Cruises to apartheid Cuba are an immoral enterprise

Vintage Car in front of Empress of the Seas

Dr. Javier Garcia-Bengochea wrote a letter to the editors of The Wall Street Journal, an excerpt of which was published yesterday afternoon.

Here is the full text of Dr. Garcia-Bengochea’s letter:

Dear WSJ Editor,

The intellectual dishonesty and misinformation put forth in “Cubans Must Pay for Trump’s Travel Ban” is disgraceful. It should be made clear to readers of The Journal and Americans everywhere that cruises to Cuba are criminal enterprises that betray American values. Only the Cuban military, who controls the tourist industry, their cruise line partners and subordinates benefit.

It is well known that within months of the first cruise ships arriving in Havana most “cuentapropistas,” those Cubans who are self-employed and who the author purports to defend, were driven away from the port by the military and their carts and wares confiscated. They were competition — something expressly prohibited in totalitarian states — to the military’s tourist operations.  

Cruise ship passengers are led by the tour guide, approved by the military, through the military’s stores, restaurants, and other venues, bypassing the remaining independent operators. This has been wholly unnoticed by American tourists who, like the author, abandoned all critical thinking in cruising Cuba.

These cruises traffic in stolen property in both Havana and Santiago de Cuba, where I am the legitimate owner of the port facilities. Trafficking in our stolen property does not help the Cuban people; it validates the theft of their property.

Cuba cruises exploit slave (mostly Afro-) Cuban labor. Cuba’s two currencies are institutionalized slavery, a fact no American seems to recognize or care about, including Carnival’s African-American CEO.  

The tour guide, likely a doctor or engineer who makes $30 a month when practicing their craft, is paid by the military in the second, worthless currency, but keeps any tips in the valuable currency used by tourists. Tips from one tour can exceed their monthly salary. Of course the guide is upset. That, however, doesn’t justify patronizing such a perversion of the social pyramid and the harm incurred to every other Cuban.

The overwhelming majority of tourist dollars go directly towards the repression of the Cuban people and Cuba’s imperialist policies disrupting our hemisphere, including in Venezuela and on our southern border. Cruises to Cuba undermine our national interests.

So enough with the false narrative from our political, business, and civic leaders about lost opportunities in Cuba or how tough and perfectly appropriate sanctions hurt the Cuban people.  

What hurts the Cuban people is their enslavement by the white, male military dictatorship there and policies of appeasement from the latter‘s enablers, including Americans. Our policy towards Cuba should be non-negotiable in ending the tyranny that few, particularly Cubans, want.  President Trump gets this absolutely right.

Cuba cruises are an immoral enterprise well adrift of America’s values. They are little more than politically sanctioned organized crime. I would suggest that theme for the next documentary by Ms. Skousen about Cuba.

Javier Garcia-Bengochea, M.D.
Jacksonville, Florida
Certified Claimant
Port of Santiago de Cuba


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