Since the election of Obama there have been renewed calls for the lifting of the travel ban to Cuba. One of those voices is the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), which, in its own words has : “…long supported the principle that Americans ought to be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction”.
It sounds all fluffy and democratic and about freedoms, but those freedoms are never all they appear. The rest of the voices united in this are the ubiquitous “business community”, always up in arms when a potential market is closed off to them and drooling when the possibility of an opening is in sight. And of course there is the issue of spreading American “values” to other places as a prelude to levering open such a new market. This is clear from the words of ASTA’s president Chris Russo, who remarked that: if Americans were allowed to travel to Cuba they could:
…serve as ambassadors of freedom and American values to the Cuban people. Routine interaction with American tourists and with Americans travelling for business, religious, or educational purposes would permit the Cuban people to see the United States in a new, more favorable light.”
So in effect it is an ideological issue. Not daunted by the fact that American foreign policy has contributed a 95% share in wrecking the entire Cuban economy, leaving people without basic necessities for over 40 years; or that people in Cuba know that US presidents, in tandem with the CIA, have attempted numerous assassinations upon Castro; that members of American travel commitees to Cuba have been assassinated and meeting places bombed by CIA-trained terrorists; that the US administration deliberately tightenend the blockade after the fall of the USSR to try and force the collapse of a foreign government; or that human rights violations have gone on at Guantanamo jail, the American business community must actually believe that sending men in suits and innocent US travellers might just cause the Cubans to see the American administration in a different light.
From this it’s quite obvious that the prevailing attitude is still one along the lines of: the Cubans are under a repressive communist régime and if American business is allowed to permeate Cuba, we can win over the people from the ideological point of view of consumerism. Here is another “innocent” snippet from Chris Russo:
Beyond the obvious economic opportunities awaiting both countries if current travel restrictions were to be lifted, these changes would also benefit Cuba’s neighbors and the travel industry that services them. Whether as part of multi-destination cruises or as a stop along the way to other countries in the region, the resulting influx of travelers to Cuba cannot help but spark demand for new passenger routes, tour operations, and travel agent services.”
The calls for freedom are cheap ideological slogans used by business as an operational tool to open new markets. As evidenced by the rise in opposition to the travel ban after the 2002 1st US Food & Agribusiness Exhibition in Havana, which was authorized by OFAC. Over 1000 private companies, trade organizations, and 33 state departments of agriculture were present , all clamouring to do business with Cuba.
Venceremos, the Guantanamo newspaper simply reports the issue as it stands, so there is no overt opposition to the entry of US business interests into Cuba, in fact there are sections of Cuba that will likely welcome it.
Those activists pressuring simply for travel sanctions to be lifted need to look hard at their potential compatriots: a business community more interested in how it can raise its exports, sales and market penetration than it is about simple travel freedoms. The usual “free-trade” brigade might argue that American business will breathe new life into the destroyed Cuban economy, but then Cuba hardly had a chance to freely build its economy according to its own principles. The overlords of “free economies” saw to that.
There are countries all over Latin America with no trade restrictions, yet they are still dirt poor and serve as consumption markets for the offloading of pointless American export goods. Is Cuba ready to join that group of demoralized nations?