Empty taxis, buses and hotel lobbies: Cuba sees tourism dropping due to Trump travel restrictions

Robie de Guzman   •   July 12, 2019   •   1115

Tourists boarding tourist bus, antique cars that function as tourist taxis parked and waiting for clients, empty lobby in hotel | Courtesy : Reuters

Tourism to Cuba will likely drop 8.5% this year in the wake of tighter U.S. restrictions on travel to the Caribbean island, the government said on Thursday (July 11), and the decline in arrivals will further hurt Cuba’s already ailing centrally planned economy.

A boom in tourism over the last few years has helped offset weaker exports and a steep decline in aid from key ally Venezuela that has forced the government to take austerity measures like cutting imports.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to squeeze that hard currency revenue stream too as part of its attempt to force the government to reform and stop supporting Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Last month it banned cruise ships and private planes and yachts from traveling to the island and ended a heavily used educational category of travel allowed as an exemption to the overall ban on U.S. tourism.

Cubans at the heart of the tourism industry call the changes “noticeable.”

Luis Manuel Perez, who drives antique cars that serve as taxis, said that several drivers had recently resigned because of poor business.

And Fernando Lopez, a horse-drawn carriage driver, said the decline in tourism since the cruise ship restriction has affected all tourism-related industries.

Tourism minister Manuel Marrero estimated 4.3 million people would visit Cuba this year, down from the goal of more than 5 million, and 4.7 million last year.

Looser restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba under former President Barack Obama, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and commercial flights and cruises had caused a spike in U.S. visits to the country.

U.S. travelers excluding Cuban-Americans became the second- biggest group of tourists on the island in recent years after Canadians, with cruise travelers accounting for half of them.

But Trump has rolled back much of Obama’s detente and taken additional measures to punish the economy and government.

Marrero said the country would continue to develop the tourism sector regardless of the U.S. measures. It is planning new dolphinariums and the country’s first amusement park, for example.

Cranes tower around Havana at the construction sites of what are to be the city’s first generation of luxury hotels, in a bid to attract a new type of client.

Cuba, which receives just two-thirds of the visitors that neighboring Dominican Republic does although it is twice as large, has traditionally focused on resort tourism or travelers on a medium budget. (REUTERS)

(Production: Nelson Gonzalez/Mario Fuentes/Heriberto Rodriguez/Anett Rios

Trump questions mail-in ballots, Twitter fact-checks

UNTV News   •   May 27, 2020

Twitter on Tuesday (May 26) for the first time prompted readers to check the facts in tweets sent by U.S. President Donald Trump, warning his claims about mail-in ballots were false and had been debunked by fact-checkers.

In a tweet responding to the company’s move, Trump accused the company of interfering in the 2020 presidential election. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said.

Trump on Tuesday also said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper needs to decide within a week whether the Republican National Convention can take place with full attendance in North Carolina in late August as planned.

“We need a fast decision from the governor,” Trump told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference on negotiations with pharmaceutical companies over insulin for U.S. seniors on Medicare. “If he feels that he’s not going to do it, all he has to do is tell us and then we’ll have to pick another location, and I will tell you a lot of locations want it.”

The convention is set to start on August 24 in Charlotte.

In the news conference, Trump also repeated his claims that mail-in ballots would lead to fraud.

Earlier in the day, Twitter placed a notification fact-checking Trump’s tweets claiming that mail-in ballots will be “substantially fraudulent” and result in a “rigged election.”

The notification, which displays a blue exclamation mark underneath the tweets, prompts readers to “get the facts about mail-in ballots” and directs them to a page with news articles and information from fact-checkers debunking the claim. (Reuters)

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

Trump threatens permanent freeze of WHO funding, to weigh U.S. membership

UNTV News   •   May 19, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Monday (May 18) to permanently halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) if it did not commit to improvements within 30 days, and to reconsider the membership of the United States in the body.

Trump suspended U.S. contributions to the WHO last month, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak, although WHO officials denied the accusation and China said it was transparent and open.

“If the WHO does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership,” Trump told its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a letter posted on Twitter.

Earlier, Trump said the WHO had “done a very sad job” in its handling of the virus and he would make a decision soon on U.S. funding.

In his letter Trump said the only way forward for the body was if it could demonstrate independence from China, adding that his administration had already started reform discussions with Tedros.

On Monday, the WHO said an independent review of the global virus response would begin as soon as possible and it received backing and a hefty pledge of funds from China, in the spotlight as the origin of the pandemic. (Reuters)

(Production: Bob Mezan)

Trump calls coronavirus worse attack than Pearl Harbor and 9/11

UNTV News   •   May 7, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump described coronavirus as an attack worse than Pearl Harbor and World Trade Center on Wednesday (May 6), as the death toll rose to 73,792 making it the worst-affect country in the world.

During the event held at the White House, Trump also blamed China for not containing the virus at its early stage.

“There’s never been an attack like this and I should have never happened. Could have been stopped at the source, could have been stopped in China,” he added.

Domestic critics of President Donald Trump, who is seeking reelection in November, have said that while China has much to answer for in terms of its actions in the early days of the outbreak, the U.S. administration is seeking to deflect attention from what they see as a slow U.S. response.

The coronavirus has infected 1,237,347 people in the United States. (Reuters)

(Production: Gabriela Boccaccio)

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