Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Just Made It Harder For US Citizens To Travel To Cuba

Following up on an announcement back in April, the Trump administration has moved to further restrict travel to Cuba.

The US government announced major new restrictions on US citizens who want to travel to the island and is limiting the most popular method of visiting.

The announcement effectively bans the most common way Americans were traveling to the island.

Credit: @cnnbrk

These new restrictions block the most common way Americans are able to visit the island — through organized tour groups that license US citizens to travel automatically — and banning US cruise ships from stopping in the country.

American tourism is not explicitly permitted in Cuba. However, Americans can travel to Cuba if it is covered under specific categories, which included organized group travel, known as group people-to-people travel, until Tuesday.

The move is blamed on Cuba’s role in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the restrictions are a result of Cuba continuing “to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up US adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes.”

Commercial flights from the US will continue as normal.

After the Obama administration loosed travel restrictions to Cuba in 2014, many US-based airlines began service to the island. These flights will still be allowed to operate.

Officials in Cuba were quick to condemn the news.

Credit: @BrunoRguezP / Twitter

Cuban government statistics say US citizens have quickly grown to become the second largest foreign group visiting the island after Canadians. They also pointed out that the blockade and new travel restrictions are against international law.

Cuba is one of only two countries that US citizens can’t travel to freely.

Credit: @carlosgutierrez / Twitter

Many were surprised by the news because the Trump administration has positioned itself as a fan of deregulation and more ‘freedom’ for US citizens. However, this policy is limiting the rights and freedom of Americans who want to travel to Cuba.

Many worried travelers took to Twitter to check with cruise lines if their plans were still OK.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

Unfortunately, most companies, including major cruise lines, were still short on details. Though according to the Treasury, travelers who already booked at least one part of their travel to Cuba will still be allowed to take their trip.

Others took to Twitter to share their stories of recent trips to Cuba and how this new policy only hurts the lives of local Cuban people.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

According to several sources, the US travel restrictions have the greatest impact on local Cubans and very little effect on the policies of the Cuban government.

I mean the blockade has been in place for more than 50 years. Has it achieved it stated goal yet?

While many were upset that other Americans may not have the chance to witness the country’s beauty.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

And that the Cuban people are being punished for the policies of their government.

But some were celebrating the move in a pretty sarcastic way.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

Since in many countries, Americans don’t always have the best reputation as travelers. People often accuse us of being loud and kinda entitled when we travel.

But overall most people reacted with disappointment.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

The travel ban and economic blockade have been in place in one form or another for more than 50 years and they’ve had little effect.

US citizens are allowed to travel to other communist countries, so why is the US singling out Cuba?

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In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Culture

In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Photo via Getty Images

COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for Cubans. Not only have Cubans been physically affected by the virus like the rest of the world, but the drop in the island’s gross domestic product has stymied local economic productivity. The island can no longer look to tourism to add to their GDP.

Because of this drop in GDP, food shortages on the island have become more severe than in recent memory. And Cuban cooks are feeling the effects.

Cubans must stand in line for hours at markets with no guarantees that the ingredients that they want will be available.

This way of living is especially hard for Cuban cooks, like 39-year-old Yuliet Colón. For Colón, cooking is both a creative expression and a stress reliever. “The kitchen is my happy place, where I am calmer and I feel better,” she recently revealed to the Associated Press.

Yuliet Colón is one of the creators of a Facebook page called Recetas del Corazón that has changed the cooking game for thousands of Cubans.

Now, thanks to Colón and other curious and generous Cuban cooks like her, Recipes from the Heart is now 12,000 members strong.

The goal of the page is to help struggling Cuban cooks cope with food shortages. Members of the page share creative recipes, tips, and food substitutions. Launched in June of 2020, the page was an instant success. Its success proves that Cubans have been desperate to find ways to adapt their cooking to the post-COVID-era.

To AP News, Yuliet Colón laments about the lack of rice, beans, cheese, fruit, and, most of all, eggs. “What I like the most is making desserts, but now it’s hard to get eggs, milk or flour,” she revealed.

The brightside is, however, that Cuban cooks are finally able to share food-related tips and tricks with each other on a much larger scale than they were before the internet became more widespread in the country.

Now that many Cubans have access to communication apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, they can now connect with one another and make the most of what they have–however little that may be.

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

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