June 13, 2019

ROB O'NEAL/Paradise
Miguelito, a 5-year-old resident of the village of Herradura, in the western province of Pinar del Rio, offers up a homemade popsicle to a traveling gringo. Recent retractions in Americans' right to travel will first adversely affect everyday, ordinary Cuban people across the island.

ROB O'NEAL/Paradise Miguelito, a 5-year-old resident of the village of Herradura, in the western province of Pinar del Rio, offers up a homemade popsicle to a traveling gringo. Recent retractions in Americans' right to travel will first adversely affect everyday, ordinary Cuban people across the island.

On most Mondays, in addition to coming up with photos for the daily newspaper and the Paradise section, I start sifting through two decades of Cuba photos, trying to find something to write about. This week, though, I’m doing this in reverse due to current events, and in keeping with tradition, I will do my best to avoid any political leanings.

Having said that, last week, a “portion” of our federal government has decided to, once again, use ordinary Cuban citizens as pawns in their 50-plus year, elementary schoolyard fight with Cuba.

In 2014, after realizing that isolating the island with a trade embargo failed to work, the U.S. government decided to try something different, and allowed some loosening of the unconstitutional travel ban for Americans. As you know, Americans are supposed to be able to travel wherever we like, within reason. I find it curious that Americans can travel to North Korea, (at their own peril, obviously) as well as China and many other countries far more dangerous than Cuba.

In addition to the “people-to-people” licenses required for group travel to Cuba for the past 20 years or so, as of a few years ago, Americans were “allowed” to visit Cuba without specific licenses, and sure enough, private businesses began to crop up and prosper. Suddenly, more and more money flowed into the lives of everyday people, like the families of the children pictured here. Critics will say that “all the money goes to the Castros,” but this is simply not true. Yes, some of that money spent on an Airbnb or a spectacular dinner in someone’s privately-owned restaurant will go to the government; they’re called “taxes.” They’re kind of exactly like what we have here in America. Imagine that, tourism money going to the government, what a strange concept.

Apparently, we just can’t leave the island nation alone; this is particularly true with our “regime-change-minded” folks up in Washington, D.C., and a large amount of would-be Cuba travelers are once again being denied their right to travel. This time around, they’re using the Cuban government’s involvement in protecting against a coup in Venezuela. Granted, Venezuela is a mess, but why should our government always meddle in other countries’ issues? I suppose that since the “sonic attacks” ruse didn’t bring about the desired effect of cooling American’s desire to visit Cuba, a new excuse was needed to try to starve ordinary Cuban people. But here’s a news flash, folks. If you think this will affect any government officials, you’re sadly mistaken. Get real, they’ll be fine. Don’t believe me? Pick up a history book. When these laws were enacted, lo these five decades ago, what did we get? We got Russia setting up shop a hundred miles away. Wow! How cool is that? We should definitely try that again, right? And this time, China, which is already heavily invested in Cuba, may become our newest neighbor.

Thankfully, being a full-time, accredited journalist, I can continue to visit Cuba as much as I want. Even more thankfully, for the time being, I am still able to share the island with my tour groups via an alternate, legal manner. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt they’ll allow this to continue much longer. At that point, folks, it’s back to “doing the dance” through Mexico or The Bahamas, and Americans who want to see Cuba will continue doing so. Despite decades of smoke screens and threats of hefty fines, in the end, enforcement is non-existent and the reason is because it flies in the face of our Constitution.

So, bravo, Washington! You have secured your votes in South Florida once again. It’s actually wise to do so while you can, as that voting bloc is dying off by the day. It’s no secret that the next generation of Cuban-Americans don’t intend to carry the outdated torch of hatred, deserved or not. By regressing to the failed policies enacted in the early 1960s, you will go back to treating my dear friends, their families and friends, as worthless game pieces as you wait for the Cuban government to crumble. Perhaps it’ll just take another 50 years.

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