The Latest Cuban Gamble: Playing Games with Consular Services
Cuba’s suspension of consular services in the United States may have little to do with finances and much to do with General Raul Castro’s interest in slowing down visits by Cuban-Americans to the island.
If no bank in the United States is willing to handle the finances involved with purchasing visas to travel to Cuba, the Castro regime could either waive the charges, request payment be sent to other countries, or collect them from Cuban-Americans upon arriving in the island.
Perhaps the Cuban government sees this suspension as a way to put pressure on the United States and its ban on US Americans traveling to Cuba and to test the political influence of segments of the Cuban-American community that want the end of economic sanctions. If, as the Cuban government hopes, there is massive pressure from Cuban-Americans to open travel, the prohibition for Americans may also fall by the wayside. Secretary Kerry’s statement at the OAS on November 18 may be a hint in this direction.
There is perhaps a more sinister objective on the part of the Castro government. For the Castro regime, Cuban-Americans represent a far more subversive group than US tourists. They speak the language, have friends or family in the island, and arrive with enormous bundles of merchandise that feeds the “cuentapropistas” and the black market. If US Americans are coming, the Castro regime may want to do away with the more subversive and dangerous Cuban expatriates.
It is important to remember that in Cuba, economic decisions are dictated by political considerations. The Cuban government would more than offset the loss of Cuban-American dollars with either the visits of US tourists or an increase in remittances from Cuban-Americans in the United States.
Either way, this may be a calculated gamble by the Castro regime to force the hand of the United States and to change the composition of tourists coming from the United States. Cubans no, Yankees sí.