Perplexing Status of U.S. Travel to Cuba 

Three recent news reports have muddied the waters about U.S. visitors to Cuba .

First, last year was a record year for tourism in Cuba with 4.7 million visitors pumping more than $3 billion into the country’s struggling economy. Travelers from the U.S. rose to 619,000, which is more than six times the pre-Obama level.[1]

However, as a result of Hurricane Irma’s hitting the island last September and the Trump Administration’s hostility towards Cuba, including travel restrictions, U.S. visitors to Cuba dropped 30% last month according to Jose Manuel Bisbe York, the president of the Cuban state travel agency. Visitors from other countries also have decreased, but not as much as the U.S. This happened event though Cuba has fixed its tourism facilities over the last several months.[2]

Second, to  counter this recent drop in U.S. visitors to the island, on January 29, a score of US companies linked to the tourism sector met  in Havana to proclaim  that Cuba is a safe destination to which U.S.  citizens can still travel legally. The meeting was organized by InsightCuba, a pioneer in organizing and promoting trips to the island.[3]

An executive of American Airlines, which operates nine daily flights to Cuba, said, at the gathering, “We see many opportunities in Cuba, especially on the Havana-Miami route,” and “we have requested permission for 17 additional flights.” The president of the Association of Tour Operators of the United States, Terry Dale, added, “The message is that Cuba is open to business, safe, wonderful and legal for travelers from the United States” Another U.S. businessman said, “The reality is that Americans can continue to travel to Cuba almost as they did before the new regulations.”

Third, also on January 29 the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemispheric Affairs told the Nuevo Herald of Miami that 19 U.S. citizens who had visited Cuba after September 2017 had reported medical symptoms similar to those of some U.S. diplomats who had been stationed there. [4]

The Department’s  spokeswoman did not say whether US citizens reported hearing strange noises – as did some of the 24 diplomatic victims so far confirmed – nor whether they would have stayed at the Nacional or Capri hotels in Havana that previously had been identified as sites of some of the “attacks.” .Nor did it clarify whether U.S. doctors and investigators could have determined whether these travelers would have suffered the same kind of attack as diplomats. It encouraged “those who are concerned to seek medical attention.” For reasons of “privacy”, the Department will not disclose where the alleged attacks occurred or their symptoms or even what cities they had visited.

Conclusion

As explained in a prior post, the U.S. still has 12 general license categories that permit U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Thus, it is legal for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. In addition, the latest revision of the State Department’s travel advisory system does not advise citizens not to travel to Cuba; rather, it suggests that citizens reconsider plans to travel to the island (Category 3 of the new advisory system) and only tells them to avoid Havana’s Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri, where some of the alleged “attacks” on diplomats occurred.

The apparent inability of the U.S. Government after 14 months of investigations here and in Cuba to identify the cause or culprit of the so-called “attacks” on U.S. diplomats and now apparently some ordinary U.S. citizens is at best “perplexing” as State Department officials recently testified at a Senate Subcommittee hearing.[5]

We all need to continue to pay close attention to ongoing developments on these issues.

=====================================

[1] Rodriguez, Tourism booming in Cuba despite tougher new Trump policy, Wash. Post (Jan. 19, 2018).

[2] Reuters, Cuba Tourism Slides in Wake of Hurricane Irma, Trump, N.Y. Times (Jan. 29, 2018)

[3]  Tourism companies in the United States say Cuba is a safe destination, CubaDebate (Jan. 29, 2018).

[4]  Torres, 19 visiting Americans  report symptoms of attacks in Cuba, Neuvo Herald (Jan. 29, 2018); Valencia, U.S. citizens in Cuba Suffered Similar Symptoms Experienced by Diplomats in Havana, State Department Says, Newsweek (Jan. 29, 2018); Nineteen tourists from the US have reported symptoms of attacks in Cuba, Diario de Cuba (Jan. 30, 2018).

[5] See posts listed in the “U.S. Diplomats Medical Problems in Cuba, 2017”     section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries–Topical: CUBA.

 

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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