By Israel Ortega
In case you missed it, Orbitz is not limited to simply booking flights and hotel accommodations anymore. It has also become a passionate advocacy group. In a heartfelt letter to its loyal customers, Orbitz called for an end to the US-Cuban embargo and immediate normalizations with the Caribbean island. On their recently-launched website, www.opencuba.org, anyone can sign the online petition calling for an end to the “alleged injustice” of Americans being unable to travel to the Caribbean island.
Perhaps our friends at Orbitz might stand to benefit from a quick history lesson on why the U.S. imposed the embargo on the island in the first place - and why it’s still important.
The Cuban embargo was put in place because Fidel Castro seized U.S. businesses and property, reneged on his promise of democracy to Cuban people, jailed any opposition, and became a global ally of the Soviet Union. Working with its communist allies, the island harbored anti-American agents, thanks to the ruthless Castro regime. Communist policies turned the island into the largest prison in the Americas.
And after half a century in power, the Castro regime has shortchanged its people, squashed free and fair elections, violated human rights, jailed dissidents and continues to practice a policy of economic apartheid. The most coveted jobs in Cuba are in hotels doing the bidding of foreign tourists, because those are the jobs that command dollars and Euros. Ordinary Cubans, even engineers and doctors, receive no more than subsistence earnings and meager rations that must be supplemented with black market dealings. Thus far, millions of Canadian and European tourists have only helped to strengthen the Castro regime economically, while leaving the Cuban people under the surveillance and control of its efficient secret police. Such is the sad state of Castro’s communist revolution!
And as Heritage VP Mike Gonzalez recently noted, the arrest of former State Department officials accused of spying for the Cuban government just a few weeks ago is a stark reminder that this is not just simply a relic of the Cold War.
Perhaps Orbitz might want to ask the countless numbers of political prisoners trapped in the Cuban prisons if they want to sign their online petition… Although we suspect that they may run into trouble upon discovering that Cuba is one of the few places in the world where the internet is banned for all but foreign tourists.
Certainly free travel to Cuba is in Orbitz’s economic interests. They want to make business, come what may! But there is something within us that opposes lifting restrictions on the Castro brother’s 50-year-plus regime and giving a green light for all to travel to a land that recognizes no individual rights of travel, free speech, unionization, or genuine political participation, to a land where a hefty percentage of every tourist dollar goes to sustaining the repression of the Cuban people.