The Target: Tourism in Cuba

October 12, 2017 |

By Fernando Ravsberg

Foto: Ernesto González

HAVANA TIMES – In the 1960s the US State Department produced a document that reflected the strategy to follow in Cuba. It said that in a subtle way they should provoke hunger, misery and desperation among the people to push them to rebel and overthrow the government.

That has been the guide to US policy since Eisenhower to date. First they stopped buying the sugar, then they refused to sell it oil, then the Embargo came and later its internationalization, with a law that punishes companies from third countries.

Two presidents realized that only by doing something different could a different result be obtained. In the James Carter and Barack Obama periods, bridges were built to move toward more normal relations between the two nations.

What came after them – Ronald and Donald – was a violent correction of course, redirecting efforts to attack the economy of ordinary Cubans, to do what the armed opposition, the CIA organized invasion and dissidence had not have been able to do.

Every time Cuba finds ways of financing, campaigns to destroy its sources of income begin. The sabotage of Cuban medical missions abroad is a good example; the US even offered doctors express-visas to tempt them to abandon their work.

Now the target seems to be tourism, a fast moving locomotive that can bring growth to other economic sectors as well.  In June Trump forbade doing business “with the military” well aware that it is in the tourism industry where Gaesa (the business group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces) has its greatest weight.

Tourists in the Plaza de la Revolucion

After Hurricane Irma, the State Department launched a travel alert, recommending that US citizens not visit the island due to allegedly dangerous health situations, problems with water and power outages.

Such a recommendation should be mocked when Cuba’s electricity recovery was faster than that of Florida and Puerto Rico, drinking water came to households along with electric power, and the health system is best trained to deal with natural disasters.

The next step was to warn visitors that some US tourists would have suffered “acoustic attacks”, meaning that the Cuban government would be shooting itself in its own foot, triggering actions to curb the growth of tourism to the island.

The famous acoustic attacks denounced by CIA agents in Havana have no basis in facts. They do not present names of victims, do not show medical reports and they were supposedly made with a fantastic weapon that according to the New York Times violates all the laws of physics.

The plan seems to be generating uncertainty, to spread fear and reduce the number of US tourists, which was the fastest growing group. The US market could have doubled the total number of visitors in a few years.

Eduardo Galeano wrote decades ago that “Cuba is judged as if it has not been suffering a continuous emergency situation for more than 30 years. An astute enemy, no doubt, that condemns the consequences of its own acts. ”

Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

However, it is up to the Cuban authorities to find cracks in this blockade and ways to respond effectively to harassment, minimizing the level of harm. Are they doing it today? Will the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) respond intelligently to sabotage?

A person linked to the Cuban intelligence service told me a few days ago that the “acoustic attacks” were totally false but, he added, that the campaign took them by surprise.

The attack on the tourist industry is so obvious that it should surprise no one. Mintur must be dedicated to the reactivation of all the tourist centers before the beginning of the high season but it will not be enough to fill the hotels. To counter the campaign against it from Washington, Cuba must “show” that it is ready.

I was in Varadero 15 days ago and Irma’s passing is practically not noticed. Meanwhile, Havana, which bounces back from hurricanes, has all its services restored. The malecon seawall is once again a lover’s couch and fisherman’s office. And Old Havana is younger than ever.

The hurricane even multiplied the amount of sand on Cuban beaches but all this has to be “shown” to the world so that the images of the resurrection demolish Washington’s campaign to crucify tourism in Cuba.
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  • Chuck1938

    Great article, well documented with a forward vision.

    As so many attacks Cuba has suffered in the past, this one will be defeated, but Cuba must take a more aggressive stance by correcting complementary measures that hampers its own development and reduce the peoples suffering.

    The private business “Hold” must be removed, expanded and encouraged. Supplies warehouses must be made available to expedite services/price and the Cuban Custom Department, must remove the suffocating restrictions it has on literally all imports.

    Encourage and expedite participation of North American Small Business in Cuba, to spread happiness or sufferings on both sides of the strait and,

    Re-evaluate longstanding international business proposals from government and private enterprises around the world, that are accumulating mold on bureaucrats desks.

    • Terry Downey

      Amen, Chuck. In my estimation, the Cuban government absolutely needs to open up their country to much more foreign investment for manufacturing / assembly by cutting much of the bureaucratic red-tape that’s holding it back, and by allowing their foreign partners to export their fair share of profits too off the island (very important). Cuba’s greatest resource is their cheap labor, and when put to work for the greater good of their continued revolution, contribution to progress, increased standard of living, and national sovereignty, everybody will win… except for the USA of course. Fidel had to open up Cuba to tourism in the past for exactly the same reason. It’s time for the Cuban government to diversify further and open up their country once again to exploit all forms of profitable capitalism with the help of their foreign investors… with or without the help of the US government. Raul and Miguel can stick it to Trump and Rubio and let Trump stew over his inability to work his “better deal” with Cuba… the better deal that he should have made in the first place. Cuba could be the new Vietnam, the fastest growing economy in the world, if they would simply stop blaming the US government and get on with moving things forward very quickly with the aid of others who must also be assured of profit. To save their revolution now, it’s absolutely necessary and with no time to waste.

      • Joseph Marti

        Terry….Cheap labor is no basis for a sustainable economy. Once standards are raised, so will wages. See what’s happening in China’s populated cities. Aspire to be the “New Vietnam?” Are you serious????

        • Terry Downey

          Joseph, cheap labor is EXACTLY the basis of China’s, and indeed, Vietnam’s current sustainable economies. Both living standards and wages have increased in both countries because of their noteworthy success stories too. One thing begets another, and so it will be within Cuba as well. I couldn’t be more serious… and why not? It’s not rocket science. But it will take a considerable amount of commitment from Cuba’s government to make it happen. To their benefit, they have China and Vietnam available to them as mentors to help guide them through the step-by-step process.

          • Joseph Marti

            Please consider the current situation in populated areas of China. Dynamics of the Chinese economy is complex and a handfull to keep at clip. Cheap labor is no more. They are having to go further into the country to tap into these resources. Beijing is expensive, polluted, and struggling with diversifying growth, though if anyone can do it, China can. Not so with Cuba. Working wages will eventually reach a global equilibrium. In Cuba, sooner rather than later. Vietnam’s experiment with capitalism i proceeding at a snails pace and their standard of living is by no means a target Cuba or anyone else should shoot for.
            South Korea on the other hand….
            Apparently, it is rocket science for some.

          • Terry Downey

            It seems as though you’ve felt inclined to say a whole lot to me in response, without actually saying anything at all. Try making a clear and concise point, instead of filling the space with your vague and worthless psycho-babble.

    • Joseph Marti

      I don’t know what to make of your comments Chuck. Don’t disagree with most of what you say, but your opening – how Cuba has defeated “attacks” is laughable. Unfortiunately,the only ones ever defeated have been the Cuban people

      • Nick

        With the greatest respect Joseph. If you are not aware of the way that Cuba has withstood and indeed defeated the repeated attacks (invasion attempt, terrorist attacks, economic attacks, sabotage attacks etc etc etc) that have emanated from the USA, then you perhaps you need to have a little read of the history books.

        • Joseph Marti

          Other than the Bay of Pigs (over half century ago), so called “attacks” are hyperbole, propoganda, and plain fantasy. My knowledge goes beyond reading a few history books, but that’s beside the point. Please enlighten be with specific examples of other “invasions, economic attacks sabotage, etc etc etc. ” I’d love to debate these with you.

          • Nick

            I’m glad to hear that your knowledge ‘goes beyond reading a few history books’.
            In that case you will have heard of the downing of Flight 455 by CIA trained terrorists. Perhaps you will have seen relatives of those murdered still searching for the truth regarding at what level this disgrace was officially sanctioned?
            I too have a knowledge which goes beyond book reading.
            I was walking past the Hotel Capri in 1997 when a bomb exploded. Then one went off in The Nacional down the road. I’ve met an Italian fella whose son was killed in this particular terrorist campaign.
            These activities were committed/authored by the same band of CIA trained terrorists of the lowest possible ilk who were subsequently given safe haven in the USA.
            I’ve chatted to some of those who fought to defend Cuba’s sovereignty against US backed insurgents in the Escambray Mountains. I’ve met farmers in Eastern Cuba who swear blind that their stock were victim to a type of swine flu introduced by US Agents.
            You must surely have heard of these incidences?
            You must have at least heard of the economic embargo which seeks to penalise third party entities from doing business with Cuba?
            The list could go on but I will resist compiling every single failed attempt to get Cuba to fall into line.
            I don’t know Joseph……
            Perhaps your angle is to disregard such matters?

          • larrybudwiser

            Me. Nick much of what you have said it true, however after 50 years, why does the hate continue? The US bombed Germany flat, nuked Japan and leveled Hanoi yet these countries are now (or becoming) very strong allies. Yet Havana still blames everything that goes wrong in Cuba on the US or the grand bogie man, the blockade. Yet most every other country trades with Cuba and the US is not the only sole source supplier of all things. I not being a wise guy or being sinical, I want to know why is cuba so far behind when at one time it was so far ahead?

          • Nick

            Hi LB,
            I don’t think hatred is the right word.
            I have become very familiar with Cuba over the past 20 plus years.
            And I can honestly say that I have never heard Cubans express ‘hatred’ toward the general public of the USA.
            Far from it.
            I have though, heard many express their strong dislike of certain US politicians and foreign policies.
            I think President Obama tried to step forward and take the situation to a stage whereby the Cuban Government would not get away with blaming the US ‘grand bogie man’ for all ills and shortcomings.
            However this normalisation proved to be short lived.
            The current US President, with his simplistic good versus evil worldview, is taking things back to the pre-President Obama era. This pleases the so called ‘Miami Hardliners’ – those who have failed miserably in their attempts at invasion, sabotage, propaganda etc.
            But I don’t think this policy will not bring about any kind of dramatic change in Cuba. It will simply once again provide a scapegoat.

          • amelrodriguez

            Great truth… ” this normalisation proved to be short lived.” Why? Shortly after Obama left Havana, there was Fidel Castro publishing a letter in the editorial page of Granma, the PCC newspaper telling not to trust Obama, that he only wanted to destroy the revolution by other means and that Cuba “did not want and did not need the USA”. After that diatribe, all the state media started a feeding frenzy ripping Obama intentions apart and criticizing the normalization, clearly saying Cuba did not have to change a thing, that it was USA the one who needed to change, and demanding the complete lift of the embargo as proof of Obama’s intentions, something they knew he could not do. Even after all this, Obama closed the ‘wet feet dry feet” policy, something the Cuba government had always asked for but nothing would placate the Cuban government but the total lift of the embargo. Obama offered them a hand and they bit it. Of course, the normalization could not proceed. It has to be a two-way process, not only USA giving concessions.

          • Nick

            I understand your point sir.
            I certainly recall the ailing Fidel’s reaction to President Obama’s visit.
            However that intervention of a dying man did not undermine the popularity of President Obama’s overtures to the Cuban populace.

            There is a crucial difference here between the respective points of view of the two governments.
            The Cuban Government disapprove of what they see as the gross inequalities of the neo-liberalist system in the USA. But they don’t seek to change it (not that they would be able to assert any influence anyway).
            Successive US regimes have disapproved of Cuba’s one party system. But rather than mere disapproval they have always sought to change it by various means (all of which have obviously failed).
            The ‘normalisation’ of relations, which was a huge step forward, did not continue for one reason only:
            trump
            If the candidate who achieved the most votes in the US election had won it, the normalisation policy would have no doubt continued.
            Do you not think?

          • Joseph Marti

            I think the clearest and most direct answer Comrade Nick provided was the part about “Miami hardliners…invasion, sabotage, propaganda..”
            Same as it ever was….

          • Nick

            The ‘Comrade Nick’ bit looks like a slightly silly schoolboy style remark to me. It reinforces my view that your remarks come across as a little narrow and one sided.

          • Joseph Marti

            Thank you comrade That is a very well thought, provocative and productive comment. Of course it does.
            By the way, this schoolboy will put up his academic and professional credentials against you and anyone else who cares to. You really don’t want to go there comrade.

          • Nick

            Nice.

          • Joseph Marti

            Truly horrible about Flight 455 and bombings. Don’t condone terrorist atrocities in the least. I’m not going to argue that the perpetrators on at least most of these incidents – if not all – were CIA trained (for Bay of Pigs). However, it is ludicrous to imply that these criminals did so in their capacity as “US agents.”
            First, this tactic makes no sense in any sort of strategy – especially for the United States. They were acts of the deranged – said derangement likely or at least partly brought on by atrocities committed against them, their friends, families, beloved country…. However, NOT an excuse and still criminal and immoral. Another horrible collateral consequence of war. I repeat, not a sound tactic. Now the Bay of Pigs however….
            Second, the “logic” that leads you to believe that because the perps were trained by the CIA they were acting on behalf of the US has many disconnects. Let me lay out one obvious fault through comparison: Osama Bin Laden was indeed trained by the CIA; So, following your “logic,” who was he acting on behalf of – or at least sanctioned by – when he attacked the World Trade Center?
            And please spare me the anecdotal innuendo of “this comrade told me this” and that “comrade swears that he saw that.” As I hope you are well aware of and are willing to concede, in Cuba (or apparently anywhere else) you can always find someone to support any theory you can dream up. Practically speaking, how would someone verify that, say, in a court of law (with a straight face)?
            OK. My turn on invasions. How do you justify Cuba (Fidel) emptying its prisons to Mariel? (This is only one point I’ll bring up for now. Believe me, I’m just getting warmed up…)

          • Nick

            Posada Carriles was trained by the CIA.
            He carried out and authored lethal acts of terrorism.
            He is now given safe haven in the USA where he can live out his years surrounded by the type of individuals who idolise him and worship his atrocities.
            No real comparison with Bin Laden there.
            Perhaps if Posada Carriles had been summarily executed by US Navy Seals and his stinking corpse tossed into the ocean you may have had a point…..
            I am certainly not one for defending all of Fidel’s actions or tactics.
            Most certainly not and if you think so, then you are very much mistaken.
            But I will say that what happened at Mariel hardly compares with invading/attacking a sovereign country (in the process using filthy underhand methods such as painting US attack planes in Cuban Air Force colours).

          • Joseph Marti

            Not one bit surprisingly, you have completely missed or ignioreed the obvious point of my mentioning Bin Laden.
            I certainly cannot condone everything the US does or has done. On this point, I think Trump is not right in the head. Nevertheless, the Castros are/were much crazier and wreckless. I don’t think neither you nor I can begin to fathom the attrocities commited by Mariel convicts let loose on the streets of the US. If by “Invading/attacking a soveriegn country” you mean the Bay of Pigs, that was an an attempt to liberate Cuba from betrayers to the true revolution (at least in the combatants minds). (Remember the saying, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.) As for harboring criminals, Cuba has done so many times over the US.
            See how productive ignorant finger-pointing is?
            Shall we continue?

          • Nick

            You obviously have very firm convictions as to the merits of capitalism and the de-merits of the Cuban Government.
            These strong viewpoints appear to blind you to nuance.
            Your analogies come across as a little far fetched.
            Your suggestion that the failed attack at Playa Giron was ‘an attempt to liberate Cuba from betrayers to the true revolution’ is simply inaccurate. In the minds of some of the participants perhaps this was the case.
            But one would doubt that Batistianos or US pilots involved shared this idea.
            During the Cold War era Russia ruled it’s ‘backyard’ in the Eastern part of Europe. The USA did everything possible to assert rule over it’s own ‘backyard’ (Latin America and Carribean).
            The methodology was brutal in both cases.
            Playa Giron (or bay of pigs as you refer to it) was an example of a failed episode in the USA’s wider domination of the region.
            You are either oblivious to the role of the USA across it’s backyard or wholly condone it on ideological grounds.
            Whatever your views are, it is inarguable that the Cold War is well in the past.
            Unfortunately a powerful minority element in the USA wish to remain stuck in the past regarding US policy toward Cuba.

          • Joseph Marti

            The only 1 of the 2 of us to be blinded to nuance is the one who does not have access to freedom of speech, or press, and is ONLY fed information the dictatorship serves.

          • Joseph Marti

            The Bay of Pigs was indeed liberation from a betrayal to the cause by a lying meglomaniac, leninist little brother, and an Argentine psychopath. Fidel proved himself very early to be crazier than Trump – which is quite a feat. Speaking of Trump, we only have to put up with him for 4 years, though I’m still holding out for impeachment before 2018. What do you do if you don’t like your leaders?

          • Nick

            You can argue ad nausium about what it was or wasn’t.
            But one thing is for absolute certain:
            It was a miserable and pointless failure.

  • bjmack

    Fernando, you should run for Presidente!

    • Joseph Marti

      Run for presidente of Cuba!!!!???
      Did you really type that?

      • Moses Patterson

        Hahaha!!! :)

      • bjmack

        Well, if Trump beat the 1 in 100 odds, anything can happen in this world.

  • Nick

    Another excellent article from Mr Ravsberg.
    A certain element within the USA were appalled at the success of the Cuban tourist industry.
    This element would love to damage this crucial aspect of the Cuban economy.

    • Joseph Marti

      “This Element” will be there again as soon as possible, supporting free trade with the Cuban people as much as possible and as little with the regime as necessary. Talk about oxymoronic! I would have liked to volunteer for hurricane relief. Have plenty of time and resources, but it is apparantly virtually impossible. And with the attacks on diplomats, I’m holding off. So just keep spouting your brainwashed propaganda Nick. Very productive. You make Raul proud.

    • Joseph Marti

      I’ll tell you one thing I am appalled at. The farcical, facade of the tourist areas, that rival anything Walt Disney could have created, versus the real Cuba.

  • Moses Patterson

    According to Fernando, all is well in Cuba. Really?

    • RoseFlorida

      I didn’t get that from reading the article. Some is well.

      • Moses Patterson

        OK, split the difference. Most is well. Even with “some is well” its a reach.

  • N.J. Marti

    A good place to battle back is to re-open licenses for new business. A vibrant small business sector would be Cuba’s best response. Followed by farming reform that would cut the Island’s foreign dependency on food imports.

    • Joseph Marti

      Indeed

  • lavendula38

    If Cuba wants American tourists to continue to travel to Cuba, I have one suggestion. Last year when I visited Cuba for 10 days I landed in Havana. The passport and visa ‘checkers’ were rude and treated me with a great deal of suspicion. Very different than the Cubans I later met from all walks of life. I know they have a serious job to do but I find myself dreading their suspicion when I return this year.

    • Moses Patterson

      Because I look Cuban, it’s worse for me. When I speak Spanish, they are even more suspicious. They told me once that they think that I am a Cuban pretending to be a yuma.

    • Sky

      Try coming through on a Cuban passport… varadero is a much better choice if you have the option.

    • Francisco Castro Jr

      Ok, so they treated you with suspicion. Hell I went to Quebec, Canada last summer and I was treated with suspicion, and very rude. No welcome to Canada, but what are you coming to Canada for and how long, etc. the same old bull, by’ a female agent. After I produced my passport, she asked if I have been in the military, when I said yes, she proceed to ask for proof. I did show her my military retiree ID card (26 years in) and she was notably upset. I finally got sarcastic with her, and told her “no I came to Canada for the medical benefits”. She was upset that she could not find anything to hold me for. Handed my passport back and said”ok”,
      so you see ass—– are everywhere in this case a sorry looking p—-.
      Come thru Immigration at Kennedy or La Guardia and the constant screaming, yelling and disrespect to the people is disgusting, one of the reasons that I have curtail my travels overseas and they treat everyone with suspicion and rudeness.
      Is interesting that when I travel to Germany I have ALWAYS been treated with respect and courtesy, the same in Spain, Italy and England, maybe because they do know their job, and not some sorry Goverment employee.

  • Joseph Marti

    If I were president, since and after Eisenhower, I wouldn’t want to do business with Fidel either.

    • larrybudwiser

      Why would you do business with someone who doesn’t pay his bills an d forces “partners” to pony up the capital for 49% of the profit? Yeah, doesn’t work for me

  • Lance B Lalsin

    Cuba is a very resilient country of 11 million people. I have been frequently visiting the island and have found that the people are torn by the riches and the massive poverty. I am in the process of setting up a classic car business for the Tourist industries and feel the optimism of Cuba in the long term. Hurricanes are inherit this area for centuries and this is going to continue as long as the people move forward and build safe buildings. I the owner of Lombard Development Inc. A Canadian based firm in Edmonton Alberta we specialises I technology for hurricane and earthquake resistant structures over te past 30 years and will be wiling to assist the government and people of these devastated countries in the rebuilding programme for SAFE buildings. The technology meets the standards for the CUBIC building code for this region. Visit http://www.lombard-group.com or contact Lance B Lalsin 17804821334

  • The War At Home

    I want to go. I’m hesitant with all of this talk of acoustic attacks against American tourists though. I’ll probably wait until all of that dies down before I visit Cuba.