Growing up Cuba meant hearing a ton of Cuban expressions.
“La bola pica y se extiende” was one of my parents’ favorite. They would usually say it when the story was developing or when they expected things to get more complicated. (As my father once told me, it is a baseball expression of the ball landing between two outfielders and runners dashing around the bases.)
The State Department announced that U.S. embassy personnel would leave Cuba as a response to the recent sonic attacks. This was predictable and putting the safety of U.S. diplomats first.
However, it was the second step, the travel warning, that will have a direct impact on Cuba. This is where “la bola pica y se extiende”.
This is from CNN:
The US State Department is pulling out all families of employees and nonessential personnel from Cuba, after a string of mysterious attacks against US diplomats.
Several US officials tell CNN that 21 US diplomats and family members became ill after apparent sonic attacks. The American embassy will continue to operate with a 60% reduction in staff.
The officials said the US will stop issuing visas in Cuba effective immediately because of the staff reductions and the decision is not described as a retaliatory measure. Officials say there will still be consular officials in the embassy available to assist US citizens in Cuba.
The State Department is also issuing a travel warning, urging Americans not to travel to Cuba because they could also be at risk as some of the attacks against diplomats have taken place at hotels where Americans stay, a senior State Department official told reporters Friday.
Over the last few years, the U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings to Mexico and it clearly hurt business in the resorts.
Cuba now faces two huge problems:
1) Hurricane Irma devastated many of the resorts used to bring in Europeans and American tourists; and,
2) A reduction of U.S. travelers to the island will mean less dollars at a time that the Castro regime needs every dollar it can gets its hands on.
According to news reports, U.S. tourism in Cuba was over a U.S.$ 1 billion in 2016. Clearly, these dollars have helped the Castro regime to offset the dwindling support from Venezuela and the failure to create new sources of hard currency. A travel warning puts some of those dollars at risk.
How does Cuba recover from Cuba and a U.S. travel warning? It may not. I’m sure that Raul Castro can’t wait for retirement so that he can leave this grand mess to the next guy not named Castro.