Americans lobbying on behalf of a state sponsor of terrorism? Well, as odd it as it may sound, that is exactly what Orbitz decided to do last month when it launched a lobbying effort to ease travel restrictions on Cuba. For all intents and purposes, it might as well register as a lobbyist for the Cuban regime for the easing of travel restrictions is the golden calf that its leaders desperately want and need to consolidate its hold on the Cuban bureaucracy.
Our government deems Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba has been on the list since March 1, 1982 and for good reason – it has engaged in terrorist activity since the 1960s and continues to do so to this day. The fact alone that Iran and Cuba are fellow travelers in this new world order is reason enough to keep them on the list; however, U.S.-Cuba policy detractors will argue, at times vehemently, that Cuba is not only not a threat to the U.S., but that it is not a terrorist state and that it should come off the list.
Rather than treat these rogue regimes accordingly, for some odd reason there are people and companies that insist on engaging and facilitating relations with them. The forbidden gem of the Caribbean is a special favorite of these groups. If it were about ideology, as in the arrests of recent spies and others unknown, this fascination with Cuba would be easy to understand. It remains ignorance, but easier to explain away.
Orbitz, a company started by large U.S. airlines, needs cash and Cuba makes for easy headlines today and, in the future, cash. With all the good places there are to visit in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands of the region comes to mind, company leaders decided it would not only begin its foray in to a future market, but that it would engage politically in the matter.
While there is no travel ban on the Sudan, also a state sponsor of terrorism whose leaders, as in Cuba, are human rights abuser, why not launch a similar campaign to travel to the Sudan? Orbitz could argue that it opposes sanctions on the Sudan for whatever reason it wished. We know that Orbitz will not do that. Sudan is a politically correct matter, sanctions are ok in that case.
On its Cuba lobbying website, Orbitz states: “Join us in urging U.S. leaders to give all Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba.” Certainly, Americans have a freedom to travel, but that freedom can be constitutionally curtailed if in the national interests of the United States. This position has been affirmed by the Supreme Court. In this case, U.S. statutory law states that it is in the U.S. interests to curtail hard currency flow to the Cuban regime for a whole host of reasons including foreign policy and national security grounds; the harboring of American cop killers and other fugitives; the stealing of American property without just compensation; and supporting, and engaging in, terrorism.
While it appears as if the effort is legal, it is downright un-American. It also sends the wrong message to freedom-seekers on the island and to the political prisoners rotting in Cuban political prisons. Which begs the question, why risk damaging the corporate brand on these political campaigns? Tourism is vital to Cuba’s economic future and the regime needs Americans to visit. By launching this effort Orbitz is serving as a proxy for the Cuban Communist Party and its officials in Washington, DC. Orbitz should stick with the tourism business and stay out of politics and policy-making.
When making your summer vacation plans, do something patriotic, do not use Orbitz. And, a hint to Orbitz’s competitors Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, and others, this effort can still be done by focusing on a well-thought and responsible initiative that encourages travel to the Caribbean democracies and not lobbying on behalf of the Cuba regime. Such an effort can get much needed tourists to the island democracies and, possibly, be used to raise awareness of freedom’s plight on the island. Consider it the Western Hemisphere’s politically responsible travel program. It will be short-lived, but it will lay a good foundation for future relations in the region and send the right message to freedom-seekers on the island.