With the recent suspension of scheduled commercial flights to nine destinations in Cuba, the Trump administration continues its policy of denying U.S. dollars to the Cuban government, especially its military elite, which is directly involved in domestic repression and in propping up the nefarious regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
Nine Cuban airports will be banned for flights from the USA: “Ignacio Agramonte”, in Camaguey; “Antonio Maceo”, in Santiago de Cuba; “Vilo Acuña”, in Cayo Largo; “Jardines del Rey”, in Cayo Coco; “Abel Santamaría”, in Santa Clara; “Sierra Maestra”, in Manzanillo; “Jaime González”, in Cienfuegos; “Frank País”, in Holguin; and “Juan Gualberto Gómez”, in Matanzas.
US airlines have 45 days to comply with this measure. The decision will be effective on December 10th2019.
The move will certainly generate some inconvenience for Cuban-Americans who visit, without restrictions, their relatives in Cuba’s provinces, but it will not shut them off from the island, as airlines like JetBlue and American Airlines will continue to fly to Havana. American alone operates six out of eleven daily flights to the capital city’s “José Martí” airport.
Some restrictions that will not change are those applied by the Cuban government against hundreds of thousands of Cubans who are banished, either permanently or for up to eight years, from visiting their homeland. They are the ones who will continue to suffer the Castro regime’s injustice of not being able to accompany a dying relative, not seeing their children grow, or never meeting their grandchildren.
Harsh indeed are the sanctions and restrictions that the government of Cuba imposes on all Cubans residing abroad, whom it treats as second-class citizens, who cannot invest on the development of their homeland, and whose relatives on the island are robbed of the money they send ─fruit of their hard work─ with arbitrary custom tariffs, 13% taxes on the US dollar exchange and store prices with a markup higher than 400 % over the cost of purchase.
Demanding an immediate and unconditional end of these Castroist restrictions and sanctions must be a priority for those Cubans enduring them, no matter if they live on or off the island.
The intention of the flight ban is to limit the number of dollars left by American travelers to the Cuban government, especially when visiting tempting destinations for veiled tourism, which is prohibited by US law.
“In suspending flights to a total of nine airports, the United States impedes the Cuban regime from gaining access to hard currency from U.S. travelers staying in its state-controlled resorts, visiting state-owned attractions, and otherwise contributing to the Cuban regime’s coffers near these airports, “ the State Department announcement said.
It is also known that the Cuban government charges juicy landing fees to flights from the United States. Prior to the start of scheduled commercial flights in 2016, under the Obama administration, the Tampa Bay Times estimated that, just for this concept, their profits from flights to Havana alone would total around $35 million per year.
President Trump and other senior officials of his administration have made clear the reasons that prompt them to tighten the pegs of the Castro regime with this and other measures, such as the suspension of US-based cruises to Cuba and the so-called people-to-people trips, as well as the denial of visas to the family of communist dictator Raúl Castro.
While announcing the sanctions to the Castro clan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted: “The Cuban regime’s disregard for human rights and use of violence to prop up the former Maduro regime are responsible for the ongoing crises in Cuba and Venezuela.”
As the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) exposed in its research book “Cubazuela: chronicle of a Cuban intervention,” elite troops of the Cuban armed forces and intelligence apparatus lead the intervention in Venezuela and the bloody crackdown on the Venezuelan people, opposition members and dissident military. That is unacceptable.
“Castro is complicit in undermining Venezuela’s democracy and triggering the hemisphere’s largest humanitarian crisis, forcing 15 percent of the Venezuelan population to flee the country and precipitating a food shortage and health crisis of unprecedented scale in this region,” Pompeo added.
The internal human rights situation on the island has not improved either, with prison sentences, arbitrary arrests, persecution, threats, travel bans and other forms of retaliation against peaceful opponents and critics.
FHRC considers that what is ruling Cuba and Venezuela today, as well as other countries such as Nicaragua and Bolivia, are no longer governments as we use to know them, but a transnational criminal mafia immersed in drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes, as well as in the subjugation of their peoples and the destabilization of democracies throughout the region.
Any sensible measure that leads to their weakening should be welcomed.