The Latest Cuba Travel Confusion

By Álvaro Fernández  (Progreso Weekly)

Miami International Airoport
Miami International Airoport

HAVANA TIMES – Since the news broke on Thursday, I’ve had numerous persons call me, email me and push me to write, “to inform,” they said, regarding this confusing situation we’re dealing with here in the U.S., mostly in Miami, with Cuban family members and their visits to loved ones on the island.

I have taken my time. I did not want to react. Something we have all been programmed to do when it comes to almost anything related to Cuba and its relationship with the many Cubans who live outside of its shores. I also did not want to fall prey to U.S. government spooks – those who don’t appear to exist, but still manage to bring us more than 50 years of ZunZuneos – who, I am convinced, relish the thought of Cubans, on both sides of the Florida straits, rallying behind “injustices” wrought by the Castro government.

As I told many of my colleagues, the news to report is simple. If you are a Cuban who resides elsewhere, and you’re traveling to Cuba, you better have your passport in order. Apparently, for years now, Cuban immigration was allowing Cubans to enter the country with valid passports that had not been prorogated or extended. (Cuba requires what is known as a “prórroga,” the prorogation every two years on a passport that is issued for six.)

The news, delivered from island authorities to the charter companies who carry passengers to Cuba, was that persons with passports not updated and current would not be allowed to enter the country. Based on recent history, the sudden announcement, and immediate enforcement, caused numerous problems at Miami International Airport and its counterpart in Havana.

I understand there’s plenty of blame to go around when it comes to this latest Cuba problem. And if you live in Miami, especially, the media has had a field day, something they’ve been missing for quite some time now – bashing Cuba and its government. The message to relate has been clear and delivered by many. I found this specific one on Facebook which sums it up (I have shortened, translated and paraphrased):

“Where is the interest in the Cuban family so often expressed by the Cuban government? Why does it impede Cubans from entering the country in order to prorogate their documents, something they cannot do currently in the U.S. due to the closing of the Cuban consulate?

“Where is the socialist compassion for our fellow citizens who live elsewhere?

“They (the Cuban government) would rather put pressure on the U.S. government in order to obtain a bank so that they may handle the consulate’s banking, while punishing us working stiffs who toil like mules to help, and visit, our families.”

Futbo callejero en La Habana.  Foto: Juan Suárez
Street soccer in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

My first reaction, after hearing the news last Thursday, was similar. “Damn it!” I said.

I decided to meditate, as a friend in Havana often advises. For if there is one thing I’ve learned about the U.S.-Cuba relations since I arrived in this country as a small child in 1960, it’s that it is not always what it seems…

What is so wrong in demanding that a country’s citizens have their passports in order? It sounds to me like the Cuban government wanting to better organize itself.

As for the Cuban government more interested in attaining access to banking services here in the U.S. Try living in the U.S. without a bank account. A credit card. A debit card.

Just recently I had a conversation with a Cuban functionary who lives in Washington. He told me of his experience without access to banking services. He told me the story of his trip to a store with his small son late one night for something the child needed. After purchasing the item, as he was leaving, he could not exit the parking lot… The only way out was with a credit or debit card. He had neither.

We later laughed at the story. The truth is it’s not funny. Especially when you consider the purpose of the trip.

So you see, the banking situation affects more than just us. The problem is much bigger than we think.

As for the blame?

I would ask: Who’s committing the greater injustice?

And I would answer my own question by asking you to focus on where it belongs: the U.S. government.

Are we not aware that without an embargo, or even simpler yet, without Cuba on the state sponsor of terrorism list the U.S. government keeps it on for political reasons, together with Iran, Sudan and Syria, this problem would never have existed?

Since 1991, in fact, a great majority of the countries on earth have condemned the U.S. economic and trade embargo – last year by an overwhelming 188 to 2. The only other exception was Israel. But the U.S. insists that the rest of the world is wrong. Even worse, it sets the laws and standards on how the rest of the world must act – oftentimes not following their own rules.

So tell me? Who is really to blame?

The Cuban government is right in tidying up the mess with the passports.

But Jesus! Couldn’t they have issued a warning, advising of an end date for operating as they had for years now? I believe it would have worked better. Less mess. And it would not have allowed fodder for the ZunZuneros on this side, more like vultures than hummingbirds, waiting to pounce at every opportunity.

One last suggestion, and it’s also for the Cuban government. Make passports last for 10 years. Life would be so much easier. As for prorogation… sounds like a thing of the past.


12 thoughts on “The Latest Cuba Travel Confusion

  • May 5, 2014 at 8:18 am
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    Cesar;

    I agree the embargo should be ended….but only after the Cuban government corrects the situation that brought on the embargo to begin with. I.e. – it should return American property that it seized. Otherwise, let it stand.

    Why? Because there’s simply no point in treating thieves as anything else than what they are.

  • May 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm
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    to Brenda
    Cuba has a consulate in Toronto, and an Embassy in Ottawa,and they provide all services related to diplomatic matters , so if your live in Canada your passport is done here as long if you are registered as Cuban citezen in the consulate

  • May 1, 2014 at 3:31 pm
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    why can’t we Cubans hold a dual citizenship and travel to Cuba with a passport from our adopted land? is that so hard to understand?

  • May 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm
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    Cubans do a lot more than visit relatives, they buy land, buy homes, and facilitate other Cubans to migrate. Most migrate at an advance age thus entitled to Social Security, Medicare, etc.,

  • May 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm
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    Get rid of the embargo already. Let the Cubans be treated as all foreign nationals, just like Haitians, Nicaraguans, etc…

  • April 29, 2014 at 4:30 pm
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    The Communist Party needs to stop stealing money from Cubans.
    The solution is very simple, make the passport valid for 10 years. Where is the
    need to validate the passport every two years?

    And if Havana Times is supporting that Cubans get robbed,
    then send this comments to the bottom, even if it is the most recent one.

  • April 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm
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    Your idea of democracy is a world government of the UN dominated by dictators, autocrats, and thugs.

    No thanks. I’m content to allow my national government govern my country alone, and even then, not too much.

  • April 28, 2014 at 12:35 pm
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    Apparently there is a solution to this crisis
    but the Castro “government” does not like it! If they would make it
    public why they cannot work with this solution they would look more
    amiable to the Cuban citizens visiting their relatives!

    WASHINGTON, February 23, 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 28, 2014 at 11:31 am
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    JennyC, Cubans may prorogate their passports in embassies and consulates around the world. The requirement to prorogate or extend passports is strictly a Cuban policy and has nothing to do with the US. Personally, I believe that it is simply a ‘money grab’ to further milk hard currency from Cubans who have escaped the regime. Not surprisingly, it costs more to prorogate your Cuban passport in an embassy or consulate in a foreign country than it costs to do so while visiting in Cuba.

  • April 28, 2014 at 11:05 am
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    So, can a Cuban residing in Canada prorogate their passport at the Cuban consulate / embassy in Canada or must they go to Cuba?

  • April 28, 2014 at 10:24 am
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    Thanks.
    That was a very good explanation that involved the U.S. war on the Cuban economy ( embargo) and the shortcomings of the often needlessly bureaucratic Cuban authorities.
    It is far more likely that the problems on the Cuban side will be fixed before the U.S ends its 54 year-old war that was created to cause these problems .
    Anyone for democracy ?
    168-2 is how the world voted at the UN on the embargo
    And the two won.
    It’s why the Empire rightfully fears a world government and/or democracy in any form.

  • April 28, 2014 at 8:44 am
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    Prior to the current situation, I’ve never heard of passports needing to be extended or prorogued when they weren’t expired. Is this a requirement for other countries or is it only a Cuba/U.S. arrangement?

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