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Contradiction or Conscious Policy? Why Americans Can't Travel to Cuba

Why Americans Can’t Travel to Cuba

by NELSON P. VALDÉS

The Sunday issue of the San Francisco Chronicle (FEBRUARY 16, 2003) noted that “U.S. feds get tough on Americans who visit Cuba.” The author quoted a U.S. official who stated that the US Treasury Department does not allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba because it seeks to deny the Cuban government the income that could be generated from such visits.

YET, the U.S. government allows Cuban Americans to travel to the island, at least every 12 months. Thus, the dollars of Cuban Americans can be spent in Cuba; but the dollars from non-Cuba born US citizens cannot. Why such policy? Because the U.S. government assumes that when the Cuban Americans travel to the island they will not support the Cuban regime. But the US government assumes that the average American will find the island and its government acceptable and perhaps even delightful.

Assuming that we have 700,000 Cubans in the US and assuming that half of them–350,000 were to remmit half of what is legally allowed during a year, then the island would receive the modest sum of $210 million. BUT, conservative estimates tell us that Cuban Americans send to their relatives about $800 million yearly. Eventually that money enters the Cuban economy.

MOREOVER, Cuban Americans are not the exception when it comes to the remittances of funds to the island. ANY United States citizen is permitted to send $100 per month to Cuba. Yes, everyone in the United States, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, political position, color or any type identity can send $1200 US dollars to Cuba, per year.

Let us assume that Americans were persuaded to send $100 to Cubans across the Straight of Florida, on a monthly basis. And suppose that 100 million Americans did so. It is legal. That would come to $120 billion dollars per year. If that was done, the Cubans could turn around and offer 100 million Americans a “fully hosted” stay in the island. In other words, the Americans could travel to Cuba without spending any money, stay at the best hotels, free of charge, paid by the very Cuban family that pocketed the monthly American remittances.

Think about THAT. You can send $1200 to a Cuban in the island, but you cannot spend $1200 staying in a hotel and consuming food.

Perhaps Americans could travel to Cuba and be fully hosted, stay at the best of hotels, without having to pay. All you need to do is to begin those remittances.

Why the contradiction?

Simple. The US government, in the final analysis, is not opposed to people sending up to $1200 to the island; what they do not want is for Americans TO SEE the place!

Why not?

The answer is obvious.

Nelson Valdes is a professor of sociology specializing in Latin America at the University of New Mexico. He can be reached at: nvaldes@unm.edu