Tag Archives: Raul Castro

CBC News Story – “Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”…

Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.

“Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”

Fingers crossed for them.  I say that (new boss / old boss), as that’s just what simply comes to mind.  But I dunno.  I hope for more positive changes.  I’ve seen the benefit since the 2008 transfer from Fidel to Raul, and then the Obama détente, and in last November’s trip, the DEFINITE pall that’s been cast since Trump rolled back some of those benefits.  As a few fellow travelling friends said then, Cubans have seen the benefit economically of having American tourism dollars roll in unabated, and now they’ve “had a taste”, so there’s a definite depressive feeling since it’s disappeared a bit again.

And as the CBC News story mentions, there is also the concern of removing the two-peso-system in place there (with both the CUC and CPE pesos in use), and the worry among some of us cigar travelers that we could wake up with our pocketed CUCs (sometimes said as the “C-U-C” letters, or stating CUCs in plural such as “cooks”, or more jokingly “cookies”) suddenly unusable overnight.  Though “the rules” on the island state that the CUC money is not to leave the island, and should be exchanged back-and-forth when arriving and leaving, there’s quite a few of us that pocket a few hundred bucks in hand when we leave, so that we have ready cash available for our next return to Cuba.  To simply have readily-available funds to grab a taxi at 3am from the airport, or something like that.  Some moolah on hand for hitting a restaurant or bar that first evening on the island, to be able to not fret about needing to hit a cadeca (money exchange) until later the next day or as needed.

So that is something that’s been talked about for 2 or 3 years now at least, about a perhaps overnight transition of their financial system, with some of us worried about any personally-held CUCs to be potentially worthless.  And the sounds back when a lot of it was first mentioned, a few years back, and discussed then was that the two-peso-system would remain until a Castro wasn’t in power.  So there’s a lot of chance that it will be one of the first things to change under Diaz-Canel, perhaps.  It’ll be interesting to see what he decides to do to pick up the economy, so to speak, with the current funk that things appear to be in from many accounts.

But, alas…first world problems there on us travelers losing out on a few CUCs.

There’s the definite note that Raul will still chair the party until 2022 or something like that, so Diaz-Canel will likely be leading while also being led himself.  So that’s where the “new boss/old boss” thought and comment popped into my head.  But, he definitely is of a different leadership ilk and generation than the Castro brothers, so I do hope for more positivity for Cubans with this.  Fingers (and toes) crossed.

Cheers all.

Trump Hits Reset on Obama’s Cuba Policy…

Is anyone surprised at this really?  As much as it does suck for fellow cigar fans and Cuba buffs out of the U.S., I think that most of us felt this was inevitable…

Trump hits reset on Obama’s Cuba policy, challenges Castro

Most notable bits, in my opinion:

  • “Announcing the rollback of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic opening during a speech in Miami, Trump said Cuba had secured far too many concessions from the U.S. in the “misguided” deal but “now those days are over.””  [Really?!?!  The U.S. gave up too many concessions?  From a brutal policy that they enacted almost 60 years ago?!?!  LOL.]
  • “More details about the changes are expected to be released Friday, when the new policy is set to take effect. But none of the changes will become effective until the Treasury Department issues new regulations, which could take months. That means that any U.S. traveler currently booked on a flight to Cuba in the next few weeks, or even months, could go ahead and make the trip.”  [Dear gawd, I hope that travelers don’t get screwed over this.  As we’ve all seen with the Trump White House’s implementation of the Muslim travel ban, one minute things are one way and the next minute it’s different.  I hope that travelers that are currently booked for something, already “approved”, don’t end up showing up to an airport and getting stuck in limbo.]
  • “But individual “people-to-people” trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited. And the U.S. government will police other such trips to ensure there’s a tour group representative along making sure travelers are pursuing a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.””  [Wait, what?!?!  So, you’re cancelling out some aspects of the détente, because you don’t like the undemocratic military-state, but you’re adding layers of bureaucratic policing?  Pot, meet kettle.]

It’s just unfortunately another shitty situation for the Cuban people.  The Castro regime(s) definitely aren’t a piece-of-cake for the citizens there, and changes need to be made.  But on the surface, this appears like it may hurt those local-people more, than any government entity.  (Not that the détente has overly assisted those same people either, but something’s better than nothing.)

And frankly, as a longtime Canadian traveler to Cuba…

I must be honest and say that a part of me is happy for this too, for purely selfish reasons, I may add.

Many of my fellow American cigar compatriots know how to get to Cuba, one way or another, before/during/after this détente bullshit.  Whether the U.S. government “allows” them to travel is of moot difference really.  However, since the Obama-Raul détente, the sheer number of American travelers (not necessarily those brethren cigar aficionados either) have overwhelmed damn near everyone.  Cuba is building additional hotel rooms in shudderingly terrifying numbers (especially if one is aware of construction “norms” in Cuba).  Availability still continues to drop disproportionately, and prices have been skyrocketing.

Fuck, I remember when we did one of the first bigger Canuck group-trips to Havana for the Friends Of Partagas festival in November 2012.  Airfare from Toronto, transfers, taxes all-in, and double-occupancy room bookings at the Hotel Nacional in Havana was just under $1200 CAD then.  We’re just looking in the past month for a few different options for this November’s Encuentros again (probably doing the same casas again as last year’s big FOH / AmiCigar group trip, which were AWESOME).  Anywho, looking at doing the same thing as we did in Nov. 2012, Toronto airfare, Nacional hotel, all-in, and the current pricing is just over $5600 CAD per person now!

So, frankly, once the “standard American tourist” is banned from the island, I can’t say I’ll honestly be upset from my own personal perspective.  That said, I definitely doubt that hotel prices will ever drop to what they were for us before (but shit, if they drop into the $2k range, it’d almost be a steal again.)

But I still hope for the best for some Cuban friends – some have put some hard work into the current small-business atmosphere.  I hope these changes don’t see worsening conditions for them.  It scares me what some foreign government’s can do to another’s country, just with the swipe of a pen.  Without an appreciation for the people on the ground, who are these people to make those choices?

Cheers all.