Tuesday November 12, 2019
Home Lead Story Trump Bans on...

Trump Bans on Cruises to Cuba Originates Chaos for US Travellers

The United States became the second-largest source of travelers to the island after Canada, with a majority arriving on cruises ships

0
//
cruises
Tourists ride inside a vintage car as they pass by the Norwegian Sky cruise ship, operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines in Havana, Cuba, May 7, 2019. VOA

The Trump administration banned cruises to Cuba under new restrictions on U.S. travel to the Caribbean island imposed on Tuesday to pressure its Communist government to reform and stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The tightening of the decades-old U.S. embargo on Cuba will further wound its crippled economy, as well as hurt U.S. travel companies that had built up Cuban business during the brief 2014-2016 detente between the old Cold War foes.

The State Department said the United States will no longer permit visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, as well as private and corporate aircraft.

The U.S. Commerce Department told Reuters the ban would be effective from Wednesday, giving cruise lines no grace period to change destinations and creating confusion among cruise passengers. “Please tell me that my cruise to Cuba (in 18 days) is still going to be a cruise to Cuba,” beseeched Matthew Watkins on Twitter.

Royal Caribbean Cruises announced that ships sailing Wednesday and Thursday would no longer stop in Cuba and it would provide updates on future cruise destinations. Carnival Corp said it would have additional information in “the very near future.” Norwegian Cruise Line likewise said it was monitoring the situation.

cruises
“Cuba is the only country we are not allowed to go to. We can go to Russia, but for some reason Trump has something against Cuba.” Pixabay

The United States will also no longer allow so-called group people-to-people educational travel, one of the most popular exemptions to the overall ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba. Travel experts said some groups may get around that by instead using one of the 11 other categories still allowed.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump had announced the new restrictions in April as part of its rollback of the U.S.-Cuban detente under former President Barack Obama and its broader battle against socialism in Latin America.

Cuba experts say the Trump administration appears to be partly eyeing the presidential elections next year, with the key swing state of Florida home to many Cuban-American exiles who welcome the harder line on Havana.

“The Administration has advanced the President’s Cuba policy by ending “veiled tourism” to Cuba and imposing restrictions on vessels,” said a tweet from Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who has led the U.S. campaign against what he has called the “troika of tyranny” of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. “We will continue to take actions to restrict the Cuban regime’s access to U.S. dollars.”

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the island would not be intimidated. “They have not been able to asphyxiate us, they will not be able to stop us, we will continue to live and we will conquer,” he wrote on Twitter.

Many analysts have said the Trump administration is pursuing a failed policy of trying to overthrow Cuba’s government through sanctions, which has served only to give Havana an excuse for its own economic failings over the past 60 years and a pretext to clamp down on domestic opposition.

This is the second time the Trump administration has tightened U.S. travel restrictions on Cuba. While the measures are designed to hit government coffers, they are also hurting Cuba’s fledgling private sector, which the United States has said it wants to support.

cruises
The United States became the second-largest source of travelers to the island after Canada, with a majority arriving on cruises ships. Pixabay

“This is another hard blow,” said Miguel Ãýngel Morales, owner of La Moneda Cubana, a restaurant in Old Havana. “Around 50% of our business comes from the cruise ships.”

Strangling the economy

The Trump administration is hitting the two areas of the economy, tourism and investment, that have helped Cuba keep the economy afloat even as it has faced declining Venezuelan aid and exports in recent years.

Last month, the administration allowed U.S. lawsuits against foreign companies for the use of property confiscated after Cuba’s 1959 revolution, a move that will likely dampen future foreign investment.

Meanwhile, U.S. travel to Cuba had boomed in recent years after Obama loosened restrictions, allowing the re-establishment of regular commercial flights and cruise services. The United States became the second-largest source of travelers to the island after Canada, with a majority arriving on cruises ships.

ALSO READ: Vietnam Jails Bloggers and Journalists, Congress Members Urge Greater Freedom of Expression

According to the Cuban government, 257,500 U.S. citizens, not including those of Cuban origin, visited Cuba from January through March, with 55% arriving on cruise ships. But critics of the Cuban government said much of this travel was not for educational but rather for recreational purposes, which contradicted the ban on tourism.

“He thinks we are just coming here as a tourist but you are learning so much. It’s ridiculous we won’t be able to come anymore,” said Cheryl Kolar, 68, a retired nurse who had traveled to Havana by cruise ship. “Cuba is the only country we are not allowed to go to. We can go to Russia, but for some reason Trump has something against Cuba.” (VOA)

Next Story

Cuba Studying Potential Use of Cryptocurrency to Boost its Economy

Cuba's inefficient state-run economy is facing a crisis due to a sharp decline in Venezuelan aid, lower exports

0
FILE - Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies, Feb. 13, 2018. Switzerland's government wants to look into the feasibility of launching its own state-backed cryptocurrency. VOA

Cuba’s Communist government said on Tuesday it was studying the potential use of cryptocurrency as part of a series of measures to boost its economy amid a deepening crisis exacerbated by U.S. sanctions.

Cryptocurrency, which allows financial operations to be carried out anonymously, has been used in the past to get around capital controls. Cuba’s top ally Venezuela introduced a cryptocurrency last year aiming to avoid U.S. sanctions and weather hyperinflation, although it never properly got off the ground.

Cuba’s inefficient state-run economy is facing a crisis due to a sharp decline in Venezuelan aid, lower exports and the tightening of the decades-old U.S. trade embargo under President Donald Trump.

The new measures, announced on a roundtable on state-run TV by President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his government, will raise income for around a quarter of the population and deepen market reforms of one of the world’s last Soviet-style command economy’s started by the island nation’s previous president, Raul Castro.

Cuba, Cruptocurrency, Economy
Cuba’s Communist government said on Tuesday it was studying the potential use of cryptocurrency. Pixabay

The aim is to raise national production and demand in order to boost growth as U.S. sanctions target tourism and foreign investment. Diaz-Canel, working to establish his legitimacy after assuming the presidency in April 2018, said the government was working on the details of the implementation.

“We are studying the potential use of cryptocurrency … in our national and international commercial transactions, and we are working on that together with academics,” Economy Minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez said.

The most popular measure in the new package will likely be the hikes in some pensions and wages for workers in public administration, social services and state-run media, bringing the medium monthly wage in those sectors up to the equivalent of $44.5 from around $25 previously.

Many Cubans say the measure still will not be sufficient to breach the gap between salaries and the cost of living.

Also Read- Research: Obese Adolescents More Likely to Experience Bullying

Nonetheless it should boost purchasing power, as long as inflation is kept in check.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s an advance,” said Pavel Joaquin Hernandez, 46, a general practitioner who will go from earning the equivalent of around $40 per month to $64.

Cuban economist Omar Everleny said the raise was crucial given how demotivated workers were, with many emigrating.

“For the first time, (the government) is linking the fact that everything can be achieved if workers are motivated,” he said.

Cuba, Cruptocurrency, Economy
Cryptocurrency, which allows financial operations to be carried out anonymously, has been used in the past. Pixabay

Gil Fernandez said the government was also broadening a series of measures aimed at decentralizing and thus improving state-run company performance and stimulating local production, substitution of imports and increasing exports. For example, he said, financial service companies would be established to provide cash in the face of opportunity more quickly than the centralized planning system.

The government would also expand a system allowing some companies to keep a percentage of the hard currency they earn in order to reinvest it immediately rather than have to apply for credit.

State companies, agricultural entities and other economic actors that supply a growing number of firms in the Mariel Special Economic Zone, a project resembling China’s first capitalist oasis, would receive a percentage of sales in hard currency, Gil Fernandez said.

Also Read- Video-streaming Giant YouTube Bans Hacking Videos; Content Creators Puzzled

The government was also studying how to allow the growing number of small private businesses to export through the state-run businesses, he said. (VOA)