Last time when visiting Havana I saw this sentence on one of the streets “Embargo is the longest genocide in human history”. I wish I could take a picture but the taxi was too fast.
It’s been over two years since President Obama announced a progress in relations between the US and Cuba. It’s been over 6 months since the first commercial flight (after 50 years) from US touched the island.
A lot of people, let’s say 99% of people I talk to, think that US embargo is over and things are getting better for the Cuban citizens. That Americans can travel to Cuba now and especially after Fidel’s death, the days of communism in Cuba are counted. Are they really? What does it all mean for both, Cubans and Americans?
First of all, no my fiends, embargo is not over and Guantanamo is still in American hands. But yes, few things have changed definitely.
For Americans it means they can now travel bit more to Cuba. It’s still prohibited to travel to Cuba for tourism purposes. But there are 12 authorized categories of visits:
- family visits;
- official business of the U.S. government,
- foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations;
- journalistic activity;
- professional research and professional meetings;
- educational activities; religious activities;
- public performances,
- clinics, workshops,
- athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
- support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects;
- activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
- exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions
Of course Americans travel in Cuba and say they’re on “People to People” program. However if you’re caught on lying why you’re going to Cuba you may be in trouble. Most of Americans come to Cuba in organized groups on those “support for the Cuban people”trips. But for most of them it is only the way to get in. I think the only way these tourists are helping Cubans is by stay in their houses and letting them make a bit of money.
Other than that? I remember this one american group staying in my sister’s in law house. One their guide was American and another one Cuban. The Cuban girl was so nice and she invited us to go with them to the beach. They were travelling by private bus which was half empty as the group was small. We went to beach, had a great day. The same day on the beach I talk a bit to the American guide and thank him for taking us to the beach. He said “it’s a pleasure, after all we came here to help Cubans so if we can take a Cuban family to the beach we’re doing our job well”. For him taking us to the beach was such a big thing! He was so proud of himself and of how he helped a Cuban family. Like all what Cuban families needed was a ride to the beach. Seriously?? That’s more less how People to People programs work. I think Americans know that, Cuban know that and both governments know that. Wouldn’t be just easier to let Americans enter Cuba normally?
So many American Airlines start to open direct flights with Cuba but this boom has just ended when first of them announced the flights to Cuba will be cancelled due to law demand. I think the decision of opening so many flights was way to soon. The Airlines thought the embargo will be over any day now and all the Cubans living in the US will jump in the planes to visit their families. That did not happen. Why? Well most of Cubans can’t really go back after leaving illegally. They can go back if the become American citizens after 5 years but still they’re forced to enter Cuba with their Cuban Passport. And this one is one the most expensive passports our there.
What about Cubans? How did their lives changed? Well I must say, not much really. They now can’t go to the US illegally and stay, like they could before. The wet feet, dry feet policy is over for good now. They can still try to go but if caught they will be deported. Even if entering US with a valid visa they can still be returned back home. Before if they reached the US land they just could stay there. The only challenge was to get to one of the US borders.
Another thing that has changed is that yes, there are more Americans on the Cuban streets. What does that mean? Well it means the government has even more money and Cubans who have small businesses and always had money, have them even more. For other people it only means that public spots are more crowded and lines longer.
Oh and another thing, there’s a new embassy in Havana. And …that’s pretty much it.
Things are changing a bit, the Internet is getting cheaper and more accessible. New bars and restaurants are growing on the streets of Cuban towns (for tourists of course). But those are really small changes. The life of random people is still the same.
Cuban government is blaming Americans for the bad economy in the island. And Americans instead of finishing are waiting for no one knows what. If embargo haven’t work for 57 years, why would it work now and change Castro’s mind? Maybe they’re right that embargo is the one to blame for some things?
What will happen next? No idea. It really doesn’t look like Trump is interested in Cuba. I really wish I will see embargo going down and I really hope to be in Cuba to watch it.