Saturday, April 16, 2016

Political pressure mounts against Carnival over Cuba trip

Political pressure mounts against Carnival over Cuba trip

Cuba bars Cuban-born Americans from traveling to the island by sea
Carnival said it believes Cuba will lift its decree before May 1
That's when the cruise company plans to set sail

Carnival Corp.'s scheduled sail to Cuba — even if Cuban-born Americans
can't buy tickets — has accomplished a rare and unintended political
feat: bipartisan agreement against the cruise company's plans.

Some Republican and Democratic members of Congress and candidates
running for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives told the Miami
Herald on Friday that Carnival shouldn't transport passengers to the
island while Cuba maintains its policy barring native Cubans from
traveling by sea to their country of birth.

Asked about the mounting political pressure, a Carnival spokesman said
Friday afternoon that the company hopes Cuba will lift its decree before
the ship's departure.

"We continue to believe that Cuba will allow Fathom to travel there in
the same way charter aircrafts do today before we sail there on our
inaugural cruise on May 1, based on our ongoing discussions with Cuban
officials," Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said in a statement.

"We appreciate and understand the concerns being voiced, and we are
hopeful this will be resolved before we ever sail."

According to current regulations, Cuban-born Americans can travel to
Cuba on airplanes.

Opposing the trip were four Senate candidates (Republicans Carlos Beruff
of Sarasota, Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, Lt. Gov. Carlos
Lopez-Cantera and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando), Miami's
three Republicans in the U.S. House (Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario
Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen), and Curbelo's two Democratic
rivals (former Rep. Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo).

"Carnival should not sail to Cuba until the ban on Cuban-born passengers
is lifted," Grayson told the Herald in a phone interview. "I would not
forbid Carnival to sail through public action, but I would heavily
discourage it and try to persuade Carnival not to sail to Cuba until the
policy is changed."

Through a spokesman, the Cuban-born Beruff said in a statement that
Carnival should "stop all trips to Cuba." "Since when do we let
Communist dictators tell us what to do?" In a statement, DeSantis said
that the U.S. has given unilateral concessions to Cuba, and "the last
thing we need is for these concessions to compromise the values of our
country." Lopez-Cantera, whose father was born in Cuba, called the trip
a "fiasco" and said agreeing to Cuba's policy would be "bad business."

A spokeswoman for a fifth Senate candidate, Republican Rep. David Jolly
of Indian Shores, near Tampa, said the U.S. should "demand a reversal of
the regime's position" but would not directly comment on whether
Carnival should cancel its trip. The same was true for Republican
defense contractor Todd Wilcox of Orlando, who is also running for Senate.

The Doral-based cruise company faces significant backlash, including
local protests and a lawsuit, over the trip, planned for the company's
new Fathom brand. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Cuban-born
Republican in a nonpartisan post, called on Carnival earlier this week
to cancel its plans — and asked county attorneys to find out whether
Carnival's booking policy is discriminatory under a county ordinance
protecting human rights. Carnival sails from PortMiami, a county facility.

On Friday, the county's Community Relations Board and Hispanic Affairs
Advisory Board both wrote to Carnival asking it to reconsider its plans.

That politicians like Curbelo, Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen, all vocal
critics of Obama's Cuba rapprochement, would insist on keeping Carnival
from sea is hardly surprising. Ros-Lehtinen gave several interviews
decrying the plans. Curbelo posted on Twitter last week that engaging
Cuba "shouldn't require discriminating against Americans."

"When you make deals and provide concessions to a murderous, brutal
dictatorship, they do not raise their standards," Diaz-Balart told the
Herald in a statement Friday. "Instead, they make you lower yours."

That the three Republicans would be joined by Democrats Garcia and
Taddeo, promoters of the White House's policy, is more noteworthy.

Taddeo, who is Colombian American, weighed in even before Secretary of
State John Kerry told the Herald on Thursday that it was wrong for Cuba
to exclude Cuban-born Americans from sailing to the island. In a
statement Wednesday, Taddeo urged Carnival to follow in the footsteps of
its competitor Norwegian Cruise Lines, which stopped travel to Tunisia
after that country barred Jewish passengers from disembarking at port.

"I encourage Carnival to follow the example set by Norwegian and refuse
to cooperate with a policy that singles out and discriminates against
one group of Americans," said Taddeo, who also wrote to Treasury
Secretary Jack Lew asking him to push Cuba to "see the error in this

"Discrimination is discrimination, and we should never tolerate
governments who discriminate under the guise of policy for anyone, not
for sexual orientation, race, creed, or national origin," Garcia said in
a statement to the Herald.

Both Curbelo and Garcia are sons of Cuban exiles, though they usually
disagree on Cuba policy, with Garcia — once a hard-liner — favoring far
closer U.S. ties. Taddeo's position has also evolved, from her support
for the U.S. trade embargo in 2008 to her current support for lifting
the embargo and for Obama's recent Havana trip.

Source: Political pressure mounts against Carnival over Cuba trip |
Miami Herald -

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