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AC Journeys, a RESPECT member and participating in our 2-day Havana conference, opposes the Cuba Travel Warning issued by the US State Department yesterday.
US Travel Association Opposes Trump Administration’s Cuba Travel Warning and Pullout of Embassy Staff
September 30, 2017, Havana, Cuba – Meeting here, RESPECT, the largest association of US organizers of travel to Cuba unanimously rejected the Trump Administration’s Cuba travel warning and its decision to withdraw diplomatic staff from its Havana embassy.
The reaction came in response to Washington’s announcement that it is withdrawing 60 percent of non-emergency staff from the US Embassy in Havana and is warning US citizens to avoid travel to Cuba. The justification for both is unexplained health problems that 21 Havana-based US diplomats have reported.
In addition, unidentified US officials said the US Consulate in Havana would suspend issuing US visas to Cubans, indefinitely. The US Embassy will continue to provide emergency services to US citizens in Cuba.
“Based on the evidence thus far and the fact that the State Department says no other US citizens have been affected, we believe that its decision is unwarranted, and are continuing to organize travel to Cuba and encourage others to do so,” said Bob Guild, RESPECT Co-Coordinator and Vice President of Marazul Charters. He also stressed that US citizens and residents can legally travel to Cuba under US law, and that the State Department advisory in no way prohibits US persons from traveling to the island.
RESPECT is joined by US commercial airlines and others in the travel industry who have publically expressed their intention to continue Cuba travel. Gail Reed, RESPECT Co-Coordinator and MEDICC Founder, noted
“Cuba remains a very safe destination for US travelers.”
The US Foreign Service Association, the powerful union that represents US diplomats around the world, also opposes any decision to withdraw US diplomats from Cuba. Association President Barbara Stephenson says “We have to remain on the field and in the game.”
The US complaint about the health issues originated almost a year ago during the Obama Administration when the two governments were working toward rapprochement. As acknowledged by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Cuban government responded immediately and initiated an investigation, inviting the US government to cooperate.
At the invitation of Cuban authorities, the FBI went to Havana seeking evidence of what the US described as “sonic attacks” resulting in hearing loss and other symptoms. However, its agents found no devices or other evidence to explain the mystery.
None of the 500,000 US visitors to Cuba this year have reported similar health issues. Tillerson said this week, “We have no reports that private US citizens have been affected...”.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, speaking at the UN this month, reiterated that Cuba takes very seriously the protection of all diplomats in its country and would never cause them harm or allow others to do so, in accordance with the 1961 Vienna Convention. He also urged the US authorities to work more closely and effectively with the ongoing Cuban investigation, a point he raised again during his meeting with Tillerson this week.
Replying to the US move to reduce its diplomatic personnel in Havana, Josefina Vidal, Director General for US Affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, called the decision precipitous and said it will affect bilateral relations and cooperation in areas of mutual interest. She noted that Cuba had urged the US not to politicize the matter and insisted that Cuba needed the active cooperation of US authorities to arrive at a definitive conclusion.
“We fear that such hasty action by the Trump Administration, independent of scientific evidence, may be motivated by politics rather than concerns for health and wellbeing,” said Walter Turner, RESPECT Co-Coordinator and President of Global Exchange. “Thus, once again we encourage all US visitors to continue to travel to Cuba.”
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- RESPECT (Responsible Ethical Cuba Travel) is a 150-member US professional association of non-profit entities, travel agencies, tour operators and other travel service providers dedicated to practicing and promoting ethical and socially responsible travel to Cuba. Founded in December 2016 on the anniversary of the opening announced by the US and Cuban presidents, RESPECT held a two-day meeting at the Meliá Cohíba Hotel in Havana this week, where its members hammered out a 2017 Action Plan to implement its 17 principles. These include ways US travel organizations and travelers can contribute to protecting Cuba’s environment as it adapts to climate change, commit to non-exploitative relations with all Cubans and respect the country’s cultural heritage and expressions. The Association also defends the right of all US citizens and residents to travel to Cuba, and advocates lifting all US government travel restrictions to the island.
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Sometimes I wonder if US Media just understands it wrong and so report it wrong or they have motives behind inaccurate reporting?
Cuba - Latest News Development
US State Department has ordered 60% of its US Embassy to Cuba to return to the US. Due to understaffing, the US has suspended the issuing of US entry visas for Cuban.
US State Department has issued a "travel warning" for Americans. This is an extra layer of politicizing the "sonic attacks" which 1) they themselves have acknowledged that Cuba was not involved, but 2) since they have no definite answers from their investigation, they need to find a culprit, and they are blaming Cuba for not being on the alert for what was going on. Even the US diplomatic community, both in Cuba and around the Globe, is against the measure. they believe that AMERICANS SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE IN CUBA, PARTICULARLY AT THIS CRUCIAL MOMENT WHEN CUBA IS UNDERGOING RADICAL TRANSFORMATIONS. SO YOU CAN GO TO CUBA.
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Event Alert - If you are near the The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill you must not miss out this unique opportunity. Catherine Murphy will be presenting and screening her award-winning documentary Maestra. She will also be donating her vast footage and informational archives to The Rare Book Collection at Wilsons Special Collections Library and the Institute for the Study of the Americas of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ... See MoreSee Less

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What people are saying:

Here’s my favorite picture from our trip. (Disclaimer–I didn’t actually take this, Javon did.) I love this because I love the artwork in the picture, and the artwork that the picture reminds me of, which is all of Fuster’s work. I think the way that he has turned his art into a community project is really amazing, and it also embodies that spirit, which is so present all over Cuba, that you really don’t need money to be happy. Obviously, the Cuban economy needs to be improved, but the fact that even in such conditions people can still find ways to do things like what Fuster is doing says so much about Cuban people and culture. It’s really amazing. I also love this picture because it reminds me of the great time we all had as a group, which is something I’ll never forget.
Thanks so much for everything!
Margaret Grabar Sage, Saint Ann's School February, 2014
I want to thank you for a phenomenal week in Cuba; you created for us an itinerary that was a perfect balance of Spanish and history, or art and culture. For me, the trip was transformative–not only do I now have a much better sense of Cuba and its role in the world, but I also see the power that a simple conversation can have in overcoming barriers like those that exist between the United States and Cuba. I have already told many of my friends and all of my family that they “need” to go; and when they do, I will be sure that they go through you and throughAnthropolgie Consulting! I am attaching a photo that I took of Havana during the sunset. Every night, I was struck by how beautiful the sunset was, and by how it lit the old buildings in a golden light. It is, for me, an enduring image–and memory–of Havana. Thanks again for such a special trip–I will have great memories of it forever.
Nicholas Stewart, Saint Ann's School February, 2014

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