From the LA Times’ travel blog comes this insightful and informative post about traveling to Cuba as a tourist. You know, the “silver bullet” that will end all of Cuba’s human rights woes and usher in democracy once the archaic and ineffective US embargo is lifted and American tourists flood the island with their magic dollars and their subversive talk of freedom and democracy.
The post quotes Christopher P. Baker, author of several tourist guidebooks to Cuba. Mr. Baker shows us how much improvement over the past few years has been seen on the island after the arrival of millions of tourists from other free and democratic countries and their subsequent spending of billions of Euros, Pound Notes, and–one would assume if you believe everything you hear–their spreading of subversive democratic ideals among the oppressed Cuban population through interaction if not sheer osmosis.
And though the many locals may still be cruising in 50-year-old vehicles, rental cars (from Hyundais and Toyotas to VWs, BMWs and Audis) are available nationwide, Baker said. (But he warned that maintenance is “a problem, and contracts that include rip-off clauses are an irritant.”)
Baker also noted that Cuba has “an efficient, high-quality tourist bus service called Viazul and has just signed a deal to overhaul its rail networks with 100 locomotives from China and rolling stock from Iran. But when it comes to domestic air travel, Baker cautions, planes are “unreliable and uncomfortable.”
The food? “A few excellent restaurants with consistently good meals are to be found in Havana, and a fistful of other top-quality hotels are sprinkled around the isle,” said Baker. “But for the most part, food remains one of the serious weak links, as are pilfering of guests’ belongings by hotel staff, lousy Cuban management of hotels and tourist entities, and low-quality service at every level.” [emphasis mine]
Wait a second, rewind the tape please. Do you mean to say, Mr. Baker, that after millions of tourists from all over the free world have visited Cuba the only things that have improved are the tourists’ choices of rental cars, the exclusive tourist bus service, and the tourists’ choices of top-quality hotels with good restaurants? After all the billions of dollars that have entered Cuba’s economy and the millions of tourists that have brought their ideas of democracy and freedom to Cuba, shouldn’t there be at least a minuscule improvement in the quality of life for the common Cuban slave laborer?
I keep hearing how lifting the embargo and flooding Cuba with American tourists will be the panacea to all of Cuba’s ills. It will be good for the Cuban people, they say. History and facts, however, is telling me that it will be good for the tourists, and the regime’s thugs that run this criminal tourist/slave enterprise.
So explain to me again how the ending of the US embargo is going to help the Cuban people.