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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Cuba Opens Up Its Ports to Polluting Cruise Ships

December 9, 2016 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

carnivalHAVANA TIMES – The cruise company Carnival Corporation, which began traveling to Cuba last May, has just been found guilty of pouring waste with oil into the ocean and of deliberately covering this up for 8 years.

The United States Department of Justice reported that Princess Cruise Lines, one of Carnival´s subsidiary companies, had been making illegal discharges since 2005 using a so-called “magic tube”.

The ship used to get rid of its waste by avoiding the use of a piece of equipment that had been installed to prevent oil pollution of the waste residue and water that it discharged, which is extremely dangerous for marine life and can have extremely long environmental and economic effects.

The company has been found guilty of seven crimes and will pay a US $40 million fine. In addition, eight of Carnival´s franchise lines will be kept under supervision by an environmental program for the next five years.

And I ask myself: Is this the kind of business that the Cuban government does? Opening its tourism market to polluting cruise ships?

The Adonia, from Carnival Fathom, was the first cruise ship between the US and Cuba in over 50 years. It departed from Miami on May 1, 2016 with 704 passengers aboard, who were received in Havana by dancers wearing sexy bikinis which flashed the Cuban flag.

And it can’t be said that this was a one-time incident, as Carnival had already been found guilty in 2002 of the “many occasions between 1996 and 2001 where it discharged oil residues into the sea due to the incorrect application of its pollution prevention device” according to what James Walker has stated, a lawyer who used to defend these kinds of companies in the past.

Of course, these fines don’t mean anything to one of the world’s largest leisure cruise conglomerates, which carried 98.2 million passengers and earned 20.299 billion USD in profits between 2005 and 2015, according to government reports presented before the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The environmentally-friendly organization Friends of the Earth is currently demanding that the entire cruise industry be investigated, as it’s clear that even when they have the latest pollution control technologies installed, these systems can be avoided or deactivated so that untreated waste can flow directly into the sea.

“Corporate culture that gave way to these fraudulent and illegal practices needs to be examined, both within the Princess as well as the other cruise lines that make up the Carnival group,” stressed Kate Colwell, the spokeswoman for the environmentalist group.

Between 1992 and 2015, 317 cases of cruise misconduct were reported worldwide. Out of these, over 70% were for alleged water pollution cases, over 40% had violations of waste disposal regulations, and a dozen were air pollution cases.

Will Cuba take these complaints into account? Will eco-friendly associations on the island put forward any complaints to the Ministry of Tourism to request a moratorium for the entrance of Carnival franchise cruises?

Those of us who have studied the new Foreign Investment Law know that the State has maintained all the discretion they could to make decisions behind the Cuban people’s backs, and as a result “details” such as environmental impact, payment of wages, privileges, among others, remain in the dark.


What's your opinion?

  • Frank dalton

    i am truly dissapointed in your story…..i had expected better writing from you…befor you point fingers at cruise ships who are putting millions of dollars into the local economy look to your own destruction of your enviorement.i live in cienfuegos where the beautifull harbour has been destroyed by millions of gallons of untreated sewage….when my beautifull wife and i walk the malecon we see large chunks of human waste(shit) floating in the sea.my home is located just meters from the shore and when the breeze is from the direction of the sea the stench is awfull…..stop biting the hand that is feeding you isbel….cuba is changing and you need to change as well…i am a canadian living in your country.god bless the beautifull island of cuba….viva cuba

    • Lati-YES!

      Who are you, a CANADIAN, to judge how Isbel feels about the future of his country? Yea, maybe there is shit floating in the sea, (you still live there so it can’t be that bad eh?) but now you will have more shit- in the form of dirty corporate business practices! Those millions you speak of going to the local economy will not cover the environmental costs of cleaning up after tourists! Cuba will be stripped of all it’s beauty and culture. Mark my words, 20 years from now, the people of Cuba will feel the affects of these corrupt businesses. It’s your country. Fight for it!

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Within Cuba currently there are plenty of “dirty corporate business practices”. The corporate businesses in Cuba are all subsidiaries (57 of them) of GAESA. Corruption within state controlled economies is nothing new – the USSR, China, Zimbabwe and Cuba being prime examples. Coupled with the insatiable appetite for power and control that is inherent in all communist dictatorships, is the lust for money and there are no regulations or commissions standing in the way of the dictators.

        • Lati-YES!

          Corruption exists regardless- whether state controlled or “democratic” capitalist. But if Cuba allows other countries to dictate how their country will develop post Castro, Cuba will become another tourist trap that will cause overdevelopment and destruction of sea life and coral reefs. Cuba must find a way to build a stable economy based on education, medicine, and renewable resources and not tourism. The latter will destroy any chance of Cuba maintaining their unique identity and culture. If you see a Walt-Mart in Havana, then it’s too late!

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Lati-YES I understand your comment and have some sympathy with it. Like you, I wish to see a free Cuba with the people of Cuba through a freely elected democratic government deciding the path their beautiful country should pursue without external meddling – as I have written, the US has an unenviable record in Latin America and especially in Cuba since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.
            Whatever you or I might think, tourism is bound to form a significant part of Cuba’s economy, so many people in the world seek to have a brief respite for a week or two from their daily work and Cuba is able to offer that with its beauty, beaches and historic towns and cities.
            You speak of an economy based upon education, medicine and renewable resources – fine phrases, but how well do you know Cuba’s educational system? Have you read the part of the current Castro Constitution which defines the purpose of education as being:

            “to promote the patriotic education and communist training for the new generation.”

            Have you read the school textbooks which have been written and are used in the schools in pursuit of that purpose? And yes, I have. Cuban education will require a complete overhaul if it is to address the modern world rather than being used to promote communism.
            I have faith that the Cuban culture with its emphasize on family, music, dancing and the arts will survive because it is so very strong.
            It is correct that Cuba currently has the much promoted Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), which claims to have trained 20,000 doctors from 123 countries. Also, there has been much promotion of Labiofam SA and claims for new drugs. Are those claims realistic because if so the rest of the world will seize upon them? Has it?
            As for renewable resources, clearly agriculture is the first priority. but it has been allowed to regress for the last 25 years and in consequence there are hundreds of thousands of acres of good agricultural land, much of which could be irrigated, that have been allowed through incompetence to revert to bush. There is no agricultural infrastructure worth speaking about. There are few Cubans with knowledge of either intensive or extensive agriculture and the current practitioners are little more than crofters with 3-4 acres to sustain their families. Yes, there are a few cooperatives with more substantial acreages – some of which I have visited, but agricultural production steadily declines.
            Like you Lati-YES, I intensely dislike the thought of Walmart, MacDonald’s and other US chains and franchises plastering the streets of Cuba with their ugly logos, symbols and signs. But sound legislation can inhibit that! I recall way back in the fifties – prior to the Cuban revolution, the City of Aberdeen in Scotland, passing a by-law to prevent shop signs being of more than a given size.
            Yes, corruption exists in both private capitalism and state controlled economies. But there is a significant difference in that in the private system prosecution is possible and occurs. In the state controlled systems like Cuba, those in power do not prosecute themselves, Where did Raul and Fidel Castro obtain $706 million to purchase the 27% holding in ETECSA from the Italians?

          • Lati-YES!

            You tell me one corporate CEO that has EVER been prosecuted and I will surely let you win that argument! I of course do not have the same knowledge of Cuba as you or Isbel, but through research I can say that Cuba is a beacon of hope for other Latin American countries. Cuba is in a position to learn the lessons from Central and South American history and choose a different path that benefits Cubans. How or if that happens remains to be seen…. but one thing is for sure- the world is watching.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Remember Enron! – you only asked for one! There are others including Bay Street.
            My views Lati-YES about Cuba are not based upon research but upon the experience of having my home there. Theory has its place and I understand and sympathize with people trying to extend their knowledge, for if we cease to learn we pose our purpose. You speak of Cuba being “a beacon of hope” for other Latin American countries. It was that which caused the late Hugo Chavez to absorb economic teachings at the knee of Fidel Castro and to then pursue them in Venezuela, his disciple Nicholas Maduro continued those policies and today Venezuela is reaping the consequences with the highest inflation in the world, exceeding even that of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
            As an indication of the benefits of living in Cuba and gaining knowledge not provided by books, the Cuban surgeon who operated on Chavez for his cancer visits us in our home as our families are friends..

          • Lati-YES!

            That is not a CEO. The company lost money, yes, but the CEO received a slap on the wrist. Latin America has been exploited by the U.S. for over a hundred years now. Cuba and Venezuela are two countries that have not been. Whether they are in better shape or not is debatable, because many Latin American countries are in dire need of change. I do not contest a change in government- but that change has to benefit Cubans, and not other countries that wish to rob Cuba of it’s full potential. I don’t understand what you are defending. Which brings me back to my original post- if it’s so bad why did you move there?

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Simple question with a simple answer.
            I love my Cuban wife very dearly and would not wish to wrench her away from her family, culture, profession of teaching and community.