home human rights Carnival Cruise Lines Engaging in Tourism Apartheid?

Carnival Cruise Lines Engaging in Tourism Apartheid?

As we’ve discussed in this blog in various posts, for many reasons, President Obama’s trip to Cuba was a colossal foreign policy blunder. It builds upon several years of secret maneuverings that include changes to US regulations that make it easier for persons subject to US law to do business with the regime.

To date, however, the are no closer to their ultimate goal, securing enough votes in Congress to remove the embargo. Yet this has not deterred Obama administration officials at the White House, and a legion of high-priced lawyers and lobbyists backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, from trying to gut the embargo through regulations, at times, using executive powers not granted to the President by Congress. And it was not just lawyers like me warning that this was the case.

Recently Democratic Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) said on the Senate floor that certain amendments to the Cuba sanctions regulations are unlawful and will lead to litigation pitting, in some cases American vs. American and not Americans vs Cuban Regime. Menendez is spot on. There can be no other outcome from the regulatory rule-making bender.

Well, here it comes …

According to the Miami Herald, Cuban-Americans are not allowed on Carnival Cruise boats bound for Cuba. Why? That is one of many questions folks will have about this deal. For example, did the Communist Party of Cuba require the exclusion of Cuban-born Americans before granting Carnival Cruise Lines the concession to dock at Cuban ports? What about Americans whose parents are Cuban born and are politically active against the regime? What about former political prisoners? Victims of human rights abuses?

If this turns out to be true, the US government, as well as the private sector, is condoning ugly tourism apartheid. A Cuban-American interviewed by the Herald sums up nicely the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of Americans of Cuban ancestry:

Forty-seven years in this country, 36 as a U.S. citizen, a voter — and I cannot sail on an American cruise ship because Cuba says so. Now I know how Cubans felt when they arrived in 1960s Miami and found signs like this on rentals: “No blacks. No Cubans. No dogs.” Or no Jews.

And if you think this criticism is coming from opponents of President Obama’s policy, think again. A pro-engagement academic from the University of Illinois in Chicago, Maria de los Angeles Torres, criticized the policy and told the Miami Herald:

“It’s like they’re bringing Cuban law here.”

Carnival, say it is not so. Let’s hope that they clarify, soon, how they were lured into this mess. They are an important corporate actor in South Florida and they should’ve known that agreeing to this restriction would raise political, and potentially, legal red flags. In addition to the cruise industry, the high-tech sector is also running into a potential compliance bramble. Over at the Capitol Hill Cubans blog, they ask, “Why Did Google Succumb to Cuba’s Censorship?” Expect many similar stories in other sectors in the near future.

In case you’re wondering why these things happen, a significant reason is because this administration puts foreign or global interests ahead of U.S. national and security interests. This is true for Cuba, Iran, North Korea, combating radical Islamic terror or illegal immigration. President Obama has a different worldview and he intends to finish his last few months in office by causing as much damage as possible to U.S. interests. Cuba is a pet project he and some of his advisors have been quietly cooking for some time.

Companies that are allowed to engage in Cuba do so as an exception to a comprehensive embargo that remains in place. Obama administration officials have taken certain liberties interpreting these laws and, in the process, sent mixed messages to the marketplace about what is allowed and what is not allowed. Congress needs to weigh in with fulsome oversight to help ensure that there are no misunderstandings, or illegal activities taking place that put U.S. taxpayers in the middle of the transition in way not allowed under current laws.

P.S., as if condoning unlawful discrimination were not bad enough, the Obama administration is also just about encouraging U.S. companies to break the law by trafficking in properties that were stolen from Americans and that the regime, as required by international law and Cuban law, must pay for. Cuba owes U.S. taxpayers about $8 billion dollars.

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