Cuba Health Care Research Trip 2010

Vinales Panorama

A group of North American medical professional's experience studying the Cuban medical system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Isn't it illegal to travel to Cuba?
A: For Americans, yes. There are exceptions, but Cuba is the only country in the world to which our country prohibits us from traveling - with threats of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine! You can legally travel to Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan - anywhere in the world but this peaceful nation 90 miles from our border!

Q: Why can't we travel to Cuba?
A: As you know, there has been a 50-year political pissing contest between the US and Cuba since the revolution. Our CIA had successfully ousted a progressive, democratically-elected government from staying in power in Guatemala in 1954 and in Iran in 1952.  It was an affront to our ability to control our hemisphere to have a bunch of upstarts like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro kick our man Batista out on his ass. That they then had the audacity to nationalize their resources and an oil refinery, as well as to close down the bordellos and casinos added insult to injury! They also successfully repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion, adding to our cumulative embarrassment. We cannot let them get away with such things, so we have prohibited travel (to prevent any American dollars being spent in that country) and imposed an economic embargo for all these years. The Pope (John Paul) declared this embargo a moral outrage. The United Nations has voted multiple times to request an end to the embargo - the only countries to vote to continue the embargo ate the US, Israel, and Palau! Go figure...

Q: But doesn't Cuba support terrorists?
A:Not in the past forty-some years. Fidel says "we send doctors, not soldiers". And they do! Cuba helped Spain with some of the Basque terrorists - offering to bring them to Cuba to live out their lives to get them out of Spain's hair. Spain agreed to the plan - and appreciated Cuba's help -and continues good diplomatic relations with Cuba - but we take the opportunity to claim that they are "providing shelter to terrorists" and therefore we will not have diplomatic relations or allow travel. Cuba has helped Colombia negotiate with the FARC rebels there - with the blessings of Colombia - but we use this to claim that they "talk to terrorists". And yet the United States is harboring terrorists like Luis Posada Carilles who is wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for blowing up a Cubana Airlines airplane, killing some 73 people, in October of 1976. 

Q: So HOW did you go to Cuba?
A: The State Department allows Americans to travel under a "general license" if they are going to be doing research in Cuba which will be published or otherwise distributed upon return. The problem is that a "general license" is not a specific piece of paper and the State Department could decide after you return that your trip did not qualify. A pretty bizarre situation, if you ask me. Individuals can seek a license for individual study (ten weeks or more) or to play at athletic events or to present their music or art. I suspect enforcement is haphazard and selective at best - I know a physician who travels to Cuba several times a year and has never been harassed. Details are available online at the website of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the State Department.

Q: Do the Cubans hate Americans?
A: Wow! - Absolutely not! Cubans love Americans - we share a lot with the Cubans - who love lively music, have tremendous family values, and like to have fun. When I traveled to Cuba thirty years ago the Russians were still there offering support.  I remember having a Cuban explain how he didn't like the Russians who "were cold and stiff" whereas the Americans loved the Salsa music and were fun to talk to! We are missing a valuable opportunity by shutting out our neighbor with this 50-year spite fence.

Q: What can I do to help stop the travel ban and embargo?
A: VERY good question! A bill has just been introduced into the House of Representatives that would lift the trade embargo on agricultural goods and lift the travel ban. You can find out about HR 4645 and how to share your support with your elected member of congress at the website of the Latin America Working Group (LAWG).