It sure ain't easy to be Cuban or Cuban-American these days if you want to travel between the U.S. and Cuba. Yes, both governments have made some moves to de-politicize most types of travel and now Cuban-Americans can return to Cuba to visit their relatives and send them money at will.
However, Cuban-Americans still pay through the nose to the charter companies and especially to the Cuban government (having to constantly "habilitar" and "prorogar" their passports at usurious rates). The Cuban government also still reserves the right to deny anyone entry to their homeland, to say nothing of having to ask permission to leave in the first place and to pay a monthly fee while abroad to maintain the right to return.
On top of this, if you've never experienced the Orwellian ordeal of flying the 90 miles from Miami directly to notorious Terminal 2 of Jose Marti International Airport consider yourself lucky. It is a strange atmosphere that combines political suspicion, petty envy, and economic blackmail, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that most travellers come loaded down with gifts and goods for their families. Getting through immigration, collecting your bags, and successfully running the gamut of customs officials without paying a bribe or having anything confiscated is a near miracle.
Not satisfied that Cuba was beating us at the game of security paranoia and political manipulation (especially when their fear of us is much more "clear and present" than ours is of them), the Obama Administration has decided to imitate them by issuing a set of "New Rules" that would make even Bill Maher envious.
These "New Rules" are covered in detail by the clear-eyed Cuba-watcher Anya Landau French in the two recent posts, "New TSA Regulations" and "What He Said," at the collectively written blog, "The Havana Note."
Along with Phil Peters' blog "The Cuban Triangle" and Tracey Eaton's "Along the Malecon" (who have both "gone fishin'" for the holidays), "The Havana Note" covers U.S.-Cuban relations and is well worth reading.
Landau's posts strongly criticize the inclusion of Cuba on the U.S. list of countries designated as "State Sponsors of Terrorism" and provide many useful links to background materials. The posts also convincingly argue against the security logic of the new decision to include Cuba on the list of countries from which all arrivals will now have to endure a "pat down" by a TSA worker upon arrival in the U.S. - after the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas day.
Here's an excerpt from Landau's post to give you the gist of her argument:
"Most of all, won't it seem more than a little ironic that the United States continues to accept Cubans who reach the United States illegally (and fast track them to green card status within a year), but that those same Cubans will then have to be double and triple checked to get back in the United States when they visit their family? If Cuba truly were a terrorist threat to the United States, surely the Department of Homeland Security would only accept only those illegal arrivals who could prove a political asylum case."
"Cuba is not a failed state where swaths of territory lie beyond government control; rather, it is one of the most tightly locked-down societies in the world, a place where the idea of private citizens getting their hands on plastic explosives, or terrorist weapons of any kind, is simply laughable...
"There is no history of radical Islam in Cuba. In fact, there is hardly any history of Islam at all. With its long-standing paranoia about internal security and its elaborate network of government spies and snitches, the island nation would have to be among the last places on Earth where al-Qaeda would try to establish a cell, let alone plan and launch an attack."
Imagine the irony if the Cuban government ever decides to issue Yoani Sanchez that Orwellian exit permit. She arrives at MIA or JFK only to be met by the TSA who will welcome her to the USA not with open arms but with a "spread eagle!"