Last month, timed to President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, a glut of U.S. companies announced plans to operate in the country.
Tourism industry players like Carnival Cruises,Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, andMarriott International announced their expansions into Cuba. Payments companies PayPal and Stripedid likewise. Google is planning to offer its Fiber internet service on the island, Cisco is opening an IT academy there, Caterpillar signed a deal to distribute equipment in the country, Verizon isoffering roaming cell phone service, and General Electric is working on a deal with the Cuban government.
For now, many of these announcements are symbolic. A trade embargo is still in place. President Obama wants to lift it, but doing so would require Congress to pass a law.
Until that happens, the U.S. government is making exceptions for American businesses that want to move into Cuba. Business is the easiest way to “normalize” relations between the two countries after 56 years of a trade embargo, according to the White House. Progress on political issues such as Cuba’s human rights record has been slower-moving.
There’s one American company that has been doing real business in Cuba for the past year: Airbnb. After the U.S. made American travel to Cuba legal (a special educational travel visa is required), the home-sharing startup made Cuba a priority. In its first year, the company hosted 13,000 travelers in 4,000 homes across 40 cities. Cuba is the fastest-growing market Airbnb has ever entered. (For more on Airbnb’s expansion, read “How Airbnb Pulled Off a Coup in Cuba.”)
MIAMI (AP) — Carnival Corp. is being sued in Miami federal court over its adherence to Cuba’s policy that prevents Cuban nationals from arriving or departing the island by sea.
Two Cuban-Americans are claiming their civil rights were violated because they were not permitted to buy tickets on a May 1 cruise from Miami to Cuba aboard Carnival’s Fathom cruise line.
The potential class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday asks a judge to force Carnival to allow all people of Cuban origin to sail on cruises to Cuba. The lawsuit was filed the same day Cuban Americans staged demonstrations against the policy outside Carnival headquarters in Doral.
The company says in a statement it must comply with the visa, entry and exit policies of every country, but has lodged a request with the Cuban government to change the ship policy.
The war of words has gotten nasty, with the candidates describing the ideas of their rivals as “disingenuous,” “extreme” and “capricious.”
These are not the comments of presidential candidates. This is the language used by airlines that are competing for a handful of routes to Cuba that the U.S. government will award this summer under the Obama administration’s effort to normalize relations with the island nation.
As part of the selection process, the U.S. Department of Transportation has asked that the competing carriers submit written requests for the routes they want as well as responses to the proposals of their rivals.
The CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson, will accompany U.S. President Barack Obama on his official trip to Cuba on March 20. “We are optimistic that we are going to get a green light soon from the US government to have hotels under the Marriott flag in Cuba,” said Marriott spokesman Thomas Mader. Sorensen also serves as vice chair in President Obama’s Export Council.
Cuba said it would welcome President Barack Obama to Havana later this month, but the Communist government had no intention of changing its policies in exchange for normal relations with the United States.
In a long editorial on Wednesday in Communist Party newspaper Granma and other official media, Cuba demanded Washington cease meddling in its internal affairs and said Obama could do more to change U.S. policy.
The Obama administration has approved the first U.S. factory in Cuba in more than half a century, allowing a two-man company from Alabama to build a plant assembling as many as 1,000 small tractors a year for sale to private farmers in Cuba. Cuban officials already have publicly and enthusiastically endorsed the project. The partners said they expect to be building tractors in Cuba by the first quarter of 2017.