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Minnesota Overtures to Cuba Curtailed by Travel Ban

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Thursday, June 13, 2019   

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota was at the forefront of bringing a slice of American culture to Cuba in 2015, but any continuation of that effort was sharply curtailed last week when the Trump administration announced new travel restrictions to the country.

Four years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra took the first direct flight ever from Minneapolis to Havana and became the first American symphony orchestra to perform there in 15 years.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a visiting professor at Gustavus Adolphus College, says in overturning President Barack Obama's more lenient travel policy, President Donald Trump is trying to appeal to Florida voters with the 2020 election in mind.

"Remember that there is only 90 miles between Key West and Havana, so why Trump is doing this? I think for clearly electoral reasons," Lopez-Levy states.

In reversing the Obama-era travel opportunities to Cuba, the Treasury Department argued that the country continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere in places such as Venezuela.

Critics say the Trump administration supports a change in government in Venezuela and blames Cuba for interfering.

More than 250,000 American tourists cruised or flew to Cuba in just the first four months of this year, many for people-to-people visits, which included educational and cultural trips.

Kaifa Roland, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, has studied Cuba's tourism economy and maintains the administration's actions will rally Cubans to their government rather than turn them against it.

"We had a new class of Cubans that were coming into their own, they were gaining capital, they were becoming capitalists,” she points out. “But when the United States is outside trying to squeeze the Cuban government, all they are winding up really squeezing are the Cuban people."

The U.S. imposed an economic embargo against Cuba in 1960, assuming deteriorating living conditions would make the Cuban people overthrow the Castro government. That didn't happen, but the long-standing economic blockade continued until 2014 when Obama began an effort to normalize relations.


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