a new bank to handle the accounts of its diplomatic mission. The former bank used closed the Cuban Interests Section accounts on March 1.

Outside one of Havana’s Airport terminals.

The Cuban delegation argues that it cannot find a bank based in the United States to assume the bank accounts of the Cuban diplomatic missions because of “the restrictions derived from the policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba by the US government.”

The US government has said repeatedly that it is “actively” working with the Cuban Interests Section to find a new bank, but after several months nothing has been achieved.

The hardening of Cuban law, joined with the closing of services from the consulate in Washington, could begin to have a serious impact on the arrival of travelers from Florida to Cuba, which had reached record levels during the first quarter of 2014 with 173,550 visitors, according to a Miami based consulting firm.

Shortly after the Cuban revolution of 1959, and the subsequent expropriation of US companies, Washington imposed an economic and commercial embargo on Cuba that has been maintained now for over a half century. The US policy also impedes ordinary US citizens from traveling to Cuba without a special Treasury Dept. license.

The Obama administration did open up travel for Cuban Americans in 2009, but continues to restrict travel by the rest of US citizens, who can only go legally if they join licensed people-to-people tours. These junkets can cost several thousand dollars for a week or two on the island, far beyond what the cost would be under normal travel conditions.


33 thoughts on “Cuba Has Tourism Dilemma over Passports

  • May 2, 2014 at 7:58 am
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    Your innuendo won’t change the facts.
    Links to news reports that show a solution was offered have been posted various times. Your denials are disingenuous.

  • May 2, 2014 at 2:34 am
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    Humberto already posted a link to one article stating that what you seem to “ignore”.
    So have I.

    Since you keep denying the facts, here it is again.

    “We are disappointed in this action, given that we had helped the
    mission identify a workable solution to its consular fee processing
    needs with ample time for its implementation,’’ said a State Department
    spokesperson. “That the Cuban Interests Section has not effectively
    pursued this option will result in hardship to Cuban and U.S. citizen
    travelers alike.”

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/20/3949521/us-says-it-offered-cuba-a-solution.html#storylink=cpy
    “U.S. says it offered Cuba a solution to banking dilemma”, By Mimi Whitefield
    [email protected],
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/20/3949521/us-says-it-offered-cuba-a-solution.html

  • May 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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    To my knowledge, no such proposals have been made by the US regime. They won’t even let the Cubans open an oridinary bank account! For political and economic reasons, they want to stop people going to Cuba. It’s as simple at that.

  • May 1, 2014 at 8:21 am
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    Most countries don’t reject people that have an expired passport to enter their own country. they can do so with an ID card or a drivers license. Entry to third countries depends in most cases on a valid passport if no an valid ID card if agreements exists. In any EU country you can enter back to your own country with a valid ID card for example.
    Cuba demands not just a valid ID but a passport for its own citizens to reenter. That is an aberration motivated by greed.

  • May 1, 2014 at 8:17 am
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    Your lies and innuendo won’t change the facts.
    As the bank explained the service wasn’t profitable.
    There is indeed no embargo in Canada and just like the regime has sites there that sell food, electronics… to Cuba they can have a US or Cuban citizen pay buy internet for any services.
    Easy enough, but then the regime doesn’t seem interested in resolving the issue.

  • April 30, 2014 at 10:29 pm
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    “Commercial reasons?” You mean the US regime made the bank an “offer” they couldn’t refuse.

    There is no embargo in Canada. And no regime bent on overthrowing the Cuban government at absolutely any cost. Thus, there is no “crisis” in Canada. The entire problem in the US is with your political masters.

  • April 30, 2014 at 10:21 pm
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    Your own quote lacks the word ‘genocide’. Did you just decide to include that yourself to puff up your argument? Now you say “a form of genocide”. Do you understand what that word means? It is either genocide or it is not. Your AI quote says NOT. Speaking of AI, guess where they stand on Cuba’s hostage Alan Gross? jus’ saying….

  • April 30, 2014 at 10:16 pm
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    All your papers — passports, visas, etc. — have to be in order to get into any country. Not even spelling mistakes are allowed. Obviously, there is no problem for Cubans residing in Canada returning home (thanks Soyyo!), or anywhere else but in the US. Political maneuvering and arm-twisting by the US regime is entirely to blame.

  • April 30, 2014 at 10:10 pm
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    The US regime had nothing to do with it? Yeah, right!

    If the regime really did offer to be Cuba’s banker — I’ve seen no indication of that — I have to wonder what conditions they demanded that the private bank didn’t. What’s your source, or are you just making this up as you go, Moses?

  • April 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm
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    read up: Cubans are refused entry to their own country without the “proroga” (extension) of their passport. In the past they were provided they extended their passport afterwards. The whole problem has nothing to do with Canada. It has become impossible to extend your passport in the US due to the decision of the interest section in Washington and the subsequent decision of the Cuban authorities not to allow Cubans without the “proroga”, impossible to obtain in the US, to enter Cuba.

  • April 30, 2014 at 5:24 pm
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    Moses is right. Neither the UN nor Amnesty International – nor any other respectable international organization – has ever supported your claim that the trade sanctions are “genocide”.
    Article C of the convention requires an “intent to destroy” people. there is non on the part of the US government to destroy the Cuban people. the best proof is that the US is the source of most of the 5 billion dollars in remittances that do in fact keep the Cuban people alive. The US also sells all the food and medicines to Cuba that Cuba wants to buy and can pay for.
    As far as genocide goes: Genocide Watch put the Castro regime on their list.

  • April 30, 2014 at 5:19 pm
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    The bank was not forced by the US government to end the relationship.
    It did so for commercial reasons.
    Passports could be easily processes using cash or even one of the multiple trading website Cuba has in Canada.
    The regime even was offered a relationship with a new bank but refused.
    It are your “political masters”, I have none, that created the crisis as I have shown.

  • April 30, 2014 at 2:24 pm
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    The US did not prohibit anyone from working with the Castros. The bank made a business decision that to continue to provide services to Cuba was not worth the risk of being subject to violating the embargo. It is assumed that the US was willing to provide banking services directly to the Cuban Interests Section office. Cuba refused this offer.

  • April 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm
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    Not “window dressing” at all. Amnesty International has all but called for the arrests of the perpetrators of these cruel and inhumane sanctions of yours. They report:

    “The US government is acting CONTRARY to the Charter of the United Nations by restricting the direct import of medicine and medical equipment and supplies, and by imposing those restrictions on companies operating in third countries.”

    “The RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY THE EMBARGO help to deprive Cuba of vital access to medicines, new scientific and medical technology, food, chemical water treatment and electricity.”

    “UN agencies working in Cuba, such as the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, continued [as of AI’s 2013 report] to report the negative effects of the US embargo on the health of the population, particularly members of marginalized groups. Access to specific commodities, equipment, medicines and laboratory materials remained scarce as a result of restrictions imposed on the importation of items manufactured by US companies and their subsidiaries or produced under US patents.”

    (AI website)

    Makes you proud, don’t it, Moses? Call it the elephant in the room, but morally and legally, this makes your beloved embargo a form of genocide. (See Article 2c of the UN Genocide Convention of 1948) Whatever it takes, right, Moses?

  • April 30, 2014 at 1:17 pm
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    The bank the Cubans were using was suddenly forced by the US regime to close the Cubans’ account making it impossible to process the passports of to processed. The details of the regime’s proposed “solution” was not disclosed, but the Cubans didn’t go for it. Blame your political masters. Get them to leave that bank alone and everything will be back to normal.

  • April 30, 2014 at 11:19 am
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    They are allowed to return, their issue will then become, to get out, a visit to the local consulate a couple of stamps after the lineup and you are good to go. I reside in Canada and I’m a Canadian citizen as well as Cuban citizen and I have never been able to get in or out of either country without my 2 valid passports, so big Deal is part of the traveling hype!!

  • April 30, 2014 at 7:59 am
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    Exactly what “services” did this regime bent on overthrowing the Cuban government by any means necessary offer them after suddenly making it impossible for them to process the passports of US residents? Why did the US regime suddenly, after all these years, not allow the US bank in question to continue to service the Cuban account?

  • April 30, 2014 at 7:44 am
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    The UN vote is window dressing. While this annual ‘wrist slap’ condemns the US embargo, it does not use the word “genocide” in that condemnation. You have misused this word to promote your propaganda and it simply does not fit this situation. Readers of HT understand this even if you don’t.

  • April 30, 2014 at 7:10 am
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    As all press accounts show the problem was created by the Castro regime:
    – they rejected banking solutions
    – they denied access to returning Cubans.

  • April 30, 2014 at 7:09 am
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    In reality the US has offered services to the Cuban consulate.
    “U.S. says it offered Cuba a solution to banking dilemma
    By Mimi Whitefield
    [email protected]
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/20/3949521/us-says-it-offered-cuba-a-solution.html

    Cuba changed its policy making it impossible for Cubans and tourist to enter the island.
    “Cuban government halts some travelers to island”, By Juan O. Tamayo
    [email protected],
    http://cubadata.blogspot.ca/

  • April 29, 2014 at 11:29 pm
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    Perhaps this “solution” was exactly what the US regime had in mind when it suddenly decided to make it impossible for the Cuban consulate to process passports in the US.

  • April 29, 2014 at 11:19 pm
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    Don’t forget that it is the US regime that upset the status quo after all the years by suddenly making it impossible for the Cuban consulate to update the passports of their citizens residing in the US. You don’t have to be paranoid to suspect some deeper political motive.

  • April 29, 2014 at 10:31 pm
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    As it says in the article, Cuban Americans are stuck because of your beloved embargo. It is not unreasonable to require them to have valid Cuban passports especially given the virtual state of war that exists between the two countries.

  • April 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm
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    No “blather,” Moses. And it’s not just us lefties. Your closest allies at the UN and groups like Amnesty International have repeatedly over the past 20+ years condemned these cruel and inhumane sanctions of yours. If even they aren’t buying into your endlessly repeated rationalizations here, why should readers here?

  • April 29, 2014 at 10:29 am
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    Obviously you haven’t been paying attention. In a nutshell, given the increase in US tourists, the total remittances, and the various exceptions to the embargo which permit the sale of food, medicines, and equipment from the US to Cuba, the whole “genocidal” blather to describe US sanctions is ridiculous. Cuba trades with anyone they choose to trade with, including China and Brazil. Hardly justification for a “siege mentality”.

  • April 29, 2014 at 9:45 am
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    But all countries are obliged to accept their returning citizens. That is the issue
    Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rigths:
    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
    (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a14

    Cubans now are stuck in the US because the Cuban consulate does not issue extensions and the regime doesn’t let them return to their own country

  • April 28, 2014 at 1:24 pm
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    Cubans are oddly unique in the that they have been the targets of a half-century of genocidal US trade sanctions and endless campaigns of US sabotage and subversion. You will have to excuse their “siege mentality.”

  • April 28, 2014 at 6:32 am
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    Everywhere else in the world, travelers are permitted to use the passport of their choice. Cubans are oddly unique in that they are required to use their Cuban passport despite what other valid passports they may hold. It is an odd policy based on an unfounded paranoia.

  • April 27, 2014 at 8:25 pm
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    So what? No country is obliged to admit any visitor.Entry is entirely at the discretion of border authorities in every country.

  • April 27, 2014 at 9:21 am
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    You are ignoring that despite the fact my wife has a valid American passport, Cuba requires that she enter Cuba with her Cuban passport.

  • April 26, 2014 at 10:03 pm
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    Just try to get into ANY country, especially the USA, with an expired passport!

  • April 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm
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    According to several articles there was a “solution” offered by the US but the Castro “government” did not like it! Would be good to find out what it was to clarify this situation!

    WASHINGTON, February 23, 2014 CMC – The United States Department
    of State says it had found a “workable solution” to the banking dilemma
    that prompted Cuba to suspend its consular services in the US. But the department claimed that Cuba decided not to pursue it.

    “We are disappointed in this action, given that we had helped the mission identify a workable solution to its consular fee processing needs with ample time for its implementation,” said a State Department spokesperson. “That the Cuban Interests Section has not effectively pursued this option will result in hardship to Cuban and US citizen travelers alike,” she added.

    http://www.antiguaobserver.com/us-offers-cuba-solution-to-banking-woes/

  • April 26, 2014 at 2:18 pm
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    Given the economic value to Cuba, they will find a solution. US domestic political grid lock means that it is Cuba that will need to be innovative.

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