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    Lawsuit filed against Carnival for agreeing to discriminatory Cuba cruise policy

    Lawsuit filed against Carnival for agreeing to discriminatory Cuba
    cruise policy

    A class action lawsuit alleges that Carnival Corp. is violating civil rights
    Cuban law prohibits Cuban-born individuals from traveling to Cuba by sea
    Lawsuit alleges that Carnival Corp. adopted policy to “support” Cuba’s
    boycott of Cuban-born individuals
    BY CHABELI HERRERA AND DOUGLAS HANKS
    cherrera@miamiherald.com

    Carnival Corporation’s upcoming voyage to Cuba has struck a nerve among
    part of Miami’s Cuban American population, inciting a federal lawsuit,
    protests and criticism from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

    The cruise companys’s social-impact line, Fathom, is scheduled to travel
    to the island beginning May 1, after Carnival Corp. became the first
    American cruise company to gain approval from the Cuban government to
    sail from the U.S. to Cuba.

    But there’s a catch: Cuban-born Americans cannot visit the island by
    sea, due to a a Cuban law that dates to the Cold War era, and therefore
    are barred from joining in Carnival Corp.’s sailings to the island.
    Individuals born in Cuba can, however, travel to the island on an airplane.

    A class action lawsuit filed against Carnival Corp. and Fathom alleges
    that the cruise company is violating civil rights by denying tickets to
    Cuban-born individuals

    According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Miami on Tuesday,
    plaintiffs Amparo Sanchez and Francisco Marty were denied a ticket on
    Fathom’s May 1 sailing to Cuba when they revealed they were born in Cuba.

    Similar to airlines, cruise lines are required to collect passport
    information, including place of birth, for all cruises leaving from the U.S.

    A Fathom representative told Sanchez and Marty, who is a Carnival
    Platinum Club member, that Carnival Corp. has been “working on the issue
    for months” and did not want to lose the loyalty of its customers,
    according to the lawsuit. However, the cruise line told them it had to
    abide by the Cuban policy and could not complete their bookings on the
    Cuba sailings.

    “I was born in Cuba, and haven’t been back in 58 years… and [am]
    unable to fly for health reasons. I wanted to go back to see my native
    country and share its culture with a surprise trip with my children, but
    Carnival will not allow my Cuban-born daughter and me to go on its
    ship,” Marty said in a statement.

    Fathom is scheduled to take passengers on week-long voyages to Havana,
    Cienfiegos and Santiago de Cuba.

    The lawsuit alleges that the cruise line and its parent company,
    Carnival Corp., have “adopted a policy to support Cuba’s boycott” of
    Cuban-born individuals.

    “It violates our fundamental rights as a nation,” said Tucker Ronzetti,
    of Coral Gables law firm Kozyak, Tropin and Throckmorton, one of the
    plaintiff’s attorneys. “When it comes to our fundamental values as a
    nation, when it comes to following our laws against discrimination,
    those trump a foreign nation’s policies.”

    On Fathom’s website, the cruise line says it is “Carnival’s policy to
    obey the regulations and laws of the countries we sail to around the world.”

    Carnival Corp. president and CEO Arnold Donald said in an interview
    Tuesday that the cruise company has been working to petition the Cuban
    government to change the policy.

    “Cuban-born individuals are allowed to fly to Cuba and we just want a
    similar process,” Donald said. “We expressed that respectfully and
    appropriately [to Cuban authorities].”

    But some Cuban-born politicians don’t think Carnival’s attempts have
    been sufficient.

    On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez called a press conference
    to raise the possibility of a court fight between the world’s largest
    cruise company and the county that owns the port where Carnival plans to
    launch its first cruises to Havana.

    Gimenez said the policy violates the county’s human-rights policy. He
    has also asked county lawyers to determine whether Carnival Corp. is in
    violation of local law that bans discrimination based on national origin.

    “As a Cuban-born, naturalized American citizen myself, it is clear to me
    that this policy violates the Code,” Gimenez wrote in a memo titled
    “Inquiry Regarding Possible Human Rights Violation the Code of
    Miami-Dade County.”

    Gimenez stopped short of saying he would block Carnival from using
    PortMiami for its upcoming Cuba cruise but said he wanted to know what
    authority he has to enforce the human-rights law.

    “What can we do about it so that they come into compliance?” he said.
    “This is not about one particular cruise. This is really about Carnival.
    They’re an important partner, and there are a lot of jobs here in
    Miami-Dade County. But they’re still violating the ordinance.”

    Carnival is one of the county’s five largest private employers,
    according to the Beacon Council, the county’s economic development
    agency, with about 3,000 local jobs.

    Gimenez said he spoke with Micky Arison, Carnival’s chairman and owner
    of the Miami Heat, earlier in the day about the cruises. Gimenez said
    Arison hopes Cuba will agree to waive the rules, allowing the company to
    avoid a stand-off with Miami-Dade.

    Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez also spoke out in support of Gimenez’s
    inquiry.

    Insiders note the Castro regime is sensitive to being seen as bending to
    political pressure from Miami, complicating the matter as the
    controversy gets more attention from elected leaders and the media.

    Among them is U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, who is of Cuban descent. In a
    statement, he spoke out against Carnival Corp.’s decision.

    “I never could have fathomed an American company could be so blinded by
    the prospect of profit in Cuba that it would enter into a business deal
    with the Castros that tramples on the civil rights of our own American
    citizens,” said Menendez, who represents New Jersey. “Make no mistake –
    by discriminating against Cuban-Americans, Carnival is allowing the
    Castro regime to extend its oppressive reach to our shores.”

    Central to the matter is the issue of upholding U.S. civil rights law by
    a U.S.-based entity that uses a U.S. facility, such as a port, no matter
    where it sails in the world.

    The federal lawsuit filed against Carnival Corp. says the cruise
    company’s acceptance of the Cuban policy violates the Civil Rights Act
    of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in places of accommodation.
    According to the law, a place of accommodation can be defined as an
    “establishment which provides lodging to transient guests,” including
    cruise ships.

    Robert W. Rodriguez, another attorney for the plaintiff, cites a similar
    instance in 2015, when an Israeli citizen filed a discrimination
    complaint against Kuwait Airways after the airline refused to sell the
    traveler a ticket from New York’s John K. Kennedy International Airport
    to London’s Heathrow Airport. The airline cited Kuwaiti law that
    prohibits business with Israeli citizens.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation threatened legal action against
    Kuwait Airways, asking it to cease the discriminatory practice. In
    response, the airline eliminated service between the two airports.

    “This has already been decided and Carnival knows about this,” Rodriguez
    said. “We are just hoping that [Carnival Corp.] has the wherewithal to
    know that No. 1, it is legally incorrect and also more importantly,
    morally incorrect.”

    Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said the lawsuit is “without merit or
    substance.”

    “We believe there is a much better opportunity to effect a change in the
    policy by having an active dialogue with the Cubans versus some of the
    policies in the past many years,” Frizzell said.

    Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa has also requested that the
    Gimenez’s administration confer with the U.S. Department of
    Transportation over the legality of PortMiami allowing Carnival Corp. to
    use its facilities while adhering to the Cuban policy.

    In a statement, Sosa also cited the Kuwait Airways incident, noting that
    “although the cruise line maintains that it must honor the communist
    island’s discriminatory practices, a recent decision by the U.S. DOT
    seems to contradict the policy.”

    The Cuban-born commissioner added Wednesday: “If you don’t have the
    ability as a U.S. citizen to go wherever you want, then I have a problem
    with that – because the United States is a democracy.”
    .
    Class action lawsuit filed against Carnival Corp. and Fathom

    Protests and the ensueing political uproar followed an April 7 column by
    Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago about her inability to book a
    berth on a Fathom Cuba cruise because she was born in Cuba.

    Tuesday, protesters demonstrated in front of Carnival Corp.’s Doral
    headquarters, decrying the cruise company’s policy.

    Ramon Saul Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement, which organized
    the protest, said Carnival should take a stand against Cuba’s policy —
    or not sail to Cuba.

    “It’s something very unAmerican for a country to tell citizens that
    because you are of this nationality, they can’t sell you a ticket,”
    Sanchez said Tuesday.

    MIAMI HERALD WRITERS DAVID OVALLE AND FABIOLA SANTIAGO CONTRIBUTED TO
    THIS REPORT.

    Lawsuit:
    www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article71686467.ece/BINARY/Carnival%20Cruise%20Class%20Action%20Complaint.pdf

    Source: Lawsuit filed against Carnival for agreeing to discriminatory
    Cuba cruise policy | Miami Herald –
    www.miamiherald.com/news/business/tourism-cruises/article71558742.html

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