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 émigré 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.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Welcome Home Yoani Sanchez the “Tube Worm”

Welcome Home Yoani Sanchez the “Tube Worm” - Cuba's Havana

"Apparently insignificant, tube worms play an extremely important ecological role. They burrow into the ground, opening up holes through which oxygen can reach plant roots. Their excretions are also an excellent fertilizer for these plants.
"There are many opinions I do not share with Yoani Sanchez (I don’t follow her blog much either), but if her provocations, complaints, brilliant ideas or cyber-gossip helps shake the permafrost, the frozen subsoil of Cuban politics, then, hell, my respects to the tube worm."
Erasmo Cazadilla

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Babalu - A Miami Cuban BLog

In order to fully comprehend the state of U.S. - Cuban relations, one must also pay attention to those voices that are opposed to the restoration of normal diplomatic relationships between the two nations.  Many Cubans living in the United States, particularly those older Cubans who came here in successive waves of migration, from Mariel to Pedro Pan to individual wet-foot/dry-foot landings, vehemently oppose restoration of diplomacy until the Castros and any vestiges of their regimes are gone and "democracy"returns to the island.

It's doubtful that there are any Cubans still alive who can remember when Cuba enjoyed real democracy, since Batista and his predecessors clearly never practiced that form of governance.

One place to hear the voices of the opposition is in one of the oldest blogs in English, called Babalu.  Include it in your reading for a view from the other side.

Cuban Five Case

Policy Paper on the Cuban Five case.

"The case of the Cuban Five is one which reflects abysmally on the U.S. juridical system. The Five, Gerardo Hernandez, Luis Medina, Antonio Guerrero, Ruben Campa and Rene Gonzalez, were members of the Cuban Intelligence Service sent to penetrate Cuban exile organizations that were carrying on terrorist activities against Cuba.  Once sufficient evidence of those activities had been gathered, the idea was to invite representatives of the FBI to come to Cuba and provide them with that evidence – in hopes that the U.S. would then take action to put a stop to these activities."

That didn't happen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cuban 'Medical Diplomacy'

Contrary to the official United States position, that Cuba is a State Sponsor of Terrorism, clear evidence shows that Cuba conducts its foreign policy by asking for friendship and mutually beneficial relationships with governments and people from  the rest of the world.  And it avoids the huge mistake of trying to militarily and economically enforce its ideas of how to govern upon other nations.

Granted, there was once a time when Cuba offered such military support as it could muster, to countries in far away places.  Now the Cuban government practices what others have called 'medical diplomacy', trading the services of doctors, nurses and other well-trained medical troops to bring healing hands to nations and regions that desperately need them.

In return they receive such aid as might be available to the counterpart country:  oil from Venezuela, food from throughout Central and South America, sugar purchases and, once, direct subsidies from Russia -- and direct payments for the thousands of medical personnel willing to work in clinics and hospitals in poor and remote areas of the world.

In the meanwhile, the U.S. uses its Agency for International Development (USAID) to destabilize Cuba economically, politically and spiritually.  Cuba is the only country in the world where AID is used in this way.

Cuba is also the only country in the world where [most*] American citizens are required to apply to the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) for permission to travel to Cuba legally.  These restrictive licenses severely limit what travelers are able to do while in Cuba, and they allow OFAC to impose large and punitive fines on any traveller who violates the license in any way.  To my knowledge, no other country imposes this on their citizens.

As a practical matter, thousands of Americans already go to Cuba every year. But they must use subterfuge to do it by traveling first to another country and then travel to Cuba from there.  The Cuban government cooperates by not stamping U.S. passports at its borders.

It is long overdue for the President and Secretary of State to remove the State Terrorism label and to end the economic embargo that robs opportunities from both sides -- the U.S. and Cuba.

It's also time to remove the onerous travel restrictions that prevent me and millions of other good citizens from going there to see for ourselves what's going on.

Sign the petition at the White House website:

Allow all American citizens to travel to Cuba under the same terms as to any other country

* American citizens who have family in Cuba can travel there free from the restrictions that govern the rest of us.  How unfair is that?

Another good Cuba blog

"The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has spent more than $200 million on these programs since 1996. They are explicitly designed to influence internal affairs in Cuba and boost freedom. And no matter how noble the cause might be, the programs are at odds with development work in most parts of the world."

"Into the Cuckoos Nest (May 2, 2013) , from blog "Along the Malecon"

"Douglas Dillon, under secretary of state during the Kennedy administration, helped set the tone in 1960 when he said it was Washington's duty to cause "rising discomfort among hungry Cubans."
The strategy continued in the 1970s, according to "Cuba Under Siege," which quotes a CIA officer as saying:
We wanted to keep bread out of the stores so the people would go hungry."  

"Piece by piece, in backpacks and carry-on bags, American aid contractor Alan Gross made sure laptops, smartphones, hard drives and networking equipment were secreted into Cuba. The most sensitive item, according to official trip reports, was the last one: a specialized mobile phone chip that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to make satellite signals virtually impossible to track."

"US AID Contractor Work in Cuba Detailed", Desmond Butler, AP.  February 13, 2012

C'mon, Mr. Kerry, c'mon Mr. Obama, do what's sensible.
Allow all Americans to travel to Cuba under the same terms as to any other country.

Sign the Petition

Thursday, May 9, 2013

People to People Exchanges

Here are the 52 pages of regulations governing the travel of Americans to Cuba.  No such regulations govern or restrict the ability of Americans (from the land of the free) to travel to any other country, with the possible exception of the other two countries in the world also designated as sponsors of state terrorism.

These rules, however, apply only to Cuba.  They severely limit the things that may or may not be done by a traveler holding any one of the eight general and fifteen specific licenses that must be fully documented when making a request for one.

In addition, most travel to and from Cuba must be booked with one of the many "OFAC-authorized Travel Service Provider[s] (TSP[s]".  These companies charge exorbitantly high fees and charges for what ought to be an almost insignificant fare for the brief flights between Miami and Havana.  

As an example of the restrictive nature of the regulations, I refer readers to the paragraphs beginning on page 22 for ".... certain educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program .... which category also includes those people wanting to engage in People-to-People exchanges.

Here is a link to a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor that focuses on the so-called people-to-people exchanges.  It's an easier read than the dense legalese of the regulations.

Cuban citizens have an easier time traveling to the United States than U.S. citizens have traveling to Cuba.

Land of the free?  Indeed not.

End it now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Take Cuba Off Terrorist List

Read this article from the Latin American Working Group.

Take action by signing letter to you congressperson.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cuba Photos

I ran across this photography blog today.  Very good photography coupled with a bit of explanation.

It only whets my appetite.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Beyonce and Jay-Z

"Under the Obama administration Cuban-Americans can freely travel to Cuba while all other US citizens need a special license to do so."

It turns out that Beyonce and Jay-Z wangled permission from the Treasury Department for their fifth anniversary celebration by getting a license from OFAC for a "people-to-people cultural visit".

Can I get me one of them?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Flying Behind The Coconut Curtain: Cuba and Havana’s José Martí International Airport

Flying Behind The Coconut Curtain: Cuba and Havana’s José Martí International Airport

This very recent article/blog gives a behind-the-scenes look at Havana's international airport and it's national carrier, Cubana Airlines.  The overall impression is, as the author says, a “Flux Capacitor” time machine experience.

Though the main thrust of the article is the airport and the process of getting there , it begins with a bit of history and lots of good photos of Havana and its environs.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Rapprochement with Cuba Conference

This conference in Ybor City considered ways in which a return to common sense might come about.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

“It has been obvious to any objective observer for a very long time that isolation has not worked,” said the Vermont Senator [Bernie Sanders] in a statement, “and it is demeaning for a great and powerful nation like ours, for instance, to forbid U.S. citizens from traveling where they want to travel.  It is in our national interest to take a fresh look at how to effectively address our differences with the Cuban government, such as the imprisonment of Alan Gross and many other matters.”

Senator Rubio slams Cuba travel: “Cuba is not a zoo”; Senator Leahy fires back

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

L.A. Times Editorial,0,4943989.story

Cross Cuba off the blacklist

The nation has long since changed the behavior that earned it a U.S. designation as a sponsor of terrorism.

Marco Rubio puts foot in mouth

Florida Senator Marco Rubio says: 

"Cuba’s not a zoo, where you pay an admission to go in and you get to watch people living in cages, to see how they’re suffering. Cuba’s not a field trip. I don’t take that stuff lightly. You just went to Cuba and to fulfill your curiosity, which I could have told you about if you’d have come seen me for five minutes, you’ve left thousands of dollars in the hands of a government that uses that money to control these people that you feel sorry for."
Rubio has never even been to the real Cuba, only Guantanamo.

We are the 93%.  Let our people go.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Another view from afar

A lighter and more subjective view of Cuba in this article from the Jerusalem Post and from the viewpoint of a Jewish person.  It broadens the insights I'm gathering in preparation of my own visit there -- whenever that happens.

This Year in Cuba

Monday, March 4, 2013

John Kerry on Cuba

Here's another editorial (from the Tampa Bay Times) remembering what Senator John Kerry had to say back in 2009 about the U.S. and Cuba.

Now Kerry is Secretary of State and in position to actually do something about it.

You think he will?
Here's another good piece on the state of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, from Bloomberg News.

It contains this paragraph:
"The Obama administration also has a more immediate problem: Cuba’s decision to relax its emigration policy means that the U.S., which has long granted preferential treatment to Cuban refugees, may face a spike in new arrivals. Any effort at comprehensive immigration reform needs to take those changed circumstances into account."
That makes sense.

This Year in Cuba

Havana Times reprints this article from Progreso.  There's a strong upbeat of news coming from and about Cuba.

I take that as an encouraging sign that we'll be able to (legally) visit this year when, where and how we choose.

June? Anywhere? By boat?

I talked with Antonio about this on Saturday at the SWB Art Fair.  He's Cuban-born but has lived in the U.S. for over 30 years.  Need 8-10 like-minded Key Westers to join a budget-conscious odyssey.

email me:

Thursday, February 28, 2013


The old order changeth.

1.  A new vice-president in Cuba.
(Happening now)

2.  The more things change, the more they stay the same?
(From 2009)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Raul Castro Regime

Havana Times has this analysis of Cuba under Raul Castro's administration.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I wrote the prior post the day before I left for Boston to begin a long-planned trip with our grandson, Cameron, who graduated from high school in Rochester, NH in June.  We began talking about such a trip a few years, but it became a commitment about two years ago, and we began planning the particulars early this year.

We wrote about that adventure together in our joint blog called Cam And Bobs Euro Trip, regularly and often at first, more sporadically later.  It tailed off on October 16 to zilch even though we had five days of Europe left to go through before heading home.

I returned to Key West alone on October 22.  I was gone for 47 days in all and I thought little about what I had been doing before I left.  Oh, I read the Key West newspapers, and kept up with some e-mails, and visited FaceBook to post photos, as did Cameron.  We even used Skype sometimes to keep in touch with friends and family through audio and video chats.  But we tried to live in what some people call the here and now, the things that were in front of us rather than the things back home.

Since coming back to Key West I've been embroiled in matters having to do with the land trust of which I have been a board member for the past six years.

Follow up on Cuba Visit

The Boston Globe reports on the aftermath of the Congressional visit to Cuba.

This is the Wikipedia report on the Alan Gross affair.

And here's a report on the Cuban Five.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


"vii) Authorize the Reestablishment of Ferry Services to Cuba: Current U.S. regulations allow both “aircraft and vessels” to serve Cuba as an exception to the U.S. embargo against the Island.xxii The use of chartered aircrafts to transport Cuban-Americans and other licensed U.S. travelers to and from Cuba has long been authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury. The next step should be to reestablish safe and secure chartered ferry services to transport the same categories of passengers to and from Cuba. Ferry service offers an affordable alternative to airline travel to Cuba and would allow an increase in the amount of goods that Cuban-Americans and other licensed travelers may legally take to Cuba to support their families and micro entrepreneurs."
I've mentioned the Cuba Study Group before.  The paragraph above is from their latest post, entitled Restoring Executive Authority Over U.S. Policy Toward Cuba.

The web site also includes another white paper titled Lifting Restrictions on Travel and Remittances to Cuba:A Case for Unilateral Action.  First released in December 2008, the white paper begins with this:

The Cuba Study Group recommends that the United States unilaterally lift all restrictions that limit the ability of U.S. persons (citizens and residents) to travel to Cuba. We also recommend the elimination of restrictions on remittances to Cuba in order to authorize all U.S. persons to freely and without limitations send remittances to individuals on the island, with sensible exceptions. We believe such steps are not only consistent with the values of the United States, but also that they will allow U.S. nationals to help the long-suffering people of Cuba and will strengthen the internal pro-democracy movement.   

It was a good idea in 2008, and it still is today.

An Opening?

Reading the signals:

1)  Raul Castro meets with US senators

2)  Seven Steps the U.S. President Can Take to Promote Change in Cuba by Adapting the Embargo 

3)  Restoring Executive Authority Over U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

It feels like something might be up.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Cuban Blog

A Cuban Blog by an American

I came across this blog somewhere and have added it to my blogroll.

Charles, the blogger, went to Cuba and fell in love with it.

There are some nice videos to watch.

Check it out, señor/a/ita.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Military Leaders Warn Congress of 'Hollow' Force |

Military Leaders Warn Congress of 'Hollow' Force |

NAS Key West is a major Naval facility here in Key West.  It's importance to the economic well-being of Key West and the lower Keys is large.  In addition, the U.S. Army maintains its Special Forces underwater training base here, and the U.S. Coast Guard also maintains a significant complement of forces here as well.

A large measure of what goes on here involves training  -- fighter pilot training, Special Forces training, and more.  The expenditure of Federal dollars in the Keys is in the many millions, and much of it flows into  City, County and State coffers in the form of salaries, local expenditures for infrastructure services, and sales taxes paid by the military and civilian workers who make up a significant portion of the local population.

But it's almost a foregone conclusion that the military budget will be reduced to a smaller portion of the American economy, as wars wind down and dollars are shifted to areas of greater needs and more productive uses of our national investment capital.

The overall impact of the Navy and its allied branches on the Key West economy is much larger than that of the cruise ships that ply the harbors here.  It might well be time for City leaders to contemplate the impact of a diminished military presence here.  The last time it happened, the City was left desolate and broke.  If it happens again the results, although perhaps not as dire as those of the 1970's, will be felt throughout the Keys.

And, lest it seem as if I'm arguing on behalf of the military leaders, let me point out that they are describing the effect of budget cuts, and it appears to me that they are really saying that its the failure to fund budget increases that will impact its missions.  I'm all for a strong military defense capability.  Not such much for wars of adventure.  We should NOT be the world's police.

Remember old Ike and what he said about the military-industrial complex?  No doubt that Chuck Hagel does.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Travel in Cuba

Here's a blog that gives insight into the travel experience within Cuba.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This Year in Havana

Listening to Cuban music from my iTunes library today, and investigating how we might spend some time in Cuba this year.

Our goal is to be able to travel to different parts of the country and to meet and get to know people there who are interested in some of the things we are interested in.  Music, dance, history are at the top of the list.  We aren't particularly interested in joining one of the many tour groups that have been and are being organized to comply with OFAC's restrictions.  For one thing, they are expensive and for another they are conducted as guided tours, with little opportunity to engage the average people of Cuba, people like ourselves.  

Americans, those who don't have relatives in Cuba at least, still aren't free to travel to the neighboring island without restriction, due to the regulations imposed by the Office of Foreign Asset Control, under the U.S. Treasury Department.  Those with a Cuban family connection, on the other hand, are permitted to travel there with some regularity and to bring large amounts of U.S. goods with them, as the picture here shows.

There are scheduled charter flights from several U.S. airports, notably Miami and New York and Los Angeles.  And more recently, OFAC licensed eight additional airports, none of which are from the closest airport of all, Key West International.  I've toyed with the idea of traveling there by boat, but I don't any boat owner or captain who'd risk the loss of their vessel to confiscation or the imposition of large fines.

I've been told that it's possible, and quite easy to go to the Bahamas or Mexico and catch a flight from there, and I know of those who've done it.  I know someone here who can put us in contact with a family offering lodging, meals and transportation at what seem to be very affordable prices.

Our primary objective this year then, will be to go to Cuba on our own terms and to get to know something about the neighbors next door.  It would be even better, in fact to do that with friends from Key WestAnd so the title:  this Year in Havana.

Do let us know if you're interested.  We can get some folks to tell us how best to do it.