American Tourists Won’t Bring Democracy to Cuba
American Tourists Won’t Bring Democracy to Cuba
Director del Instituto de Estudios Cubanos y Cubano-Americanos de la
Universidad de Miami
(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- Over the past decades hundred of thousands
of Canadian, European and Latin American tourists have visited the
island. Cuba is not more democratic today. If anything, Cuba is more
totalitarian, with the state and its control apparatus having been
strengthened as a result of the influx of tourist dollars.
The assumption that tourism or trade will lead to economic and political
change is not borne out by serious studies. In Eastern Europe, communism
collapsed a decade after tourism peaked. No study of Eastern Europe or
the Soviet Union claims that tourism, trade or investments had anything
to do with the end of communism.
The repeated statement that the embargo is the cause of Cuba’s economic
problems is hollow. The reasons for the economic misery of the Cubans
are a failed political and economic system. Like the communist systems
of Eastern Europe, Cuba’s system does not function, stifles initiative
and productivity and destroys human freedom and dignity.
As occurred in the mid-1990s, an infusion of American tourist dollars
will provide the regime with a further disincentive to adopt deeper
economic reforms. Cuba’s limited economic reforms were enacted in the
early 1990s, when the island’s economic contraction was at its worst.
These reforms were rescinded by Castro as soon as the economy stabilized.
The assumption that the Cuban leadership would allow U.S. tourists or
businesses to subvert the revolution and influence internal developments
is at best naïve.
American tourists will have limited contact with Cubans. Most Cuban
resorts are built in isolated areas, are off limits to the average
Cuban, and are controlled by Cuba’s efficient security apparatus. Most
Americans don’t speak Spanish, and are not interested in visiting the
island to subvert its regime. Law 88 enacted in 1999 prohibits Cubans
from receiving publications from tourists. Penalties include jail terms.
Money from American tourists would flow into businesses owned by the
Castro government thus strengthening state enterprises. The tourist
industry is controlled by the military and General Raul Castro.
While providing the Castro government with much needed dollars, the
economic impact of tourism on the Cuban population would be limited.
Dollars will trickle down to the Cuban poor in only small quantities,
while state and foreign enterprises will benefit most.
Tourist dollars would be spent on products, i.e., rum, tobacco, etc.,
produced by state enterprises, and tourists would stay in hotels owned
partially or wholly by the Cuban government. The principal airline
shuffling tourists around the island, Gaviota, is owned and operated by
the Cuban military.
Once American tourists begin to visit Cuba, Castro would restrict travel
by Cuban-Americans. For the Castro regime, Cuban-Americans represent a
far more subversive group because of their ability to speak to friends
Lifting the travel ban without major concessions from Cuba would send
the wrong message “to the enemies of the United States”: that a foreign
leader can seize U.S. properties without compensation; allow the use of
his territory for the introduction of nuclear missiles aimed at the
United Sates; espouse terrorism and anti-U.S. causes throughout the
world; and eventually the United States will “forget and forgive,” and
reward him with tourism, investments and economic aid.
Since the Ford/Carter era, U.S. policy toward Latin America has
emphasized democracy, human rights and constitutional government. Under
President Reagan the U.S. intervened in Grenada, under President Bush,
Sr. the U.S. intervened in Panama and under President Clinton the U.S.
landed marines in Haiti, all to restore democracy to those countries.
Military intervention is not necessarily a policy toward Cuba. The U.S.
has prevented military coups in the region and supported the will of the
people in free elections. While this U.S. policy has not been uniformly
applied throughout the world, it is U.S. policy in the region. Cuba is
part of Latin America. A normalization of relations with a military
dictatorship in Cuba will send the wrong message to the rest of the
Ending the travel ban and the embargo unilaterally does not guarantee
that the Castro brothers will change their hostile policies against the
U.S. or provide more freedoms and respect for human rights to the Cuban
Supporting regimes and dictators that violate human rights and abuse
their population is an ill-advised policy that rewards and encourages
A large influx of American tourists into Cuba would have a dislocating
effect on the economies of smaller Caribbean islands and even Florida.
If the travel ban is lifted without preconditions, Americans and
Cuban-Americans could take their small boats from Florida and visit the
island. Thousands of boats would be returning to Florida after visiting
Cuba with illegal Cuban migrants and goods, complicating security and
migration issues in South Florida.
If the travel ban is lifted unilaterally now by the U.S., what will the
U.S. government have to negotiate with a future regime in Cuba and to
encourage changes in the island? Lifting the ban could be an important
bargaining chip with a future regime willing to provide concessions in
the area of political and economic freedoms.
The travel ban and the embargo should be lifted as a result of
negotiations between the U.S. and a Cuban government willing to provide
meaningful and irreversible political and economic concessions or when
there is a democratic government in place in the island.
Source: American Tourists Won’t Bring Democracy to Cuba – Misceláneas de