When the Obama administration loosened travel restrictions to Cuba, the thought was that Americans were going to pour into the forbidden island on legal cultural exchanges.
But if backers hoped to foster greater understanding between people on both sides of the Cold War’s longest lingering disputes, critics saw an opening for rum-slurping beachgoers to toss around dollars and prop up the communist government. They wanted it stopped.
Score this round for the critics.
Several U.S. travel operators complain that, just over a year after the U.S. re-instituted so-called people-to-people exchanges to Cuba, applications to renew their licenses are languishing, forcing cancelations, layoffs and the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.
Many say that’s due to a deal struck between the White House and a Cuban-American senator, something the lawmaker’s office proudly acknowledges.
The new requirements, which went into effect May 10 as many yearlong licenses were coming up for renewal, have forced travel operators to fill out piles of paperwork to justify their itineraries, and provide painstaking details on visits already taken.
“We have to essentially justify every minute of every day as a legitimate people-to-people activity,” said David Harvell of the New York-based Center for Cuban Studies. He said his group’s renewal application, still unfinished, runs several hundred pages, and the extra paperwork has forced cancellation of six upcoming trips.
The dispute comes down to the nature of the visits allowed by law.
American tourism to Cuba is prohibited by Washington’s 50-year economic embargo, but U.S. citizens are allowed to come on religious, educational or cultural visits so long as they are covered by a license. […]
Starve the regime of dollars. Period.