Can tourism liberate Cuba?
Can foreign tourists spending billions of dollars in Cuba really play an intrinsic role in liberating the Cuban people and be the catalyst to end a half-century of tyranny and repression on the island? The "Cuba Experts" will tell you that is certainly the case. But since these "Cuba Experts" are neither Cuban nor experts, perhaps it would be better to ask the Cuban people themselves.
Let's ask the people actually living on the island who in 2012, after being visited by almost 3-million tourists and having billions of dollars injected into the Cuban "economy," have suffered one of the most oppressive and violent years of repression in recent history. Ask the families of Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Payá, or Wilmar Villar, dissidents who mysteriously died under the "care" of the Castro dictatorship. Ask the thousands of democracy activists who were mercilessly beaten by State Security thugs and government organized mobs. Ask the thousands of dissident who have been arrested and imprisoned simply for asking the government to respect human rights. Ask the Ladies in White who are viciously beaten, harassed, and arrested on an almost weekly basis for the heinous act of going to Church on Sundays in a gourp. Ask 15-year-old Berenice Hector Gonzalez who was brutally slashed on her face, breasts, and other parts of her body by the knife-wielding daughter of a high-ranking State Security official for defending the Ladies in White.
2.9 million tourists visited Cuba in 2012, and repression is at an all-time high on the island...
Cuba receives nearly 2.9 mln tourists in 2012, expects more in 2013
The number of foreign tourists visiting Cuba is expected to reach nearly 2.9 million in 2012 and 3 million in 2013, according to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.
Minister of Tourism Manuel Marrero has said recently the island country has received 2.85 million foreign tourists from January to mid-December, up 4.9 percent from the same period last year.
And the ministry has predicted the foreign tourist arrivals will be close to a record of 2.9 million by the end of the year, a target set by the country. Canada remains as the main source of tourists worldwide while Britain is the leading European source of tourists.
Marrero added that this year the tourism industry has met some difficulties such as the ongoing financial crisis, marketing inefficiencies by hotels and travel agencies, cruise suspension from Europe and the US economic blockade.
The US-led blockade against Cuba imposed in 1961 has shown no signs of ending, though the US government last year eased restrictions on travel, remittances and charter flights to Cuba.
Despite these obstacles, foreign tourist arrivals still keep rising and 3 million visitors are expected in 2013, Marrero said.
Cuba is capable of receiving over 3 million tourists with the combination of state and private tourist industry, he stressed.
"Today we have a new vision of non-state tourism, since we don't see it as a competitor, but complement to state tourism," the minister said.
The country has some 300 state hotels with 60,000 rooms while there are more than 1,700 private restaurants, over 4,280 rooms for tourists and more than 700 full houses for rent, he added.
Tourism is the second largest source of revenue in Cuba and its development is considered as a strategic sector in the economic reform package promoted by top Cuban leader Raul Castro.
So, tell me again how American tourism to Cuba will help liberate the Cuban people.