Canadians have travelled to Cuba as a vacation spot for decades. I doubt most of them ever considered that these excursions have aided its communist government in political and economic terms.
CBC News senior reporter Evan Dyer recently pointed out this disturbing fact. “Cuban-Canadian activists say many Canadians are not aware of the extent to which the survival of Cuba’s one-party regime depends upon the foreign currency tourists bring into the country,” he wrote on the public broadcaster’s website on Aug. 2, “or the lengths the Cuban government will go to keep Canadians coming.”
There’s been political unrest in Cuba since last month. Residents and defectors alike have expressed frustration about surging COVID-19 figures, power disruptions and outages, lack of access to food and clean water, poverty, human rights abuses and one-party rule.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel disagrees. During a July 17 rally with former president Raul Castro (Fidel’s older brother), Al Jazeera reported that he told thousands of supporters “what the world is seeing of Cuba is a lie.” He claimed these “false images” on social networks have also helped “encourage and glorify the outrage and destruction of property.”
Diaz-Canel, much like the Castro brothers, has a strained relationship with reality. Fortunately, a growing number of Cubans are beginning to see through the lies, manipulation and propaganda techniques that these tyrants have successfully used to their advantage.
Dyer interviewed some Cuban-Canadians who have been protesting the actions of the Caribbean island’s undemocratic government.
“Canadian tourists are feeding the Cuban regime,” Montreal-based protester Reinaldo Rodriguez said. “The people don’t see (the money). The same happens with the money the government makes from its doctors who work overseas. The Cuban hospitals are unsanitary; people don’t have medicines.”
Another protester, Felix Blanco, held up a sign that spoke volumes: “All-included resort in Cuba: 51 per cent dictatorship, 49 per cent foreign company, 0 per cent Cuban people.”
Cuba has made a significant effort to attract more Canadian tourist dollars.
Although visits to the island have declined by 95 per cent since 2019, Canadian visits were down by 99.5 per cent. “That is hugely damaging to Cuba’s economy,” Dyer wrote, “because (in normal years) far more Canadians enter and leave Cuba than citizens of any other country – including Cuba itself.”
In one notable example, Cuba’s requirement of a negative PCR test for COVID-19 was “removed … exclusively for Canadian visitors.” PCR tests are also being offered to Canadians returning home at “about one-10th of the price one would expect to pay in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico.”
Cuba’s strategy for the Great White North has been successful. “Some Canadians remained so eager to visit Cuba they sought to extend the Atlantic bubble to include the Caribbean island,” Dyer wrote, “by travelling from Halifax to Cayo Coco to stay in a Canadians-only hotel at a time when Nova Scotia was requiring most Canadians looking to visit the province to apply for government permission.”
Dyer appropriately pointed out something these enthusiastic flocks of Canadian tourists to Cuba probably didn’t consider. That is, “just how many of their dollars are going not to Cuba’s undemocratic government, but directly to a group of companies controlled by a small group of well-connected generals in Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.”
Cuba’s communist overlords benefit in political terms by pointing to an increase in travel and tourism dollars to help repair its tattered economy and society. The generals, who control the companies and are loyal to the government, benefit economically by the money being funnelled more rapidly into the island.
If both elements ultimately lead to a positive impact on Cuban society, the political unrest could dissipate and things could revert to normal.
The unwitting pawn in this master plan?
I’m not telling Canadians where they should or shouldn’t go on vacation. We’ve all been cooped up since March 2020 due to COVID-19. It’s up to Canadians to decide.
The federal government isn’t going to tell you, either. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a huge soft spot for Cuba, based on his late father’s association with Fidel Castro. That’s not going to change anytime soon.
But when you consider all the facts, Cuban-Canadian relations and tourism desperately need an extended vacation from one another.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.
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