AMERICAN VISITORS IN CUBA
By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Cuba accepts the challenge of Washington's "people to people" interaction policy because, despite its stated purpose of visitors promoting "democracy" among Cubans (being this the term used by Washington to signify the capitalist system) the policy in fact gives Cubans a chance to show American visitors the obvious falsehoods of the most extensive demonization media campaign in history: the campaign the United States has conducted on a global scale for over half a century, taking advantage of the technological resource disparity between the two countries.
The distance between the defamatory manipulations and the truth is vast. And it's axiomatic that, from the first minute of contact with Cuban reality, well-intentioned visitors are open to understanding the reasons that led to the historical popular epic that is the Cuban revolution, and the absurdity Washington's hostile policy toward the island.
“Why are American visitors so graciously welcomed in Cuba?” all American visitors invariably ask this when they first come into contact with the reality of Cuba and the relations between the Caribbean nation and the superpower.
It is said that Cuban hospitality towards foreigners is an ancestral quality. Many experts explain this by the island nature of the country, among several other geographical and historical factors.
But, in the case of Americans today, every Cuban is aware that any visit of a U.S. citizen to the island somehow represents a rejection of the unjust policy of isolation and hostility against Cuba. And such a gesture deserves reciprocity.
The ban on travel to Cuba is part of the overall strategy of the United States, aimed at isolating the island and defeating its government through an economic, financial and commercial blockade which causes hunger and misery. They hope that the Cuban population will blame the revolutionary leadership for their suffering.
This, of course, has not happened. Quite the contrary. The heroic resistance of Cubans to this abuse has aroused the solidarity of the peoples. Instead of the expected global condemnation of Cuba, there have been profound changes in other countries following, each in its own way, the Cuban route. Virtually every country on the continent that manages to choose its leaders and representatives in democratic processes elect progressive leaders.
In the past 20 years, Cuba has received about 29 million visitors: half of them have come from Europe; 8 million from Canada; 4 million from Latin America and the Caribbean; and about 800,000 from the U.S.A.
By some estimates, since 1990, an average of 20,000 to 30,000 Americans have traveled to Cuba each year with special licenses, or illegally. Authorized case-by-case were students, professors and researchers from study centers; groups of lawyers, architects, historians and physicians attending professional conferences and events; youth sports teams, religious groups and environmental organizations.
A certain number of Americans not authorized by their government travelled without formally registering as tourists. They were motivated by solidarity, curiosity, or attracted by a fruit forbidden for many years. Experts believe that if the Cuba travel ban imposed by Washington to its citizens is lifted, the tourist increase in Cuba -right away- would be in the millions.
It is known that the Cuban tourist industry has plans to add 200,000 rooms in the medium term; and also has the ability to increase the number of citizens willing to incorporate new lodging capacities in their own homes, with some public financial support.
Tourism is a very substantial source of hard currency for Cuba (only surpassed by its nickel exports). It is also a growing source of employment and a mobilizing factor for the economy.
In Cuba there are many supporters of the idea that American tourism should re-occupy the central place it had before the Revolution half a century ago; considering the obvious economic and cultural complementation this would represent.
Cubans do not fear that the large-scale arrival of visitors from the leading country of world capitalism might contribute to the interventionist purposes that have always guided U.S. policy towards Cuba. On the contrary, they consider that, through a healthy and peaceful tourism, the good citizens of that nation would be repaying the Cubans for the many years of suffering and hardships that were imposed on them by thirteen successive U.S. administrations
April 30, 2014.