Apartheid en Cuba
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    Cuba: What a Great Place to Visit! Never Mind the Dictatorship

    Cuba: What a Great Place to Visit! Never Mind the Dictatorship
    NBC's Matt Lauer points to tourism numbers as a sign that Cuba is
    flourishing under Fidel Castro's regime.
    By Jeff Poor and Amy Menefee
    Business & Media Institute
    6/5/2007 4:39:31 PM

    Cuba's a great place to live and visit – that's the word in the

    With Michael Moore's "Sicko," a film that glorifies the Cuban
    health care system, just three weeks from debuting in theaters, Matt
    Lauer hosted NBC's "Today Show" from Havana and praised it as a
    "booming" economy.

    Lauer addressed speculation that should Cuba's communist dictator,
    Fidel Castro, die, there might be some sort of "impulsion" and the Cuban
    government would collapse.

    "In fact that didn't happen," said Lauer. "It looks as if the
    contrary has occurred. There's stability here. Business is booming and
    tourists are flocking here, some two million a year."

    Lauer didn't emphasize that those tourists were flushing money
    into the dictator's government and enjoying a Cuba that its residents
    don't see. As Salon reported in 2002, tourist beaches have been cut off
    from everyday Cuban life. This policy of "tourism apartheid" had been
    around for a decade before that, Damien Cave wrote.

    That's why it's illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for
    pleasure trips.

    "All Americans need to know that foreign-owned resorts in Cuba
    must pay wages – must pay the wages of their Cuban workers to the
    government," said President George W. Bush in a 2003 speech. "A good
    soul in America who wants to be a tourist goes to a foreign-owned
    resort, pays the hotel bill – that money goes to the government. The
    government, in turn, pays the workers a pittance in worthless pesos and
    keeps the hard currency to prop up the dictator and his cronies. Illegal
    tourism perpetuates the misery of the Cuban people."

    Add to that the fact that two million visitors to this island of
    more than 11 million pales when you compare it to other destinations.

    Even U.S. cities that aren't traditionally recognized as tourist
    destinations dwarf the island nation's visitor count:

    ? Baltimore, Md., with a metropolitan population of more than 2.5
    million according to the 2000 U.S. Census, had a little more than 12
    million tourists visit in 2005, according to Sara Hisamoto, public
    relations manager for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors

    ? Detroit, Mich., with a metropolitan population of nearly 4.5 million,
    had 15.9 million tourists in 2005, according to Caroline Artman,
    spokeswoman for the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    ? St. Louis, Mo., with a metropolitan population of nearly 2.7 million,
    had 20.3 million tourists in 2004.

    Two million tourists for an island the size of Cuba is barely a
    drop in the bucket. A better comparison might be the Bahamas, a nation
    made up of several islands with a population of only 305,655. It had 4.7
    million visitors in 2006, according to The Bahama Journal.


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