Sweet and Sour Taste as the US Moves into Havana

By Circles Robinson

The newly opened US Embassy in Havana.  Photo: Ismael Francisco/cubadebate.cu
The newly opened US Embassy in Havana. Photo: Ismael Francisco/cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — There were mixed feelings today regarding the official reopening of the US embassy in the Cuban capital and how this might play out in practical terms in the coming weeks and months.

The sweet side includes many who consider themselves part of the traditional political left in the US and in Cuba. They see the raising of the US flag as acknowledgement of a failed US policy of isolating Cuba and the beginning of the end of the embargo, allowing the island some breathing room to try and kick-start its depressed economy.

They are joined by strange bedfellows: corporate America, led by the US Chamber of Commerce and many large corporations. This group sees Cuba as one more new market for their investments, forever searching for growth. They believe that business is business, and politics should not get in the way.

Both see lifting the embargo and the remaining travel restrictions as key next steps for improvement. They are joined by many ordinary Cubans and Cuban-Americans with family on both sides of the Florida Strait.

On the sour side, disaffected Cubans and others on the right are thoroughly disgusted with Obama, believing the administration has capitulated to the Castros, breathing new life into a regime they consider on the brink. They are banking their hopes on the Republican-led US Congress and presidential candidates like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush to pull the rug out from under the rapprochement, either now or later.

These hardliners reject the idea of worthwhile change and reconciliation in Cuba, holding fast to their insistence that the removal of the Castro family and the Communist Party from power represents the only acceptable transformation of the island’s political and economic life.

Yet another segment of the population agree with the opposition’s general call for greater human and civil rights on the island (freedom of speech, the press and association), while having deep reservations about State, military or corporate control over the country’s economy and political life.

Stick with us at Havana Times; we will continue to give a voice to our divergent group of writers and readers.


44 thoughts on “Sweet and Sour Taste as the US Moves into Havana

  • Yes, if you reprise my comments you will find that I have repeatedly written that nothing is intended to change within Cuba. I consistently use the phrase “Castro family regime” because that is what rules Cuba – and does so with an iron fist. Raul Castro has through the military owned GAESA, controlled Cuba’s economy.
    I continue to think that in 2018 there will be an interesting potential conflict between the so-called Government of Diaz-Canel, Murillo and Rodriguez and the Castro family regime (ie: Raul Castro’s family).
    Yes, the oppression will continue and the Cuban people will continue to strive daily for survival.
    I have little optimism that there will be change. On the other hand I look at my four year old God-daughter and find it difficult to think that the regime that has controlled her parents lives will continue to control hers for another fifty six miserable years.
    Lifting the embargo will make little difference to the Cuban people – but it will serve to remove the excuse that the Castro family regime has used constantly to explain their incompetence. It will become evident that it is they that have mismanaged the economy, managed the agricultural sector into disintegration and constantly lied by blaming the embargo. The BIG BAD WOLF will no longer be there to blame.
    I agree with you about the Raul/Kerry relationship. All the movement has come from one side. Raul Castro Ruz as a communist dictator does not change!

  • Carlyle,

    Your clarification confirms that you see the economic reforms introduced by Raul are helping the regime much more than the Cuban people. You are aware that repression has increased over the last few months. Therefore it is only logical to conclude that lifting the embargo without any change to the Cuban political and economic systems, will only serve to continue to enrich the regime, which will continue to oppress the people. How can it be otherwise?

    I have no crystal ball to see what will happen when Fidel dies and Raul retires (or dies) in the next few years. My guess is that the Castro regime will live on under the direction of the next generation – mostly Raul’s side of the family, as Fidel’s sons are less involved in politics. Diaz-Canal may be a figure head, but the real power behind the throne will be Alejandro Castro, currently a Colonel in MININT. As you have noted, the FAR controls the lion’s share of the economy and the senior officers won’t give up the perks & power that come with directorships of state-monopolies. Perhaps at some point they will give up the pretence of belief in the socialist values of the “Revolution” and endorse a policy of privatization, in which, as the only people in Cuba with money, the Castro clan will “buy” the state owned corporations. They will then carry on as the new oligarchs, just as the old communists did in Russia.

    What I don’t see the happening is anything resembling democracy or improved human rights for the Cuban people. The dissident groups have no power and the Obama administration isn’t much interested in what they say. Kerry is far to eager not to offend Raul.

  • Griffin:
    In my opinion the Castro family regime will continue to plunder Cuba irrespective of the embargo being in place or not.
    As you know, many of the contributors to these columns have only restricted knowledge of the reality of life for Cubans existing under the power and control of the regime. They have gleaned some knowledge as tourists but they know naught of the CDR – or who is the President on their block. Others, have only knowledge gleaned from reading having never actually set foot in the beautiful country.
    I try in my contributions to include descriptions of the realities I observe in Cuba when living there as a member of the community – a privilege.
    As an example, you may recall my on a few occasions mentioning the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba. Subsequently Mr. John Goodrich reasonably questioned whether that department existed – and I think he now accepts that it does.
    You may have noted that I have not joined those who think as a consequence of media reports that life in Cuba is changing. Also, my view that in 2018 when Raul Castro Ruz steps down as President and Maduro is potentially no longer in power in Venezuela, that there could be some form of strife between the Castro family regime and the so-called Government (with it’s potential troika of Diaz-Canel, Murillo and Rodriguez). With 80% of the economy directed by a member of the family and the security services controlled by another, it is difficult to believe that they will meekly step aside. Raul Castro Ruz did his best by personally selecting Diaz-Canel but who knows?
    In the portion you quote, I am trying to describe the reality of life for Cubans, rather than reflecting the somewhat pious hopes of others for “change”.
    Hope that clarifies!

  • It’s not the NRA members who are shooting each other. Gun crime is committed by criminals who rarely have legal gun ownership, not by responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

    I would feel much safer in any town in Montana where most adults own legal firearms than I would in Chicago which has a gun ban and thousands of illegally armed criminals. Only a lunatic liberal could believe declaring an area a “gun free zone” will reduce crimes. When that man in Colorado shot up the movie theatre (with an illegally owned gun), of the 8 movie theatres in the area, he chose the only one which had a No Guns Allowed policy. Go figure!

    Incarceration rates are high in the US because conviction rates are alarmingly high and the most common penalties are incarceration. “Tough on crime” attitudes are politically more popular than dealing with the root causes of crime. The high incarceration rates are just one of many problems with the US criminal justice system.

    Above you wrote this:

    “You make another error in suggesting that as in a capitalist society that a “trickle down” effect is possible in Cuba. “Local services” are controlled by the regime not by individuals as in a capitalist society. The shops are all controlled by the military – TRD, CIMEX ETC. Yes, there are some Cubans selling small volumes of clothing and shoes from their homes (they have to buy from the State Importing the goods) and CD’s. Any “new found influx of cash” will go directly to the Castro family regime.”

    The logical conclusion from that is that the regime is getting richer. Daily reports from Cuba show that repression has increased, not decreased since Obama announced his new policy on Cuba. It sure sounds like you think the gradual lifting of the embargo now proceeding under Obama is making the regime richer and more repressive.

    Obama makes the argument that lifting the embargo and allowing US citizens to travel to Cuba will have the effect of making the Cuban people less dependent on the Cuban state, and that this will in turn weaken the Castro regime’s grip on power. The statement you made, & which I quoted above, suggests the opposite is happening. You pointed out that the self-employed remain dependent on the state for licences and wholesale supplies, while paying high taxes, and the people in smaller towns and rural areas are untouched by the new economic opportunities.

    If I drew the wrong conclusion from your statement quoted above, perhaps you could clarify it?

  • I know of several restaurants just off of Neptuno Ave (behind the Telégrafo) that are indeed NOT government owned (or most likely NOT legal)! That is what Americans need to do and what Canadians should be doing NOW! You guys are fore-thinkers! Even traveling to your town. I personally do both Havana and Archipielago de los Jardines de la Reina (to dive professionally OFAC :)). I stay pretty much between the two but REALLY want to spend some time wandering the Sierra Maestra a little farther west and south than I’ve been on the main island……for obvious reasons. 🙂 I can’t wait until Americans (general public) actually learn about the history there. It’s insanely amazing. All most know here is the tired old Miami story. They’ve never been free before to actually find out how really amazing the history is. I’d guess almost all Americans know nothing about the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra AND don’t know that Castro’s group wasn’t the only revolution group. Most even think the revolution was about what you see today. Can’t wait to see the light bulbs go off. 🙂

  • That would put them in the Hilton Family class for Cuba (Owning a tourist hotel). We have to start slow. Like I said earlier, 1000 CUCs ($1000) is 100 years of their annual stipend for just a week (30,000± tax free CUCs). In cuba, that would be HUGE. For me in the US that kind of percentage increase would make the change in my current lifestyle as that of someone making around $15,000,000 for that week. That would change my lifestyle dramatically, even though I think I’m living pretty good now. So, they start small and they will be able to own a hotel, buy weapons in the US and take them back…. Whatever they like. 🙂

  • Thanks! Never heard that (or maybe it just didn’t register when I did).
    Once I, myself realized that advice, it was my zen moment. When that light bulb goes off, you’re pretty much untouchable. The biggest benefit that I found is that when things start spinning out of control in that ever increasing death spiral (like in close combat), you’ve pre-trained your mind for clarity and without the added emotion, the situation around you slows back down a lot. That’s a good thing! In normal life, it also lowers one’s blood pressure! 🙂

  • If most of the country (the US) is crime free, why does it have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. it is contrary to the shooting deaths of 12000 citizens per year to suggest that the overall crime rate is very low. Only adherents of the lunatic NRA could suggest such nonsense. Go figure.
    Regarding the embargo, I have consistently opposed it because it has provided the Castro family regime with an excuse for their policies and incompetence.
    Where have I admitted that lifting the embargo will only serve to enrich the regime and fund further repression? Either prove your statement or withdraw it.

  • Cubans call Americans “yumas”. Interesting advice.

  • Think Berlin wall, in this case. That caught EVERYONE surprised in the US government (including us in the military!) Indeed on the helping locals. I go there 5 times a year (from Hawaii, so I’m United Platinum! 🙂 ) and Venezuela 4 or 5 times a year to piss off Maduro as well (my wife/sig O is an opposition ghost). I have a question that I would like to respectfully ask, because I absolutely wonder about this from only having my US and US military background.

    Being born in Cuba, and still most likely having relatives there, and most likely being male, after spending the formative years of your life in the US and learning our ways of dealing with oppression towards us, why haven’t you taken up arms in Cuba or gone “Islamic” on them? I say that not in a derogatory way but because there really is little real difference between the actions of what an Islamic terrorist would do and what an Americn who is being oppressed would do (at least in my experience). If I had an Uncle, Aunt, Grandmother, Cousin who was being as oppressed as the people are in Cuba for the last 50 years, I’d actually most likely be dead by now…..but so would a lot of oppressors! Why does the flight gene stay so prevalent? In my military experience I’ve only seen flight in Americans twice when fired upon. Again, no disrespect intended, just want to understand. For me as a young Cuban adult now in the US because some bastard killed my relatives, I would have been so pissed I would have joined the US military, went to SEAL or Spec Forces School, (Air Force Special Forces are just “Party Boys”, stay away from them 🙂 ) learned everything about my trade and 4-8 years later been Castro’s worst nightmare and taught him a thing or two about single person ghost gorilla warfare…. in country! 😉

  • Why do you see Gringo and Yank, (never heard of Yumas) as derogatory? Living in Hawaii, I’m also called Haole. Again, I don’t take it as derogatory. It’s interesting, but when you really think about it, it’s our (the receivers) choice to be offended or not. I chose not to give someone that kind of power over how I feel. Think about it for a moment and see if you don’t agree. I personally call Cubans in Cuba, Cubans or the slang “friends” if they are of the general population, my enemy ( or more precisely “the enemy of my friend!”) if they are in the government. So, you have been VERY respectful in my book. All I can advise you is that when you are free again (to travel) go see for yourself what you can do to help them be free too! Again, absolutely no offense taken. I keep that power over me for me. Also, ask yourself if an Aussie or Brit called you a yank, would you be as offended as an Hispanic or Hispanic/black called you a yank. If there is a difference (and only each person can answer that for themselves, there is a much darker (no pun intended) issue at play there.

  • We’re living in a time where the speed of change throughout the world is rapidly growing. In the US,
    the age gap seems to be so far out of whack that for some, a twenty-five year old seems older
    to a sixteen year old mainly due to the internet and of course social media. Regarding economies
    and political systems that too has changed. In the US, if it hadn’t been for government, and yes
    the Federal Reserve is government, infusion of trillions of dollars I believe we would have
    seen some serious social upheaval. That’s speculation so what I’m getting at with regards
    to Cuba is we’re still looking at this with a pair of glasses that could in fact be out of date.
    Cuba will find its change via social media and the capability for Cuban’s to morph into
    their own paradigm that could be a major game changer. The little bit of info I’m getting from
    those who write on this website tells me that most Cuban’s living in Cuba are pleased with their
    health care and educational system and enjoy a relatively safe environment vs. crime infested areas outside of Cuba. They also seem to state that they overall are not motivated, earn really nothing
    and desperately want to connect to the world through the new age of communication. We witnessed this type of radical change in Ireland, once the most Catholic country in the world where the shift
    I mentioned above made them the first to radicalize thinking regarding gay individuals. That would have been unheard of just five years ago. It’s that seismic shift that will happen in Cuba. Might not please everyone but there will be change!

  • Some of your views are mutually contradictory. You oppose the embargo and want it lifted, yet you admit that doing so will only serve to enrich the regime and fund further repression. I dont see the logic or morality of your position.

    By the way, the U.S. laws which allow citizens to own guns is not responsible for the large number of murders. If you look at the statistics, those states with strong gun restrictions have higher gun crime rates than states with less gun control laws. The reason is very simple: criminals commit crimes. These criminals ignore so called “gun free zone” laws. They view gun free zones as prime locations for robbing and shooting people.

    The overall violent crime rate in America is relatively low. In fact most of the country is extreme peaceful and crime free. It is only in a handful of large urban areas where the crime rates are extremely high which drives the national crime statistics higher and makes all the big headlines. Would it surprise you to learn that the urban centres with very high crime rates (Chicago, DC, Washington, Detroit, Ferguson, Baltimore & etc) are all ruled by Democratic politicians? Obama’s Chicago has a gun ban and one of the highest gun crime rates in the country. Go figure!

  • If you think the U.S. Embargo is the problem, consider this: so far this year the Cuban govt owned agency which controls all imports has cut imports from the U.S.

    Levels are on pace for $166 million this year, down from $291million 2014 and $348.7 million from 2013. Shortages in Cuba are not due to the U.S. embargo but are the result of Cuban government policy.

  • While arguing over how much tourist cash will flow to the regime vs the Cuban people in tips, keep in mind the numbers:

    People tip 10% to 15% of the bar bill, dinner etc, $5 or $10 left in the room for the maid who cleaned your room all week. The resort were you stayed gets @ $1000 per week, the tour bus trip was another $100 or $200… Half of that goes to GAESA off the top. Then the foreign resort operator pays the Castro regime $400/m per employee. The employee gets $20/m in Cuban pesos. Castro Inc is raking it in.

    And those tips? The Cuban worker still has to spend it at a dollar store, run by the regime, at inflated prices. Again, the Castro regime gets the lion’s share.

    In summary, a small percentage of the population gets a small increase in their family income but the Castro regime gets a much larger increase in their income. Without a fundamental change in the structure of the economic system, the regime gets richer & more powerful. That’s an economic fact.

  • I was born in Cuba and came here as a child. I’ve been back many times since then. For the most part I agree with you comments, although I’m not so sure how quickly the system will change. As with most systems it has a self preservation mode that will resist loosing power (even violently….think Tienamen Square) But I agree that the more you empower locals (even if it’s just the few who own Casa particulares, paladares, et) the more you encourage civil society and a life outside of the “system”, the harder it will be to roll back changes.

  • If Americans are Gringos, Yumas,Yanks, etc. what should we call Cubans? After all, if we are swapping derogatory labels, we should put some thought into this. Personally, I would be happy to to remain respectful since we are getting all warm and fuzzy again. After all, if American dollars are the presumed salvation of the Cuban economy, can we lose the name-calling?

  • First of all, that’s insane from a US perspective. Delta, American, and United, ALL fly there from at least one major US city. They’re just not listed yet and solely controlled by OFAC and look like charters. I don’t get miles for them so I actually fly normal commercial to Miami so I get my 10,000 miles R/T and then the 90 on whatever OFAC hop I can get from there. If you’re a licensed traveler, you can fly on them. Also, there are hundreds of commercial mom and pop planes (707’s 727’s) that fly there under OFAC’s authorized travel provider program from Miami, Orlando, DC, and New York. Personally, I’d fly a non-US airline only as a last resort (except Copa). Maintenance is pretty suspect. 🙂 Also, Copa has a flight from LAS (Vegas baby) to Havana via PTY. United has one direct HAV from LAX. Sadly, none from HNL where I live.

  • …and that’s 1:$1. It’s getting them to CUPs at 24-30±:$1 for the locals.

  • …and because there are very few Americans there compared with other places, no doubt. Hahahahaha You Canadians are just too nice to say it. That’s why I love you guys! Although you are wrong. You need to stay out of the resorts and stay in people’s houses. It’s easier than you think AND will benefit the Cuban people GREATLY. Do you know what just 1000 CUC’s will do to a Cuban’s personal annual income??? That’s the equivalent to them of 30,000± CUPs! That’s 100+ annual incomes for 1 week of room if you’re as generous as you would be at the resorts. Castro sees whatever they want him to see of your “personal gift directly to them. Most….nada. 🙂 So it all depends on the traveler. Would you rather have the resort amenities overnight or do your part to help the Cuban people find freedom. You can still play at the resorts during the day. Never seen them hassle a Gringo with money at a resort. They won’t even know you’re not staying there!

  • Too funny! I live in Hawaii and travel to Cuba and Venezuela! Cuba is actually a much more pleasant trip these days, although I now find myself flying to Aruba for 2-3 days on either side of a Venezuela trip. So at least that part is non-combative. 🙂 (It’s also about $2000 cheaper than flying direct to Caracas due to Maduro hosing the airlines for about $4billion).

  • First, when you go there, stay in people’s homes and eat in the small free market restaurants that have opened over the last three years. The biggest benefit though is that more Americans in Cuba being typical idiot tourists will allow (and GREATLY help) those in the background have MUCH easier movement in country. I don’t know why non-military people in the US don’t get that. Watch how fast Communism changes once the restrictions on the freedom to travel of non-government US citizens is lifted. As to US travel to Cuba now? If I didn’t qualify for an OFAC license, I’d be scared poopless of the Department of Treasury. Prior to 9/11, you could “sneak in” through a foreign country. Cuba actually won’t even stamp your passport even today. I have to make them stamp mine. 🙂 Since 9/11, your name and your ticket (even In another country) is tied to your Passport number and fed back to Homeland from EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. EVEN CUBANA AIR TICKETS BOUGHT IN A COUNTRY OTHER THAN CUBA. Sooooo, those that still do this, Homeland knows and when they finally connect all the backend databases (including Treasury), their names will come up. According to OFAC (Treasury), they have 7 years to require you to provide receipts of everything spent on getting to and in Cuba AND your OFAC required documentation. I have a friend that got whacked 6 years after his trip. He was even legit, but lost his OFAC and spending documentation. Ended up $6500 fine talked down from $10,000. Me personally, I don’t F with OFAC. I play by their rules 100%. They want documentation of an 8 hour work day, I give them 12 hours, just in case.

  • Spending money at a casa particular is chump change. If Cubans were allowed to own hotels and pay their Cuban employees decent salaries, your argument would have value. But given the taxes on owners of casa particulares, even the ones that stay full don’t make their owners rich. And the truth is that it is growth of middle class businesses to successful wealthy businesses that grows an economy.

  • As one whose home is in Cuba, it is possible that I am more up-to-date than you are about what is happening and any effects upon Cubans. Yes, you will get to know more about cuba by staying in Casa Particulars and eating in paladars. Restaurants are operated by the government.
    Whereas Raul Castro Ruz decided in October 2012 that 500,000 State employees (that is almost 10% of the working population), would lose their jobs in April 2013 and have to enter the almost non-existent private sector, he had to rescind his decision by February as there was a panic. His action did however result in many individuals purchasing licences to pursue one of the list of 187 “professions” published by the regime. These included wheelbarrow pushing.
    Initially the main occupations for which licences were purchased were selling clothes or shoes, hairdressing, ice cream and CD’s – almost invariably from their homes. Initially it worked, but as more people entered the
    private sector, the laws of supply and demand with diminishing returns took effect. CD’s for example were initially sold at 30-35 pesos (25 pesos = 1 CUC). but as the number of sellers increased the price dropped to 25 pesos, then 20 and is now as low as 15 pesos. Because 15 pesos represents almost a days pay to the average Cuban, some enterprising people rented out CD’s for 5 pesos – in our city I know a fellow doing that and he even collects them 36 hours later.
    As you may know, the private businesses are taxed and I know of people who because of the cost of the licence and tax have returned their licences.
    Havana has the advantage of having tourism spending a lot of money and providing a lot of tips. That only affects relatively few of Cuba’s communities. We live in a provincial capital-population around 100,000 where the number of tourists is so low that there is not a single hotel or listed Casa Particular. There are three pesos Paladars.
    I admit my error in not explaining that I was referring to overseas destinations when writing about Hawaii.
    The top country in the world for number of tourists is France with I think 87 million tourists per year,
    Yes I am a Canadian, yes those Canadians like all tourists to Cuba like you and people like me living there, contribute to the finances of the Castro family regime. As I do the shopping when my wife is at work, I try to purchase as much as possible on the street from private vendors, but still have to go to the military owned shops for some things. Our 40″ TV which cost almost exactly $400 (Canadian) was taken to Cuba by my wife. We checked the price in the military shop of the same size of TV and the price was 1050 CUC’s (1 CUC =1 US dollar). The regime being the sole importer charges enormous mark-ups.
    I have no problem with the beautiful country of Cuba or with its wonderful people for whom I have a deep respect. In your country of the USA I have received wonderful hospitality. Like many around the world, I am amazed by the fact that the laws permit almost every Tom, Dick and Harry to carry and use guns and to kill an average of 12,000 of their fellow citizens per year.
    I have a very deep dislike of totalitarian regimes and a hatred for dictatorships of the left or the right.
    Finally and with respect for your various volunteer contributions to your local tourism organizations, it is somewhat different serving on Boards, than holding responsibility for an industry and its costs, employing all the staff and being answerable to government 365 days per year. I can say that because I too have served on volunteer boards.
    Some Canadian companies have a heavy involvement in Cuba with Sherritt International Inc. probably leading the field. They mine Cuba’s nickel, are heavily involved in its energy projects including oil, electricity and natural gas. But their Cuban workers are employed by the State which then charges them a very high price per worker compared with the rate that the State pays them. Sherritt Directors are not allowed by the US Government to enter the US.
    It has been the choice of your Government to prevent US companies doing business in Cuba. My view is and has been that the embargo is contrary to US interests and has been a help to the Castro family regime which has successfully used it to explain to the people of Cuba the reason for its own failures.
    There is much optimism created largely by a media which has not had access to Cuba that change is taking place in Cuba. I can assure you that for the average Cuban, no such change is taking place. The Castro family regime has firm control of and power over the people. As committed communists that is not going to change.
    I hope I have covered all your points Richard as I assume that your interest in the future of Cuba is genuine.

  • You are attempting to apply traditional rules which do apply everywhere else to Cuba where the elasticity of the tourism dollar is near zero. My big picture view is just fine. It’s the little picture, that is to say the specifics to Cuba that seems lost on you.

  • I guess you are not up to speed with what is going on with private business in Cuba. There are quite a few private businesses and more are opening every day. When I visit Cuba I stay at a private accommodation and have most of my meals in a privately owned restaurant.

    What did you expect him to say — We are all going to be rich in the near future? It will take time for the changes to happen and I for one believe it will begin to happen when the US embargo is lifted.

    Are you a Canadian? Why are your fellow Canadians going to Canada in droves if it is as bad as you make it. Are they financially contributing to the Castro Regime? Why?

    Why is every other country in the World investing in Cuba, including the Canadians? How come you don’t have a problem with everyone else doing business with Cuba. Is your problem with Cuba or the United States?


  • As far as my qualifications on tourism see my comment to Carlyle. As I stated, 1 million is not a big number when it comes to tourism, As an example, the following is information on tourism in only one state, Florida..

    A record 97.3 million visitors traveled to Florida in 2014, it is predicted that Florida will top over 100 million visitors in 2015

    In Broward County alone, 14 million travelers visited in 2014, spending $11.4 billion, according to data from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

    My comments have nothing to do with Castro. Anyone who is in tourism knows that Cuba will a hot destination for U.S. visitors with deep pockets. Hotels alone do not have the only effect on the financial benefits of tourism.

    However, in your case, it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else has to say about the benefits of lifting the embargo, you will be negative. Your problem is you are stuck on only one thing — hating Castro. You apparently don’t have the ability to look at the big picture.

  • I am not new to tourism. I come from the hospitality industry including resorts, commercial hotels and convention hotels. I have served on Tourist Boards, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Fort Lauderdale on the Board of Directors and as the Vice Chair of tourism and the Marketing and Advertising Committee of the Broward County Convention and Visitors Bureau. I believe that qualifies me to speak on tourism as much as you.

    Canadians are long stay visitors to warm climates. I live in Florida and we do serve many Canadians here and most stay in motels and rental apartments. I understand that and it is why they are not big spenders. I reiterate my comment and still claim they mainly visit Cuba because it is not expensive for long term lodging and infrequently spend money in restaurants and purchasing goods.

    By the way, I don’t know where you get your information from, but Hawaii is not the top destination for U.S. Tourists, it doesn’t even come close.

    It is the tourist who stays for 3 or 4 days or even a week that stay at the hotels and eat all their meals in restaurants and spend money shopping and tourist attractions.

    I am not knocking Canadians, I am just stating the facts. if I were going to spend weeks of even months at a destination I also would look for ways to stretch my vacation budget.

  • I’m Canadian and I choose Cuba not because it is cheap, but because it is a beautiful country where I don’t see McDonald’s or Starbuck coffee at every corner. I choose Cuba because Cubans are welcoming, well-educated and respectful, like I am.
    In terms of tourism, I can confirm that all the resorts, even from the major companies like Melia or Barcelo are hold 51% by Cuban government. That’s means that what we are paying for our vacations, except the tips, is going in Castro’s pockets. So, if you think that opening tourism to Americans, will bring a better life to average Cubans, you are wrong. They will still be paid 10 to 15 CUC per month and counting on black market and tips to have a decent life (I said decent, not luxurious).

    Basically, those who will win something from this opening is American business, Cuban-Americans and their Cuban relatives and Castro.

  • How did these “more tourists dollars” get in the hands of more Cubans? The tourism industry is controlled by the Castros. Please explain.

  • Why don’t you refer to the Minister of Economics for Cuba, Marino Murillo and his statement to the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in January 2015 – THIS YEAR!
    In presenting his new (another) economic policy to the Party faithful, he said clearly that Cubans ought not to expect any increase in incomes.
    Now, I think that he is in a better position than you are to determine what is intended.
    You make another error in suggesting that as in a capitalist society that a “trickle down” effect is possible in Cuba. “Local services” are controlled by the regime not by individuals as in a capitalist society.
    The shops are all controlled by the military – TRD, CIMEX ETC. Yes, there are some Cubans selling small volumes of clothing and shoes from their homes (they have to buy from the State Importing the goods) and CD’s. Any “new found influx of cash” will go directly to the Castro family regime.
    Do please try listing the local goods and services to which you refer.

  • I could suggest that most US tourists currently go to Hawaii because it is part of the US and only 17% of US citizens have a passport.
    I make that unsupported comment because you are in error in suggesting that the main reason why Canadians go to Cuba is because it is cheap.
    The visitors to Cuba are predominantly from the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario from where they can take direct flights from Canada of 3 hours 20 minutes to 3hours 50 minutes. For them it is CONVENIENT.
    Yes, Cuba caters for the average package tourist seeking the three B’s, Beach, Booze and Buffet, not the upper end. But so does Mexico with Cancun being the equivalent of Varadero for the people of Western Canada from where there are direct flights to Cancun. The winter weather conditions in Canada make a week or two weeks in warm weather with warm seas understandably attractive.
    Hence the older generations known as Snowbirds moving to Arizona and Florida for periods of 3 to 5 months not in hundreds but in thousands – and doing so isn’t cheap, especially if considering the health insurance costs.
    One further observation, having been at one time Executive Director of Tourism for one of Canada’s Provinces, Canadians with the exception of new immigrants, tend to be unilingual or bilingual English/French. In consequence relatively few are bold enough to travel either alone or with family and to visit countries where they don’t speak the language. So, if you examine the numbers of Canadian visitors to Cuba using the casa particulars, you will find very few. That may also explain why US tourists predominantly visit Hawaii.
    One final point of interest for US readers. In June each year a very large number of folks in the 55 years plus age group get in their motor homes and travel north through Canada to visit Alaska, returning in September. Apparently it is to enable them to visit all the US states in their lifetime and Alaska is one of the last. For those from the North-east States, they inevitably have to pass through Minot, then through Saskatchewan and Alberta – if you look at the map, you will see why. One year record was kept of the number of motorhomes travelling north from Minot through Portal as a percentage of private vehicles – it was over 40%. But any with guns had to leave them at immigration as Canada is not an extension of the US.

  • I think that Moses is explaining to you that Cubans, other than those receiving tips from tourists, do not benefit at all from the industry. Incomes have not risen as a consequence of tourism increasing.
    You should also understand that many tourists are unaware that they fly in military aircraft (all three of the Cuban airlines are owned by the military and flown by military pilots), are taken by buses (coaches) owned by the military to hotels owned by the military and then when purchasing souvenirs, do so from shops owned by the military.
    Oh yes, I know you think that the hotels are owned by private companies Melia, Sandals etc. but the major shareholder is the military and the employees are paid by the State, not by the supposed owners. The airports are also controlled by the military.
    The military holding company GAESA has a subsidiary named Gaviota which announced late in 2014 that it intended to construct a further 14,000 hotel bedrooms in 2015-2017 to add to the 26,000 that it already controls. Clearly, knowing of the secret meetings being held commencing in 2013 in Canadian Government buildings in Canada between the US and Cuban governments, Gaviota acting for GAESA, anticipated the resumption of US tourists. It will take a long time for the number of US tourists to equal the Canadians. Currently, 45% of tourists to Cuba come from Canada.
    The Head of GAESA is Raul Castro’s son-in-law a military General and Raul has been Head of the military for 56 years.
    Cubans including qualified doctors and teachers prefer to work in the tourism sector because they receive tips and a ONE DOLLAR tip equals a day’s pay from the State. US dollars are discounted by the Castro family regime by 10%. Cubans in consequence prefer a tip in CUC’s.
    I think you are slightly out of step with Moses who only yesterday in these pages said that the raising of the US flag over the US Embassy filled him with pride.
    If you wish to know who constantly denigrates – to the extent of hatred, the US in these pages, try Mr. John Goodrich – an Anarchist who has never been to Cuba, Gomezz a close collaborator with the Castro family regime who has expertise in anal cleansing, Dan a misogynist US immigration lawyer, Terry Downey and Dani. Each of them would tell you that Moses although at times critical of US policies is unlike themselves, loyal to his country appreciating the life style it offers. He is in addition a firm supporter of freedom for the people of Cuba from the dictatorial yoke of the Castro family regime
    being married as I am to a Cuban – the difference between us is that our home is in Cuba and we spend part of the summer in Canada.

  • Well, those dollars would have to be converted to CUCs first but the effect is the same. To some extent, I happen to agree with you.

  • Circles, great website and I check it out morning and night. You give a vast and diverse expansion
    of ideas from many in Cuba and outside the island. No censorship and truly one of the best venues
    for getting a glimpse at Cuba and the politics surrounding its peoples. Mahalo Nui Loa!!

  • The flood of US tourists will be somewhat offset by fewer from Canada and Europe. .

  • Every Cuban can benefit from tourist dollars, not just those involved in tourism. Those involved in tourism just happen to drive this economic model. They will spend their new found influx of cash at any number of local goods and services, the trickle down is what will benefit everyone there.

  • More tourists spending more dollars, these just happen to be US dollars. Something that hasn’t happened in many many years…It’s not rocket science. Try to see through your US hate to see what I’m saying.

  • A million isn’t the magic number. If they don’t spend money on goods and other businesses that is a big factor on the economic impact of tourism. No offense to Canada, but most of their travelers that go to Cuba, go because it is cheap. It isn’t only the increase of visitors it is also how much they spend. Could you also let me know who you are referring to as experts in the Tourism Experts.

  • It might help a few of those Cubans who are privately engaged in tourism. A great many of them who work in restaurants, transportation, tour guides, hotels, apartment rentals, etc. could benefit by getting employment and tips, but I’m not sure about most average citizens since their lives are still very much controlled by the government. Their salaries are paid in pesos by the Cuban government and they get a tiny fraction of what the tourists pay. Let’s face it, it will help “the Cuban government almost immediately” and not the average Cuban!

  • Please explain your final comment. In 2014, nearly 3 million tourists visited Cuba. Most of them came from Canada and Europe. Allowing Americans to visit Cuba is estimated to add, at best, another 1 million tourists over time. Even though Americans are generally better tippers than Canadians, the increase in tourism revenue that Americans bring is partially offset by the increases in the cost to improve tourism infrastructure. Americans are also more demanding tourists. Tourism experts optimistically estimate revenues increasing by 25%. Most of this will stay with the Castros tourism corporation. How do you estimate this will help “the average citizen”?

  • Let me first say that I’m generally not an Obama fan, but to continue this embargo after decades of hurting the general population of Cuba would have been ridiculous. This embargo didn’t in any way affect Castro or his cronies, they lived their lives essentially unchanged before and after. To say that lifting the embargo wouldn’t really effect immediate change isn’t all that accurate. Simply by injecting millions in US tourist dollars will help the average citizen almost immediately.

  • Let me first say that I’m generally not an Obama fan, but to continue this embargo after decades of hurting the general population of Cuba would have been ridiculous. This embargo didn’t in any way affect Castro or his cronies, they lived their lives essentially unchanged before and after. To say that lifting the embargo wouldn’t really effect immediate change isn’t all that accurate. Simply by injecting millions in US tourist dollars will help the average citizen almost immediately.

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