PortandTerminal.com, June 4, 2019
Havana, Cuba – Today, the United States just tightened the screws on Cuba by hitting the country’s tourism sector. The Trump administration announced new steps to further restrict Americans’ travel to Cuba, including banning cruise ship stops and group tours to the island nation.
The move comes as a blow to Cuba, a country that increasingly looks to tourism to shore up its crumbling economy. US cruises to Cuba only become possible again after Presidents Obama and Raul Castro declared detente in December 2014.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement that the restrictions are a result of Cuba continuing “to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up US adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes.”
Boosting sanctions is an attempt to bankrupt the Cuban state.Raul Rodriguez, Director of the University of Havana’s Center of Hemisphere and U.S. Studies
“These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a statement,
Tourism in Cuba
Cuba began to open the island to tourists after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent loss of billions of dollars a year in aid. In 1996, Cuba had 30,000 state-owned hotel rooms and about a million tourists a year.
In total, Cuba drew 4.7 million tourists in 2018, a 1.3% rise over the previous year that puts its latest goal for 2019 of 5 million within reach. Visits to the island are already running 7% higher than the same period last year when about 639,000 U.S. travellers took a trip, the highest of any nationality except Canada.
Official figures show that 257,000 Americans visited Cuba in the first four months of 2019, a 93% increase over the same period last year. Meanwhile, about 142,000 came on cruise ships, a form of travel that remains legal and is largely responsible for the rising number of American travellers to Cuba.
After two decades of relative stability fueled by cheap Venezuelan oil, shortages of food and medicine have once again become a serious daily problem for millions of Cubans. A plunge in aid from Venezuela, the end of a medical services deal with Brazil and poor performances in sectors including nickel mining, sugar and tourism have left the communist state $1.5 billion in debt to the vendors that supply products ranging from frozen chicken to equipment for grinding grain into flour, according to former Economy Minister José Luis Rodríguez.
Stores no longer routinely stock products including eggs, flour, chicken, cooking oil, rice, powdered milk and ground turkey. These basics disappear for days or weeks. Hours-long lines appear within minutes of trucks showing up with new supplies. Shelves are empty again the same day.
More from the region
Copyright © 2019 PortandTerminal.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.