Tourist response to info about human rights in Cuba: “Please don’t talk to me anymore.”

I received this question from Klout, asking me to respond to an inquiry from a reader whom I assumed was planning a visit to Cuba.

What are some things to do in Cuba?

My response:

I don’t know why you’re visiting Cuba, an island suffering from 54 years of rule by a ruthless dictatorship that uses force to control every aspect of citizen’s lives. I don’t know if you’re staying in an exclusive resort, or traveling around the island, but in either case keep in mind that the hotel you stay in, the restaurant you eat in, the tour guide assigned to you, the entertainers you enjoy, are all employed by the state, and these are the best jobs on the island where the average wage is $20 a month. Not enough to cover the basic necessities. So tip generously, and leave gifts of soap, and other essentials if you have the means to do so. In addition, please keep in mind that all the people who are serving you, must stay in the good graces of the dictator in order to keep their jobs and survive. Dissent and opposition to the government is against the law, there are no guaranteed human rights or the rule of law, as we understand them in Cuba. Just in the month of November this year, there were over 700 political arrests of peaceful dissidents, in some cases they were beaten, and their children were threatened with rape and physical harm. This is how dictator maintains power.

You can make a difference by choosing to educate yourself, to know the facts about Cuba that you won’t learn from a tourist brochure, or from casual news.

Please watch the documentary, “Oscar’s Cuba”, on You Tube; it’s about a leading dissident in Cuba. Know that since the release of this film, he’s no longer behind prison bars, but still is still monitored, and unable to travel out of Cuba.

Also, visit a well-known blog whose purpose is to document and share the stories of the Cuba’s political prisoners, many of whom are Amnesty International Prisoners of Conscience, Uncommon Sense.

Learn about The Ladies in White and their activities.

Please read the U.S. Department of State travel advisory on Cuba that provides important information for American travelers.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Cuba is an authoritarian state that routinely employs repressive methods against internal dissent and monitors and responds to perceived threats to its authority. These methods include intense physical and electronic surveillance, as well as detention and interrogation of both Cuban citizens and foreign visitors. U.S. citizens visiting Cuba should be aware that any on-island activities could be subject to surveillance, and their contacts with Cuban citizens monitored closely. Human rights conditions in Cuba remain poor, as the Cuban government limits fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba, but Cuba generally welcomes U.S. citizen travelers and U.S. citizens are generally well received. The United States Government provides consular and other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (USINT), but U.S. diplomats are not allowed to travel freely outside the capital and may be prevented from providing assistance outside Havana. USINT operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government but is not co-located with the Swiss Embassy. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on U.S. Relations with Cuba for additional information.

Blogs to visit:
Babalu Blog
The Real Cuba
Capitol Hill Cubans
The Cuban Archive

Her response? You are not helpful. Cuba I(s) supposed to have some of the best scuba diving in the world and amazing white sand beaches for kite surfing. Please don’t talk to me anymore.

Lets flood the island with tourists, that’ll bring democracy to Cuba. Sure, sure it will.

“The bus always stops in front of the same building”

That’s a quote by former Cuba tour guide Felix Hernandez in the award winning 1984 documentary Conducta Impropria/Improper Conduct, directed by Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez Leal and produced with the support of French television Antenne 2.

Yes, there have been some cosmetic changes in Cuba, including in the tourism sector, but the underlying structure of State control is the same.

“A tourist coming to Cuba is shown a false, prefabricated view of Cuban reality. From the moment he lands at the airport and takes a luxury bus to a large Havana hotel, a tourist gets to see only well-kept streets. He visits the cathedral in the heart of old town Havana, with its convents and churches, but if he strays, even 200 yards from the planned route, he’ll see that Havana is a disaster area.”

“Tourists are under survelliance by guides, cab drivers, and the employees the moment they reach their hotel.”

Watch and listen in part 7 of the documentary as posted at YouTube:

But let’s send more money, and TVs, and yet more money!

Capitol Hill Cubans: The Sad Truth “Desde la Habana.”

Castro is only interested in the money that comes from emigres. That they come to Cuba and spend lots of money. That they bring more dollars each time. But he wants them at arms length. Forget about business in strategic sectors. It’s better to keep milking them by taxing their trips and the packages they send to the island. The Castro brothers have no desire to treat emigres fairly.

”When the exile community learns how to use its economic might as a weapon, it will force the government to change its antiquated discourse and anachronistic laws. In the meantime, he only needs them to keep filling the piggy bank.

Engagement doesn’t work. Dialog doesn’t work. It didn’t with Hitler or Stalin, it won’t with castro.