Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Airline Lobbying on Travel

August 30, 2016

New Cuba Flights May Intensify Lobbying to Dissolve Tourism Ban

By Stephanie Beasley

Aug. 29 — U.S. companies lobbying Congress to normalize relations with Cuba say the restoration of daily, scheduled flights Aug. 31 could bring a swift end to the travel ban and eventually another look at lifting the trade embargo, according to a top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The more that people are able to get on those flights and see the changes in Cuba, they'll see how antiquated the ban is,” Jodi Bond, vice president of the Americas division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg BNA.

Altogether 10 U.S. airlines—including Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines and Southwest Airlines Co.—will begin offering flights to Cuba this fall.


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From April to June this year, the Chamber spent more than $22 million on a slew of bills that included the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 664/S. 299) (30 DER A-42, 2/13/15) (25 DER A-38, 2/6/15). Airlines for America, which represents all of the major air carriers with the exception of Delta, spent about $1.9 million total during the second quarter of this year lobbying Congress on air service to Cuba.

Status of Ban

The Obama administration has taken several steps over the past year to normalize relations with its former Cold War adversary. Over the summer, the Department of Transportation approved scheduled flights between the U.S. and 10 Cuban airports, including Jose Marti International Airport in Havana (See previous story, 07/08/16). JetBlue Airways Corp. plans to begin operating nonstop flights between Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Santa Clara, Cuba, on Aug. 31. And American Airlines Group Inc. and Silver Airways Corp. are slated to begin flights in early September.

However, U.S. citizens are still banned from traveling to the island as tourists. Instead they must be authorized under at least one of 12 categories, such as family visits, journalism activity, educational activities and humanitarian projects. The restoration of scheduled flights between the U.S. and Cuba could add to pressure on Congress to lift those travel restrictions, Bond said.

Increased Lobbying on Cuba

The Chamber increased its lobbying around legislation that would lift the U.S.-Cuba travel ban and trade embargo in 2014—the year that President Barack Obama announced plans to take a series of steps that would ease restrictions on trade and diplomatic relations. The organization spent more than $21 million total during the fourth quarter of 2014 on a list of trade-related lobbying activities, including the embargo on Cuba, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying data. The Chamber has consistently listed legislation that would lift the embargo and travel ban in subsequent filings over the past two years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the airline industry also intensified its Cuba-related lobbying efforts before the DOT awarded scheduled flight slots to Cuban airports (See previous story, 02/16/16) (See previous story, 02/16/16). For example, American Airlines spent about $2.3 million total between April and June on a series of lobbying activities that included gaining support for its route applications in Cuba, according to reports collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. That is a big change for the company who did not report lobbying on Cuba-related issues for the same quarter in the previous year. In fact, Cuba was not mentioned in any of the air carriers' lobbying reports for the entirety of 2015.

The efforts paid off. DOT authorized American Airlines to operate flights between Miami and five Cuban cities, though notably not Havana. JetBlue Airways, which scored a Havana slot, spent about $610,000 lobbying lawmakers on its Cuba route applications during the second quarter of this year. It also did not list Cuba-related policy within its lobbying activities for the previous year.

Possible Legislative Action This Year

Bond said she expects to see a greater uptick in lobbying this year by companies not only in the travel and tourism industries but also companies in ancillary industries like infrastructure and equipment manufacturing that are hoping to get in on the ground level of efforts to build up Cuba's ports, hotels, roads and other infrastructure, as the island prepares for an influx of American visitors.

Heavy equipment manufacturers such as Caterpillar Inc. are already lobbying to lift the embargo. The company spent more than $1 million from April to June lobbying lawmakers to lift the travel and trade bans. Engage Cuba, a coalition of businesses that includes Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and the National Association of Manufacturers, spent about $70,000 lobbying on Cuba-related legislation during that same period.

The heightened level of lobbying could result in legislative efforts to lift the U.S.-Cuba travel ban this year and perhaps re-examine the trade embargo in 2017 under a new president and new Congress, Bond said.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a sponsor of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, told Bloomberg BNA that there were enough senators who favored the bill to pass it out of the chamber. He is working to get House members “on board.”

As to what might happen next year, Flake noted that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had been supportive of the executive actions President Obama had taken to ease relations with Cuba.

“There are steps that the president can take and Obama has taken most of those steps,” he said. “Nobody is going to roll back what he's done.”

Advocacy Versus Lobbying

There is certainly increased advocacy for normalizing relations with Cuba, but it might not translate to more lobbying or legislative changes, said U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council President John Kavulich. He said many U.S. companies are belatedly recognizing how difficult it is to break into the Cuban market not just because of the embargo but also because of Cuban restrictions on foreign businesses.

Further, he said it was a pipe dream to believe that Congress would take any steps to make it any easier for companies to do business there in the near future.

“Whomever is spouting that narrative is both delusional and on crack,” he said.

President Obama may make additional regulatory changes related to Cuba before he leaves office, but it is highly unlikely that either Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will want to touch the issue of lifting the travel ban on Cuba before the end of this year, Kavulich said. And the next administration was likely to have a new list of priorities, he said.

“For President Obama, the status of Cuba is one that he wants to use for the purpose of his legacy,” he said. “Whomever comes after Barack Obama is going to come into the White House with a long list of domestic and international interests and Cuba is not going to be one of them and it shouldn't be.”

Cuban Concessions Possible Post-Castro

Kavulich said he agrees with those who say the Obama administration made more concessions to the Cuban government than it got in return. If you made a list quantifying what the U.S. gave and what the Cubans gave, the Cuban side is “damn near blank,” he said.

Additional changes in U.S.-Cuba relations will likely require more cooperation from the Cuban government, Kavulich said. That's more likely to happen after Cuban President Raul Castro retires, which he is expected to do in 2018, he added.

Sen. Flake said that one of the steps Cuba will need to take to facilitate normalized trade relations would be to change current labor laws that require foreign companies to hire Cuban government employees. “U.S. companies aren't going to be good with that,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Beasley in Washington sbeasley@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

For More Information

A DOT fact sheet on direct flights to Cuban cities outside of Havana is available online here: http://src.bna.com/h41

Details about the DOT's tentative order for direct flights to Havana can be found here: http://src.bna.com/h43

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Videoart Festival in Camaguey April 4-9

Dear Friends, 

By this means we are pleased to announce that we are organizing the 
7th International Videoart Festival of Camaguey 2017. The Festival 
will be held in Camaguey City from April 4th-9th, 2017. Our festival 
aims to provide a space to present new video artworks, from emerging 
and renowned artists as well. The festival is opened to all national 
and international artists, disregarding age or sex; and there/s no fee 
to apply. It will be our pleasure to welcome you to the festival 
whether you are an artist, gallery owner, curator, art theoretician or 
just someone interested in participating. We're encouraging everyone 
interested in being part of the festival to send his/her proposal(s) 
to the 7th edition.

The deadline for the receipt of entries is January 
15th, 2017. (No Entry Fee required). 

For further information or 

queries, you may contact us via e-mail:
Diana Rosa Pérez Legón 
Coordinadora y Productora General 

Telef. (053) 32 256253 / (053) 32 293260 / (053) 32 243167

Convocatoria al 7mo FIVAC, Festival Internacional de Vídeoarte de Camagüey, Cuba 2017
Estimados amigos y amigas:
El propósito de este mensaje es informarles que ya estamos 
organizando el 7mo Festival Internacional de Vídeoarte de Camagüey 
2017. El Festival se celebrará en la ciudad de Camagüey (Cuba) del 4 
al 9 de abril de 2017. Nuestro Festival permite la oportunidad de 
presentar nuevas obras de vídeoarte, de artistas emergentes o 
consagrados. La participación es abierta a todos los artistas 
nacionales e internacionales, sin distinción de edad ni sexo y sin 
costo alguno para la inscripción de las obras. Si el Festival es de 
su interés, si es artista, galerista, institución, curador o teórico 
del arte, para nosotros sería un placer poder contar con su 
Le estamos invitando a realizar una propuesta para 
esta séptima edición.
El plazo para recibir obras finaliza el 15 de enero de 2017. 
(No hay pago para inscribir las obras) 
Cualquier consulta se puede hacer vía e-mail a:
Diana Rosa Pérez Legón 
Coordinadora y Productora General 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Initial Dates for Commercial Flights to Provincial Airports

All the U.S. Airlines That Are Flying to Cuba

by Christopher Tkaczyk August 26, 2016

Looking for a flight schedule to Cuba? We’ve got you covered.

When JetBlue’s inaugural commercial flight to Santa Clara lands next week, it will become the first U.S. airline to begin regular commercial flights to Cuba in more than 50 years.

The New York-based airline already has been running charter flights from New York to Havana since earlier this year when President Obama eased travel restrictions that had been in place since the Cold War era. And American Airlines began a charter flight from Los Angeles to Havana last December. But like other airlines, JetBlue is still awaiting government approval for regular commercial flights to the Cuban capital.

While Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United have received tentative approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly to Havana, their flight schedules have not yet been confirmed. As such, the airlines cannot begin selling airfare to Havana until government approval is finalized.

Only 20 daily non-stop flights will be permitted from the U.S. to the Cuban capital and 14 will be from Florida, out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. The remaining six flights will connect Havana with Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, and New York.

Over the next few months, six airlines will begin regular weekly service to nine other Cuban cities. American, JetBlue, Frontier, Southwest, Sun Country, and Silver Airways will operate a combined 155 weekly flights, which will be rolled out between now and January. Their planned flight schedules are listed below.

But don’t start packing your bags just yet. There are still restrictions for Americans to travel to Cuba—you must fulfill one of 12 entry requirements. For the latest news, check out the webpage of the U.S. embassy in Havana. The schedule below lists the date that each airline begins operating flights to nine cities in Cuba, other than Havana.

Flights to Cuba from the U.S.

All flights originate in Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
Beginning Aug. 31: Three weekly flights from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara
  • Oct. 1: One daily flight from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara
  • Nov. 3: One daily flight from Fort Lauderdale to Camagüey
  • Nov. 10: One daily flight from Fort Lauderdale to Holguín

All flights originate in Miami (MIA)
  • Sept. 7: One daily flight to Holguín and Cienfuegos
  • Sept. 9: One daily flight to Camaguey and Santa Clara
  • Sept. 11: One daily flight to Varadero
  • Oct. 27: Daily flights between Chicago O’Hare / Miami and Santiago de Cuba 
  • Dec. 15: Four weekly flights between Philadelphia and Camaguey
  • Dec. 15: Three weekly flights between Philadelphia and Santa Clara
  • Jan. 7: One weekly flight each from Chicago O’Hare and Philadelphia to Varadero.

All flights originate in Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Sept. 8: Daily flight to Santa Clara
  • Sept. 22: Five weekly flights to Camagüey
  • Oct. 6: Two weekly flights to Cienfuegos
  • Oct. 20: Daily flight to Holguín
  • Nov. 3: Daily flight to Santiago de Cuba
  • Nov. 17: Three weekly flights to Cayo Coco
  • Dec. 1: Four weekly flights to Varadero
  • Dec. 8: One weekly flight to Cayo Largo del Sur
  • Dec. 15: Three weekly flights to Manzanillo

All flights originate in Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Tampa (TPA)
  • TBD: Two daily flights to Varadero
  • TBD: One daily flight to Santa Clara

All flights originate in Minneapolis (MSP)
  • TBD: One weekly flight to Varadero
  • TBD: One weekly flight to Santa Clara
But that’s not the only way to get to Cuba. You can also take HavanaAir, which flies out of Miami and Key West. In May, Carnival's newest brand Fathom began cultural cruises to Cuba out of Miami. Check out these 9 other ways to get to Cuba by boat or plane.

Christopher Tkaczyk is the Senior News Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ctkaczyk.


More Information on Commercial Flights

Cuba Service Brings Big Questions
 by Joe Petrie On Aug 26, 2016    

With geopolitical relations quickly evolving in the western hemisphere, some U.S. airports will become beneficiaries to these changes.

U.S. to Cuba air service is set to begin again as the final relics of the Cold War start to come down.

Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International, said the present demand for Cuban travel is relatively unknown, but one thing is certain — in coming years it’s going to be “a whale of a destination.”

“We think Cuba could be a mini version of what happened in China where 30 years ago you couldn’t want down the street without getting shaken down by a red guard, but now today, you can’t walk down the street without getting hit by a BMW,” he said.

Airlines service from the U.S. to Cuba will start up by the end of the year due to an agreement signed by the federal governments of both countries in February. The agreement allows for up to 20 roundtrip flights per day between the U.S. and Havana, and up to 10 daily roundtrips between the U.S. and each of Cuba’s nine international airports.

In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approved the applications to provide service to Havana to Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.

In July, DOT announced the services would originate from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Charlotte International Airport (CLT), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Miami International Airport (MIA), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Tampa International Airport (TPA).

Destinations from the U.S. into Cuba include Jose Marti International Airport in Havana; Sierra Maestra Airport in Manzanillo; Frank Pais International Airport in Holguin; Santa Clara Abel Santamaria Airport in Santa Maria; Antonio Macoa Airport in Santiago de Cuba; Jamie Gonzalez Airport in Cienfuegos; Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport in Matazanas; and Ignacio Agramonte Airport in Camguey.

JetBlue announced it would sent its first flight to Cuba on Aug. 31 from FLL at a cost of $99.

When the company did an analysis about Cuban travel potential, Boyd said there’s a demand for travel.

A projection showed 850,000 potential passengers to Cuba on an annual basis, but he called it conservative due to the makeup of the country and the potential for tourism. However, until the nation has enough political changes to make drastic changes to the market, it’s unlikely the tourism demand will be immediate.

“There’s so much there that it’s a place that people are going to keep coming back to,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff happening there.

“It’s also very close. You can practically see it from Key West, so it’s very easy for people to get to.”

Some people have stressed concerns about the infrastructure in Cuba to handle U.S. flights, but Boyd said it’s not necessarily a concern as airports have built out runways and many of them with modern terminals.

There have also been concerns about security issues, but Boyd said the rest of the world has continued traveling to Cuba despite the ban from the U.S. and they have not had any issues.

“The problem I have with people from Congress who oversee this that want to look at Cuba, I want to know why they didn’t go to Omaha first when they had the 96 percent failure rate,” he said.

Questions on Initial Demand

Boyd said the makeup of the initial travelers to Cuba are likely to be Cubans and those who are more adventure travelers. Despite media reports of people wanting to build factories in the country, he said there will not be any business travel to the nation as the government doesn’t want foreign investment.
Traffic will also be entirely inbound to the nation as well, given Cubans not only can’t leave, but can’t afford to leave.

“It’s entirely inbound traffic just like it was in China in 1975,” he said. “If you wanted to get outbound, you had to hijack a MiG to get out of town.”

One of the biggest issues with the service will be the initial demand. People who left the nation 50 years ago are now retired, Boyd said, and second generation Cuban Americans might not care about going.

Also, the vast majority of Cuban immigrants live in Florida, with half of the population in Miami-Dade County alone.

Boyd said its important airlines pursued these routes to get them now, but he doesn’t anticipate a lot of people transferring in places like Charlotte to get to Cuba for the time being.

He said airlines are also planning on running bigger planes like A320s into Cuba, so they’re going to be under pressure to make the routes work, which means at least 1.3 million passengers need to travel to Cuba per year.

“After the first six months, I think a lot them are going to pull back on these operations,” he said.

Jonathan Keane, head of aviation for Accenture Travel, said even with the potential for growth in the Cuban market, airlines will still need to keep the routes in line with current standards that make them profitable. Flights will still need a 75 percent load factor and they will still need to be tightly organized.

Creating new service to an emerging market means challenges with infrastructure and customer experience, which Keane said continues to evolve.

Keane said the service could serve as a catalyst for the two nations and building interconnectivity, but it will be interested to watch given how fast the service is being developed.

“Other services normally spend a year on just the normal processes and this has been much shorter,” he said. “That adds a lot of pressure to the airlines to ensure it’s profitable.”

Alaska Airlines will have flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Cuba, but Boyd said he questions how the airline will fill seats now, but said it was still important for the airline to pursue the route.

In 2015, there were 3,000 specialized flights between the U.S. and Cuba, Boyd said, and only five of those originated from west of the Mississippi River.

“They will really need to stimulate the growth,” he said. “Will there be a lot of connecting traffic in Charlotte? I don’t think so, but southeast Florida will have service out the Whazoo.

Airlines getting routes to Cuba have “a license to print money,” in the long-term, Boyd said, as the country will continue evolve.

“In 1977, if someone told you that we’d have 3 million Chinese people coming to the U.S. and going back to China, they would have called you crazy,” he said.

Preparing Airports for the Unknown

FLL was awarded the most flights to Cuba by DOT with about 122 going to various cities on the island per week. While there’s a strong Cuban population in the metro area, there’s little idea about what’s going to actually happen in terms of need and demand.

“We haven’t had service there, there’s no data out there and no other markets like this,” said Steve Belleme, business development manager for the airport. “We’ve talked to the carriers and they’re not quite sure how to address this or how it’s going to shake out.”

Between FLL and Miami International Airport (MIA), there will be 31 flights per day from southeast Florida to Cuba, so there’s no projection if they can fill the planes, Bellame said. JetBlue had run charters from FLL to Cuban a few years ago from the airport that were pretty full, he said, it was only one flight per week.

“Some of this, talking to JetBlue is a lot of times based on the possibility of connectivity from people coming down from the Midwest to go to Cuba,” Bellame said. “I think the airlines are looking to a certain extent to be serving more than the local market.”

Greg Chin, communications director for the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, said MIA already handles an average of 16 daily charter flights to and from Cuba for a total of 907,263 passengers in 2015, which makes Cuba one of its 10 busiest international markets. Passengers to/from Cuba grew 30 percent in 2015 year over year and that growth rate has continued in 2016.

Overall passenger traffic at MIA has grown 24 percent since 2010, with eight percent growth in 2015 alone.

“In the last five years, MIA has prepared for projected growth with improvements such as: opening a new 66-lane passport clearance facility; adding 108 self-service passport control kiosks and 24 Global Entry kiosks; being the second U.S. airport to offer Mobile Passport, an app that helps speed U.S. and Canadian citizens through the clearance process; and being the first U.S. airport to partner with CBP in a pilot program that allows the majority of its passengers arriving from abroad to clear passport control and exit the Customs area without a second inspection by CBP officers after collecting their luggage,” he said. “Thanks to these improvements, more than half of our international passengers now receive expedited passport screening electronically, and MIA has the capacity to handle continued passenger growth.”

FLL is rushing to prepare all entities for the unknown amount of service about to start by the end of the year. Bellame said U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials need to figure out how to handle an increase in processing flyers from Cuba, how to fit the extra flights into the airport and how to fit all the planes at the terminal.

The airport has six international gates, but due to an extensive construction project, that will drop to five when service starts before an eventual five additional gates open sometime in 2017.

Nancy Suey Castles, public relations director for LAX, said in an email that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) officials are very pleased LAX will be part of this resumption of scheduled air service to Cuba. The Greater Metropolitan Los Angeles area is among the Top 10 places in the U.S. for Cuban-Americans by population size, so there is great interest locally for nonstop service to Cuba for family, academic, cultural, tourism, entertainment, sports, business and trade purposes.

American Airlines began a once-a-week charter flights in December that runs on Saturday’s and success on this route reflects this great local demand, she said.

“Because LAX is already serving Cuba, albeit once a week with a charter flight, airport operations are not expected to be significantly affected,” she said. “Federal inspection of international arriving passengers is well-established at LAX, as well as with the weekly charter flights by American. Alaska Airlines’ lease gives them several preferential gates at Terminal 6, where they already operate several international flights, mostly to Mexico.”

In terms of the actual number of daily international flights, Suey Castles said Alaska Airlines would be considered the busiest international airline at LAX. If Alaska requires additional gates to accommodate new flights to Cuba, they will let the airport know.

“LAX is an ‘open port,’ we don’t allocate slots,” she said. “So, if new flights are operated by permitted airlines, we’re confident that LAX will be able to address any additional needs the airline may have and accommodate the new flights.”

Sun Country was also awarded charter flights to Cuba, which will run from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP). While the service plans have not been announced as of press time, Patrick Hogan, director of public affairs and marketing for the airport said a warm weather destination like Cuba makes a great addition to the airport for travelers in the winter months.

“Sun Country hasn’t announced its plans for the approved Cuba service yet, but from an airport standpoint, we’re ready when they are,” he said. “In fact, we have four new common-use aircraft gates coming on line at Terminal 2, where Sun Country operates, this October.”

Southwest has never flown internationally through FLL, Bellame said, so the airline needs to know the procedures at the facility and the airport also needs to plan for any unknowns with Cuban infrastructure challenges.

“You know, I worked for an airline about a million years ago that had Cuba service and every night you never knew when the flight was going to come back,” Bellame said. “Every night there could be problems like ground handling problems or whatnot. There’s a lot of unknowns and even going in the middle of the day, there are a lot of snags with the infrastructure and it could come back and all of a sudden it’s two hours late and in a congested area, which created operations issues.”

Bill Peacock, consultant for Robinson Aviation Inc., who is the former director of air traffic for the FAA, said Miami Center will take on the main workload of the new Cuban traffic. Airports that could see an impact on service due to the new traffic could include Key West International Airport (EYW), Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport (OPF) and Naples Municipal Airport (APF).

“We’re not taking any special precautions at this point,” he said. “We’re going to be watching the traffic mainly at Key West, Opa-Locka and Naples. There’s a lot of corporate jets coming in and out of Naples with a lot of wealthy people and some of those folks might want to go to Cuba, so we’ll be watching those airports and seeing if we need to take action.”

Peacock said there are a lot of unknowns with opening up air service with Cuba, because it’s not something that has been done a lot before. It was done at one time, so he said it really just involves updating procedures and protocols.

“The folks over at Miami center and in Cuba have a lot of common challenges and already talk to each other routinely when flights are flying over Cuban airspace,” he said. “We have a working relationship with Cuba already, so it’s not we’re starting from scratch.”

My comment:

This is an excellent summary that illustrates well the challenge facing airlines to fill their flights.  The best solution is for them to use their lobbying power to end all travel restrictions so the big tour operators in the US can channel passengers into the all inclusive holiday resorts.  The interim solution is for the airlines to promote use of the individual general license and educate travel agents and direct booking customers about the wealth of interesting experiences available countrywide for meaningful people to people engagement.  

Mr. Boyd's general perspective and enthusiasm is sound, but he makes several mistakes:

1) Fortunately there are very few BMWs and all they imply about misdistribution of national wealth.  The risk is being hit by Ladas, US cars from the 1950s, and increasingly Kias.

2)  Mostly wrong: "Traffic will also be entirely inbound to the nation as well, given Cubans not only can’t leave, but can’t afford to leave."  Thousands of Cubans travel to the US every year to visit family members.  There is a growing flow of academic and business specialists to meet US counterparts.  Cuba permits virtually everyone to leave the country as long as they have a visa.  The biggest impediment is the difficulty of obtaining US visas, an obstacle that will be reduced when the White House finally ends the Cuban Adjustment Act's inducement to overstay visas.  In addition to family visits, large numbers of Cubans will come to the US for undergraduate and graduate degrees as soon as visas are available.  Few Cubans will have the money to buy tickets, but relatives and sponsors here will.

3)  Wrong:  "there will not be any business travel to the nation as the government doesn’t want foreign investment".  The Cuban government is extremely interested in foreign investment that respects its evolving norms and priorities.  The problem is that what is most needed for national development is blocked by the unilateral US embargo.

4)  Wrong:  "One of the biggest issues with the service will be the initial demand. People who left the nation 50 years ago are now retired, Boyd said, and second generation Cuban Americans might not care about going."  Over 300,000 Cuban Americans 'went home' this past year, including children and teenagers sent for summer vacations with grandparents and cousins and millennials curious about their family origins.  The policy and actions of President Obama have made travel to Cuba more politically comfortable for a far wider range of Americans, including Cuban Americans.

5)  "connecting traffic in Charlotte" will depend upon how aggressively American Airlines promotes the opportunity of its daily flights

A summary of the opportunities provided since March 16th for people to people travel under the individual general license can be read here.  http://cubapeopletopeople.blogspot.com/2016/04/guidelines-for-individual-people-to.html 

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Museum and Science Cooperation

American Museum of Natural History's Cuba exhibit breaks diplomatic ground
Updated August 6, 2016 7:49 PM
By Delthia Ricks

The famed American Museum of Natural History opens an exhibition this fall that its scientists say breaks new ground on multiple fronts.
Live reptiles, models of species — some scary — from a misty primordial past, but all evidence of an end to a deep, and decades-long geopolitical divide fostered by governments, not scientists will be displayed.
In keeping with the newly relaxed relations between the United States and Cuba, scientists from both countries have broken through more than a half-century of restrictions in place since the Cold War.
The project, its curators say, will be one of the largest exhibitions of Cuban wildlife, cultural artifacts and species ever assembled in this country. They will include the re-creation of a short-winged, flightless 3-foot owl — a heavyweight prehistoric thug — notorious for stomping its prey to death.
Chris Raxworthy, co-curator of the upcoming bilingual exhibition to be titled “¡Cuba!” said the collaboration is a major milestone for scientific diplomacy.
“We are definitely the first in terms of natural history museums to do this,” Raxworthy said of an exhibit that presents a view of the island through the broad lens of science.
The extinct giant owl, he said, has nothing on the bee-sized hummingbird, the smallest hummingbird in the world, a minuscule hovercraft that is alive and thriving today.
 “People think they know Cuba, but when they come into the exhibit there will be so much more about it they didn’t realize,” said Ana Luz Porzecanski, director of the museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.
Cooperative research between the museum and Cuban scientists began six years before President Barack Obama formally normalized relations in December with the island nation only 90 miles from the United States.
“In 2009, the museum started its first collaborative agreement with the natural history museum in Havana. That involved working on jade deposits, and actually, a number of us went to Cuba at that time while a number of Cuban scientists came to New York and worked on our collections,” Raxworthy said.
Over the years, the Americans continued meeting with their counterparts in Havana at the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Cuba. Then, last month, the two institutions signed an agreement to continue collaborating on research, exhibitions and education.
“We are very excited about this because there are so many rich stories to be told about Cuba,” Raxworthy said. “There are things about it that are still very surprising to us.”
Bottom of Form 1
For scientists whose laboratories are the great outdoors — the rain forests, deserts, mountain ranges and oceans of the world — open borders are vital.
Alan Turner, a professor of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University’s medical school, moonlights as a paleontologist. His work hinged on discoveries in Liaoning province in northeastern China. In 2014, Turner and his team found that the world’s earliest birds glided but didn’t fly. Another moonlighting paleontologist from the medical school’s anatomy department, David W. Krause, discovered that one of life’s earliest rodents was a huge 20-pound creature larger than today’s house cats. The discovery was made in Madagascar.
Porzecanski said because Cuba is an island, it has species not seen elsewhere. That’s why it is important to go there.
“Islands in general are not as rich [in biodiversity] as large continental areas,” Porzecanski said, comparing Cuba to the Amazonian rain forest. But she underscored that an appreciable amount of its prehistoric fossil evidence has been surprisingly preserved.
“Fossil remains don’t last long on tropical islands, but Cuba has a lot of caves and these remains do survive in cave deposition and that has allowed us remarkable insight into the island’s paleobiology.”
The upcoming exhibition, which opens Nov. 21, will feature lizards and snakes, including the knight anole, a bright-green, lighting-fast reptile that is native to the island. Experts are still working on taxidermied animals as well as models of a giant venomous sloth and a Cuban leaping crocodile.
Despite its proximity to the United States, Cuba seems a landscape lost in a time warp. It is noteworthy for the 1950s cars its residents drive, products of the last decade U.S. automobiles were shipped there.
Yet even as its street traffic recalls a bygone era, its scientists across a wide swath of disciplines have stayed in step with the rest of the world.
Cuba’s medical researchers have developed cancer drugs and vaccines that are licensed in dozens of countries, except the United States.
A genetically engineered medication called Heberprot that effectively treats diabetic foot ulcers and prevents amputation is considered a breakthrough drug but is not available here.
Cuban medical researchers are trying to reach detente with the United States in alliances on par with the collaborative agreement signed by the museum’s researchers and their counterparts in Havana.
The sharp divide between the United States and Cuba began in the late 1950s and worsened by the early ’60s.
“The two countries developed acrimonious relations after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution in January 1959,” said Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University in Miami. “The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961.”
Cuba aligned itself at that time with the Soviet Union and its Eastern European bloc, he said.
“The detection of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba led to the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, putting the world on the brink of a nuclear war. Because of that, the United States and Cuba deepened their adversarial relations,” Duany said.
Duany, who holds a doctorate in anthropology, said scientific endeavor suffers when researchers are barred from freely exchanging ideas.
He was invited to attend a briefing on the museum’s exhibit last fall and sees the collaboration as having deeper meaning for the two countries.
“I feel it’s a significant first step in a larger set of research and educational possibilities,” he said. “There are many areas of potential collaboration between Cuban and U.S. scientists.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest organization in this country representing scientists across dozens of disciplines, encourages global scientific collaborations through its Center for Science Diplomacy.
The center has long encouraged scientific exchanges between the United States and Cuba as well as other countries, such as Iran, whose governments are at odds with U.S. policies.
“Collaboration is very, very important and not just for scientists — the public benefits,” said Raxworthy, a herpetologist — a biologist who specializes in the study of reptiles and amphibians.
In Chicago, William Simpson, who heads the geological and vertebrate fossil collections at the Field Museum, said collaboration is the lifeblood of science.
“Working with scientists around the world allows us to pool our resources and our knowledge in a way that we become greater than the sum of our parts,” Simpson said.
“Plus, different areas around the world are obviously home to different species, and by collaborating with scientists in other countries, we’re able to learn about plants and animals different from the ones that live near us.”
The Field Museum is also interested in Cuba. Its researchers have compiled reams of data about the island and its species.
“Cuba is hugely important because of the number of endemics — species that occur nowhere else,” said Debby Moskovits, the museum’s vice president of science education.
Raxworthy said even with an exhibition as large as the one that opens in the fall, he and his colleagues have only scratched the surface of the island nation’s biodiversity.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Party Platforms on Cuba

2016 Democratic Party Platform

In Cuba, we will build on President Obama’s historic opening and end the travel ban and embargo. We will also stand by the Cuban people and support their ability to decide their own future and to enjoy the same human rights and freedoms that people everywhere deserve.

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2016 Republican Party Platform

We want to welcome the people of Cuba back into our hemispheric family — after their corrupt rulers are forced from power and brought to account for their crimes against humanity. We stand with the Women in White and all the victims of the loathsome regime that clings to power in Havana. We do not say this lightly: They have been betrayed by those who are currently in control of U.S. foreign policy. The current Administration’s “opening to Cuba” was a shameful accommodation to the demands of its tyrants. It will only strengthen their military dictatorship. We call on the Congress to uphold current U.S. law which sets conditions for the lifting of sanctions on the island: Legalization of political parties, an independent media, and free and fair internationally-supervised elections. We call for a dedicated platform for the transmission of Radio and TV Martí and for the promotion of internet access and circumvention technology as tools to strength Cuba’s pro-democracy movement. We support the work of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and affirm the principles of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, recognizing the rights of Cubans fleeing Communism.

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