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Saturday, September 26, 2020
Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Flight restrictions, another coup to the links with Cuba

Washington, Dec. 10- The US government ends today the bridge established just over three years ago between this country and several provinces in the interior of Cuba, by suspending regular flights to those destinations with the exception of Havana.

On August 31, 2016, an aircraft of the American company JetBlue Airways that touched down at the Abel Santamaría International Airport of the central Cuban province of Villa Clara after leaving Fort Lauderdale, Florida, marked the reestablishment of regular direct flights between the two nations after an interruption of 55 years.

This step, taken as part of the process of normalization of relations initiated between the two countries during the administration of Democrat Barack Obama (2009-2017), contributed to the considerable increase in travel by citizens and residents of the United States to the  island.

Although the prohibitions that prevent Americans from going to the neighboring nation as tourists were maintained in the midst of this approach, 12 travel categories allowed more than 600,000 Americans to go to the island in 2017 and 2018 each year, in addition to some 500 thousand Cuban Americans.

However, Obama's successor, Republican Donald Trump, who arrived at the White House in January 2017, changed the approach policy for a return to open hostility toward the Greater Antilles and a resurgence of the blockade imposed by Washington almost 60 years ago.

As part of this aggressive stance, one of the priorities of its executive has been to reduce the travel of Americans to Cuba, for which numerous measures have been taken that have been highly criticized by various North American sectors.

Among them, on October 25, the State and Transportation departments announced that as of December 10, US airlines will only be able to make flights to Havana, and those directed to the nine international airports outside that capital will be suspended.

To justify this action, as with previous restrictions, the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, again used as alleged arguments violations of human rights on the island, and the solidarity of Cuba with the constitutional government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

According to a statement from the State Department, the suspension of flights seeks to prevent the Cuban government 'obtaining access to foreign currency of US travelers staying in their state-controlled tourist centers'. That text did not mention, however, that in addition to making it difficult for Americans to travel to destinations outside of Havana, this new change harms hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans who go to visit their families every year through airlines such as American Airlines, JetBlue and Delta.

Therefore, and even though the Trump administration claims to adopt the restrictions to benefit the Cuban people, many sources denounced that this and other regulations actually have a very negative impact on the inhabitants of the neighboring nation.

After spreading the news of the cancellation of flights, Engage Cuba coalition president James Williams said in a statement that it is an unnecessarily cruel blow to Cuban families.How are Cuban Americans supposed to visit their loved ones if there are no flights to most of the country? We understand that the politicians who make this measure have probably never been to Cuba, but even they should be able to see that the vast majority of Cubans do not live in Havana, he said.

For his part, the Democratic representative James McGovern called the step "stupid political trick", adding that it is absurd that the administration take away the freedom of American travelers to fly wherever they want.McGovern is one of the main promoters of bills introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate last July to allow freedom of travel of Americans to Cuba.

From now on, many people who want to go to the Caribbean nation will continue betting on the routes of the airlines to Havana, and those who need to go directly to other provinces will surely seek the services of charter flights, which remain in force throughout the country.

Despite the restrictive regulations of the Trump administration, during an event held last November at the Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. On trips to the island, it was recognized that there is still much interest among Americans to visit that destination. (Prensa Latina)