Photo: Wilson Araujo
After hearing the news of Fidel Castro’s death, President Obama offered condolences to Castro’s family and said the U.S. extended “a hand of friendship to the Cuban people”. Meanwhile, President-elect Trump tweeted “Fidel Castro is dead!”
The following day, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that Trump will keep his campaign promise to void a 2014 deal that improves diplomacy and commerce between the U.S. and Cuba. Trump has publicly not been a fan of warming relations with Cuba for a while. In his book The America We Deserve, published in 2000, he called efforts to restore relations with Cuba “pure lunacy”.
For us the pure lunacy is being afraid of travel to Cuba, or simply judging an entire nation through a single political lens. Over the years, several of our filmmakers and ambassadors have been lucky enough to document some of the daily life and culture there; they return with some of the most amazing stories we’ve ever seen. Check this visual postcard for example:
One of President Obama’s recent executive orders was to ease sanctions against Cuba. He ended the 180-day ban on ships docking at U.S. ports after sailing from Cuba, made it much easier for doctors to work with Cuban researchers on medical investigations and let Americans travel to Cuba in cultural exchange programs. New regulations from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) allowed for expanded travel in the 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba authorized under current law, and gave travel providers the ability to book authorized travel to Cuba without the need for an OFAC license.
The Department of Transportation authorized eight U.S. airlines to launch service between the U.S. and Cuba. In the first six months of 2016, 136,913 Americans visited the country, up 180% from the same period in 2015, according to Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Information.
Candidate Trump, however, pledged in the Republican debate against Marco Rubio to close the recently reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana and roll back any regulations that made travel to the island easier for U.S. citizens. Trump has made it crystal clear that he is not in favor of “normalizing” relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
For President-elect Trump, the pressure is now going to be on from dozens of major travel-related American companies that have initiated or expanded operations in Cuba under Obama’s policy. This includes most major airlines, which have started regularly scheduled commercial flights to Cuba, and Carnival Corp., which is already running a regular Cuba cruise. It also includes Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which is operating three Cuban hotels, and Airbnb, which has helped over 13,000 Americans rent in Cuba in the past year.
Regardless of how this goes down, we still hope people will take travel to Cuba into their own hands. Here’s what just a few days in Havana looked like to our creative director Scott Sporleder.