Monday, January 14, 2008

Canadian tourists

The Canadian publication This Magazine, which describes itself as “subversive, edgy and smart” (all at once!), has devoted the cover story of its January-February issue to tourism in Cuba.

Written by Maria Amuchastegui, the article contains some interesting assertions, including that old chestnut about how Havana in the 1950s was nothing but “a casino and brothel for American tourists”.

Ms Amuchastegui also asserts that Cuba has “an admirable social welfare system”, but perhaps the most startling of her comments relates to the well-documented and profitable connection between the Cuban tourist industry and the Castro regime's military establishment.

“One of the oddities of Cuban tourism is that the military plays a major role, owning many hotels and providing workers and management expertise," she writes, with just a hint of disapproval before quickly adding: "This is not as sinister as it sounds: the Cuban military, unlike the those of many Latin American countries, does not have a history of attacking its own people.”

Got it? You may want to read that comment again.

Anyway, at least the writer took the time to speak to people who are critical of the Castro regime, such as Ismael Sambra, a journalist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the early 1990s for “mercenary” activities – that is, for asking too many questions that would most certainly fall in the “subversive, edgy and smart” category.

Sambra, who now lives in Canada and is president of the Cuban Canadian Foundation, told the magazine that tourists who turned a blind eye to the “excesses” of the regime while enjoying the cheap packaged holidays on the island “are complicit with a dictatorial regime”.

“Most Canadians who go to Cuba don’t want to talk to the people,” he said. “They shut themselves up in the hotels; what they want is to enjoy themselves. Most of them are indifferent to the pain of the Cuban people. They are directly and indirectly complicit with Castro.”

You can read the article here.


Anonymous Cynic said...

Say what you will, but willful blindness can be very convenient. It can simplify one's life considerably. You just do what suits YOU and ignore everything that might get in the way (you know, like the way things really work). No wonder it's so very, VERY popular.

7:27 am  
Blogger Kay Abella said...

I loved this post, especially since I am about to post about the same subject on my own blog ( Some people suggest that we are doing Cubans a favor by going as tourists and that if more Americans could go, it would help the Cuban people. In reality, any money you spend in Cuba goes right to the pockets of the military. And since there is almost no contact allowed with Cubans, the idea of influencing Cubans to want democracy is a fallacy. Kay Abella, author of Fighting Castro: A Love Story.

10:15 am  

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