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Ferry service to Cuba a 'bridge' too far for US government

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Desmond Boylan/Reuters

(Read caption) People walk as a car drives by on Havana's seafront boulevard El Malecon on February 15.

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, thehavananote.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

After two years, the Ft. Lauderdale-based company Havana Ferry Partners got its answer, though not the one for which it was hoping.  The company had hoped to established a 500-600 passenger ferry service to Cuba which it says would have offered travelers a cheaper alternative to currently available flights to the island.  But a US Treasury agency ( which sat on the ferry license application so long you have to wonder why it bothered responding now) says the service would be "beyond the scope of current policy."

But of course, that can't be the real reason.  The current policy is to allow, if not encourage, travel to Cuba by, among others, licensed Cuban Americans, academics, and religious and cultural groups.  The policy even expanded the number of airports allowed to offer charter flights to the island.  So it's hard to imagine allowing the creation of a ferry service really goes against current US policy.

But reestablishing ferry service for the first time in more than fifty years does offer two challenges that the administration presumably doesn't want to bother with in an election year.  Naturally, opponents would claim it's another concession to Cuba – the headlines alone, which would use words like "re-establish" and "in more than fifty years" would (mistakenly) offer the impression of a detente between the US and Cuban governments.

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