Top

blog

Stories

 

Obama Administration Says No to Florida Ferry Service to Cuba

Categories: La Habana
photo by Ioimare via Wikimedia Commons
Not docking in Havana anytime soon.
You're going to have to wait for that romantic cruise to Havana. Under President Obama, travel restrictions to Cuba have eased from the Bush years, with new air charters opening routes from Miami and Tampa and even Texas to the island. That thaw, though, apparently doesn't include passenger boats.

After more than a year of stalling, one company in South Florida has finally gotten a firm rejection, with the U.S. Department of State writing that ferries are "beyond the scope of current policy."

The Fort Lauderdale-based Havana Ferry Partners LLC had applied in January to run a one-time ferry to Cuba for pilgrims hoping to catch Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the island, the Cuba Standard reports.

The same company had been frustrated for more than two years, with State Department officials refusing to accept or deny its plans to start a regular ferry route to Cuba. At least four other companies around Florida have also expressed interest in starting a nautical route to the island if the feds would agree to it.

"Are they just burying this in a file?," Leonard Moecklin Sr., the company's managing partner, asked the Sun-Sentinel earlier this month.

Well, now the companies seem to have an answer. In replying to Moecklin's application for a Benedict-specific trip to Havana, the State Department says boats are still a no-go.

Here's their response, via the Cuba Standard:
"To date, only air charter services have been permitted for the transportation of authorized travelers between the United States and Cuba. A White House initiative expanding purposeful travel to Cuba to broaden U.S. outreach to the Cuban people included, among other things, increasing the number of U.S. airports available for the operation of direct charter flights. Ferry services were not included in the group of policy changes. After consultation with the Department of State, OFAC has determined that the issuance of specific licenses ... is beyond the scope of current policy."
Moecklin tells the Standard he's still working with Congress to try to make a ferry happen, but that he hasn't found much support among the South Florida delegation.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
2 comments
jmcauliff
jmcauliff

OFACis led by Adam Szubin, a Bush appointee, and its policies are schizophrenic,perhaps reflecting his political agenda or just a fear of antagonizing CubanAmerican hardliners in Congress.  

 

Onthe positive side, the licenses it has granted are enabling thousands ofAmericans to visit Cuba for the first time and reach their own conclusionsabout life there and US policy. 

 

However, OFAC refuses to be transparent, declining to sayhow many applications it has received for People to People licenses or how manyit has issued beyond a vague "approximately 100".  While TravelService Providers are listed on line and updated monthly, it refuses to do thesame for People to People licensees, perhaps to discourage potential travelclients or to avoid exposing its inconsistency.

 

It did provide a data base to Tracey Eaton who published iton alongthemalecon.com but won't provide guidance about how to interpret it. It appears from my own sorting and guesswork that in 2011 OFAC issued 260travel licenses, roughly 20% of the applications it received.

http://cubapeopletopeople.blog... 

 

The application process is tedious, with long delays inOFAC's response.  Justifications for rejection often sound more likeexcuses than reasons.  

 

We were just denied a people to people license because anexample of an itinerary included, "informal conversations with cuentapropistas and the visit to the artisan market".  One would havethought spontaneous interaction with the self-employed and handicraft makerswould have been a goal.

 

We were also told that Americans could not participate in Cuba's thirdCeltic Festival because 

"programs also involving travelers to Cuba from third countries is not the type ofactivity contemplated for educational exchanges to promote people-to-peoplecontact between U.S.persons and Cuban individuals". 

 

The third countries involved are Irelandand Canada,from whence will come traditional musicians and dancers to contribute theirtalents.  My no doubt injudicious response to OFAC:

 

"Does the involvement of Irish and Canadians somehowinterfere with, or might it actually improve, the interaction by Americans withCubans?  Part of our national problem with Cuba is our disregard of theopinion and experience of allied countries with values and committment to humanrights and democracy equal to our own.  

 

By whom is it 'not the activity contemplated for educationalexchanges to promote people to people contact'?  Did the President orSecretary of State or Secretary of the Treasury not contemplate it, or is itMr. Szubin and some OFAC staff members who don't contemplate it?" 

 

We will continue to seek a way for Americans to legallyparticipate in our Irish Heritage Program http://cubapeopletopeople.blog...

 

However the real solution is for the White House and theSecretary of the Treasury to insure that OFAC stops meddling in the President'sgoal of expanding purposeful travel.  

 

They could start by giving all IRS recognizednot-for-profits the same general license they gave to universities andreligious organizations.  By granting all self-attesting people to peopletravelers the same general license as was given to self-attesting familyreunion Cuban Americans, the President will open the door to families,back-backers and other who don't fit into tour groups to set up their ownunsupervised program, renting cars, picking up hitch hikers, using the publicbus and train, and staying in privately owned bed and breakfasts.

 

One thing the President's campaign office should recognizeis that virtually everyone who travels to Cuba between now and November willsupport Obama rather than a Republican candidate who will take away even theincomplete right to travel they have just exercised.

 

John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

jmcauliff
jmcauliff

OFAC is led by Adam Szubin, a Bush appointee, and its policies are schizophrenic, perhaps reflecting his political agenda or just a fear of antagonizing Cuban American hardliners in Congress.  

On the positive side, the licenses it has granted are enabling thousands of Americans to visit Cuba for the first time and reach their own conclusions about life there and US policy. However, OFAC refuses to be transparent, declining to say how many applications it has received for People to People licenses or how many it has issued beyond a vague "approximately 100".  While Travel Service Providers are listed on line and updated monthly, it refuses to do the same for People to People licensees, perhaps to discourage potential travel clients or to avoid exposing its inconsistency.It did provide a data base to Tracey Eaton who published it on alongthemalecon.com but won't provide guidance about how to interpret it.  It appears from my own sorting and guesswork that in 2011 OFAC issued 260 travel licenses, roughly 20% of the applications it received.http://cubapeopletopeople.blogspot.co... The application process is tedious, with long delays in OFAC's response.  Justifications for rejection often sound more like excuses than reasons.  We were just denied a people to people license because an example of an itinerary included, "informal conversations with cuenta propistas and the visit to the artisan market".  One would have thought spontaneous interaction with the self-employed and handicraft makers would have been a goal.We were also told that Americans could not participate in Cuba's third Celtic Festival because "programs also involving travelers to Cuba from third countries is not the type of activity contemplated for educational exchanges to promote people-to-people contact between U.S. persons and Cuban individuals". The third countries involved are Ireland and Canada, from whence will come traditional musicians and dancers to contribute their talents.  My no doubt injudicious response to OFAC:"Does the involvement of Irish and Canadians somehow interfere with, or might it actually improve, the interaction by Americans with Cubans?  Part of our national problem with Cuba is our disregard of the opinion and experience of allied countries with values and committment to human rights and democracy equal to our own.  

By whom is it 'not the activity contemplated for educational exchanges to promote people to people contact'?  Did the President or Secretary of State or Secretary of the Treasury not contemplate it, or is it Mr. Szubin and some OFAC staff members who don't contemplate it?" We will continue to seek a way for Americans to legally participate in our Irish Heritage Program http://cubapeopletopeople.blog... the real solution is for the White House and the Secretary of the Treasury to insure that OFAC stops meddling in the President's goal of expanding purposeful travel.  They could start by giving all IRS recognized not-for-profits the same general license they gave to universities and religious organizations.  By granting all self-attesting people to people travelers the same general license as was given to self-attesting family reunion Cuban Americans, the President will open the door to families, back-backers and other who don't fit into tour groups to set up their own unsupervised program, renting cars, picking up hitch hikers, using the public bus and train, and staying in privately owned bed and breakfasts.One thing the President's campaign office should recognize is that virtually everyone who travels to Cuba between now and November will support Obama rather than a Republican candidate who will take away even the incomplete right to travel they have just exercised.John McAuliffFund for Reconciliation and Development

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

Loading...