Tag Archives: embargo

I Am Not Breaking the Law

I kinda can’t believe I haven’t covered this yet, but I really should:

I am an American.

I am not in Cuba illegally.

Rules of Engagment

I don’t have an extra passport or Cuban family.  I flew directly from Miami to Havana.  Both governments know I’m here.  Northeastern University applied for the licenses for all eight students and our accompanying professors.  I have a visa, which has been renewed.  We’re required to be here for at least ten weeks because changes made by Bush jr., and we’re required by CASA’s schedule to only stay here twelve weeks.

I am allowed to bring home art, handicrafts and educational materials. No cigars, no rum. Cuba would let me–America will not.

Well, How Did I Get Here?

That being said, it’s not hard to come here illegally.  Many more Americans than you would suspect come and go.  And some just come–but that’s another story.  You can fly through Canada, Jamaica, Cancun, Haiti, the Bahamas or any other Caribbean country.  From what I’ve heard, Cuba won’t stamp your passport (my visa is removable), and illegal travelers talk of slipping some money in your passport upon return to

There are many ways to come here legally.  If you are a diplomat, an athlete, a student or a Cuban-American you can apply for specific visas.  Humanitarians and business people can also come, under certain circumstances.

The Travel Ban

There’s also the oft-overlooked fact that we are not actually banned from traveling here: we are only banned from spending money.  That, coupled with the fact that few airlines and travel agents can fly us here make it pretty impossible to show up without crossing the line.  The so-called “travel ban” is actually just an aspect of the economic embargo.  The whole ordeal falls to the US Treasury, not the Department of State.  So if you get into trouble, don’t hesitate to go to the US Special Interest Section–they promise not to report you to the treasury.

So if you’d like to come here, which I recommend doing at some point, see if you can apply for a visa legally.  It’s a little time consuming, but it means not having to worry about any problems with customs.  And if you do come illegally?

Don’t lie, don’t have any Cuban money on you, and just plead the 5th.

Is the Embargo Evil?

The UN condemned the US for the embargo on Cuba.  First, I have to stress how incredibly strong the language is.  The word “condemn” doesn’t get tossed around the UN the way average people use it, so this is actually a stronger action than it may first appear.  Also, the UN knows our current president is one who responds to and respects international opinion, which is perhaps why no one bothered condemning this practice while dubya was in office.

My mom and I were talking about this the other day, and it seems like a lot of people we know are unsure about what the embargo means for Cubans and Americans, both now and for the future.  I don’t know nearly as much as I should about it, but here’s my take on it so far:

  • Under Bush, Cuban-Americans could only visit immediate family members (no going to see grandma without your parents present, tough luck if they passed away) once every three years, for a period of two weeks
  • Also under Bush, Cuban-Americans can only send a max of 100 USD a year to their family.  While this does make a huge impact on an average Cuban’s life, it doesn’t seem fair that the government can stop Cuban-Americans from sending more.  This american currency that comes in also creates quite a disparity amongst those with wealthy relatives who fled to Miami, NYC or wherever, and those who do not.
  • Obama has taken steps to change both of these practices, which in my mind is a good thing.
  • The embargo isn’t just on America.  Any ship that goes to Cuba has to wait six months before it can go to America.
  • Despite this, the US has done some trade (somewhere around 17 mill last year) with Cuba
  • If the embargo is suddenly lifted, th
  • Obama is taking steps to ease the burdens on average citizens in Cuba, and their American relatives (see above).  However, he has said that while he is open to normalizing relations, he will not do so until the Cuban takes serious steps, eg democratic elections.  In my mind, this is a smart political move for Obama as it makes lives better in Cuba in the short term, but puts the ball firmly in Castro’s court.  Obama keeps his campaign promises without looking like a pushover.
  • While I personally believe in lifting the embargo, it could have disastrous consequences for Cubans.  There are many ways to liberalize (in the IR/econ sense, not the American political) an economy, and the two governments need to tread lightly otherwise they could seriously devastate the Cuban economy.  Rise has cost the same thing for the last fifty years, due to government subsidies, and an influx of world trade would most likely change that.  We don’t want another Jamaica on our hands.

This is just my current understanding of the situation, after what I would consider surface level research.  If you have any great links or an opinion on the embargo, sound off in the comments section.