Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cuba - by Sea & Air

In days gone by, when travel between Key West and Cuba was unrestricted, there were two ways to get between one and the other:

By Sea


By Air

Despite what you may have heard, there is no Key West - Havana Bridge-Tunnel

Two years ago Key West International Airport was approved to offer flights to Cuba.  However, the efforts of several potential operators (one of them was Cape Air)  to gain approval for such flights from both American and Cuban authorities failed for various reasons.  Now, however, there are reports that an operator, that is someone with planes and pilots, may be on the verge of success in getting the needed approvals.  We're following that and will provide updates as they become available.

As with everything related to Cuba, there will be significant restrictions on who can travel and what they can do while there.  The Huffington article gets into that.

As far as sea travel goes, there are no commercial operators who currently offer passage between the islands.  I asked one of the owners of the Key West Express fast ferry  several months ago if his company was making plans to offer such trips, and he assured me that they are,

The matter of Cuba opening up for Americans to travel freely across the windward passage (and for Cubans to do so also) has been a subject of conjecture for many years.  The impact of those events will very likely change the tourism dynamic for Key West in ways that are not yet well-understood.

Nevertheless, we're prepping ourselves to go over.  Although it might be nice to be among the first to go, we'll wait until we are free of any restrictions that wouldn't exist if we decided to go to anywhere else on earth.  Janet's 70th birthday is February 4th; maybe that'll be our target.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reefs around Cuba?

I asked myself a question:  "Are there reefs in Cuba?"

I really meant, are there reefs around Cuba.  This is one answer I found:

Cuba has more than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) of coastline, four primary reef systems (each of which is about equal to or longer than the Florida Keys), and more than 4,000 islands, islets, cays, humps, lumps, and spits. From conversations with Cuban scientists and environmentalists who have been working for more than ten years to develop a comprehensive, sustainable marine conservation program, I knew that many of the reefs were severely stressed.

That's kind of good news/bad news, isn't it.  Lots of reef, but severely stressed.  Sounds like the reef around Key West, so we share that problem with our neighbors.  Then I asked myself, what are the Cubans doing to protect their reefs?  Are they good stewards?

Among the areas that are being protected is a patch off Cuba's southeast coast of roughly a thousand square miles (2,590 square kilometers) of reefs, mangrove swamps, and islands unnamed and named—Cayo Caballones, Cayo Cachiboca, Laguna de Boca de Guano, and so on—that is known collectively as Jardines de la Reina, or the Gardens of the Queen. It is a sedulously guarded marine sanctuary, off-limits to all but a few Cuban lobster boats and a handful of foreign divers and light-tackle fishermen.

And they have marine sanctuaries too, that's another point of commonality.

I used this picture the other day in a different context:

But there are two of the messages that we try to live by.  I tend to think that many people, in Key West, in Cuba and in the world are something like me (and you).  They want to live their lives, enjoy the fruits of their labors, be free from getting hassled ... well, you get the idea.  They want what we want, most of them.  Its that old "do unto others" thing.

Cuba and the U.S. State Department

Here are some things that the U.S. State Department says about Cuba:

1.  Cuba is an authoritarian state that routinely employs repressive methods against internal dissent and monitors and responds to perceived threats to its authority.

2.  Human rights conditions in Cuba remain poor, as the Cuban government limits fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

3.  Cuba generally welcomes U.S. citizen travelers and U.S. citizens are generally well received

4.  Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically located in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world.

5.  The regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba, or that the transactions in question be exempt from licensing requirements. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada. U.S. law enforcement authorities enforce these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of the Treasury regulations could face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

And it goes on and on.  It's -- schizophrenic!

OFAC (This Year in Cuba)

This is a direct link to the Cuba Sanctions Page at the U.S. Treasury Department.

Cuba Sanctions fall under the control of the Office of Foreign Asset Control.  OFAC is a sub-unit of the Office of Terrorism and Intelligence Analysis, which falls within this organizational structure.

OFAC enforces at least seven other Sanction Programs, including against against Iran and Iraq, terrorism, narcotics, and others.

The Cuba Sanctions are the particular focus of this posting.

What are the sanctions?

Well, apparently, there are enough of them and enough to say about them to fill a book.

It isn't a big book, only 21 pages, but dense and written in legalese that make it difficult to discern what may or may not be done by a traveler.  Because it is dense, and because it imposes requirements on an American citizen that don't exist for any other country, as far as I know.  With my U.S. Passport, I'm able to book a flight to any county in the world -- except Cuba.  To get to Cuba, I have to fill out a five page form to obtain a License that might or might not be approved.  The license restricts me from doing certain things that I might want to do.  It requires that I do things that I might not want to do, such as travel with a defined group or stay in an approved place.

Mind you, these aren't restrictions or licenses required by the Cuban government, they are required by MY government, and they aren't imposed on me for travel to any other country, and they aren't imposed on citizens of any other country but the United States.  Land of the Free?  Pah!

Here's an overview:

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 CFR Part 515 (the “Regulations”), were issued by the U.S. Government on July 8, 1963, under the Trading With the Enemy Act in response to certain hostile actions by the Cuban Government. They apply to all persons (individuals and entities) subject to U.S. jurisdiction – including all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever located, all persons in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world – as well as all persons engaging in transactions that involve property in or otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The Regulations are administered by Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”). Criminal penalties violating the Regulations range up to 10 years in prison, $1,000,000 in corporate fines, and $250,000 in individual fines. Civil penalties up to $65,000 per violation may also be imposed. The Regulations require those dealing with Cuba (including traveling to Cuba) to maintain records for five years and, upon request from OFAC, to furnish information regarding such dealings.

General and specific licenses are available to engage in certain transactions that are otherwise prohibited by the Regulations. A “general license” authorizes a particular type of transaction without the need for an application to, or further permission from, OFAC. A “specific license” authorizes specific transactions, and is issued to a specific person or persons, usually in response to an application. Types of specific licenses that OFAC frequently issues are set forth in the Regulations as statements of licensing policy. 

We'll delve into this more as time goes on.

Meanwhile, "This Year in Cuba" will be our watchword here at 90MilesToKeyWest.

This Year in Cuba

I had this report sitting in a Drafts folder since last May.  It reflects on the trip to Cuba made by Jay-Z and Beyonce earlier this year, and talks about ways that not-so-famous people can get to Cuba.

We'll be discussing that here too.


Once again, as we're doing at The Real Key West, I'm choosing to resume blogging on this blog as well.

Here in Key West, City Commissioner Anthony "Fat" Yaniz has taken up the cause of re-establishing the historic ties that bound Key West and Cuba together from more than 150 years ago up until the early 1960's.  Yaniz points out that the close relationship between the island city and the island nation was stronger in its day than anything that ever arose in Miami, despite its hugely larger population of √©migr√© Cubans.

Our interest has been piqued by discussions we've had with with others here who've either already made the journey, or shown a desire to make it freely, without the onerous restrictions imposed by the Office of Foreign Asset Control` and other federal agencies.

We had dinner last night with a friend, an artist, who came to Key West in 1980  during operation Pedro Pan.  He was 12 when his parents came here and he  joined them.  He remembers the Cuba of his youth, but he hasn't been back there since 2005.  And he remembers the Key West of the 80's up until now.  Antonio is his name.  We'll be hearing more from him.

We're now exploring ideas on how and when we'll be able to go ourselves.  Bob is interviewing people who've done it, how they've done it, and what they'd recommend that we do.

I aso have a call in to Peter Horton, Monroe County's Director of Airports, and hope to find out what preparations, if any, that are being made to initiate direct flights between the islands.

I've been saying since January, and have said it here before, "This Year in Havana", "This Year in Cuba".


Thursday, June 20, 2013

An Invitation to Key West

The Key West Citizen publishes an editorial today out of the Tampa Tribune.

At Tuesday nights Key West City Commission meeting, Commissioner Yaniz took note of what Tampa is doing and initiated what we hope will be an invitation to Cuban officials to come to Key West to open a dialogue between the two cities with the longest history together.

Tampa officials recently went to Havana for an "educational exchange" under the U.S. government's people-to-people license program.