Thursday, January 28, 2010

Canadian Apartheid.

The picture of Cuba through the posters hanging on the walls of many of Canadian travel agencies offices is a country of sun, splendid beaches, voluptuous mulatas and old American vintage cars. It is an icon tireless repeated on and on in every little agency marketing Cuba. If you add the fact that almost 1 million Canadians are travelling to the Caribbean island and Canada is one of the biggest investors in Cuba, you at least would expect a little bit more of attention from the Canadian media, Canada’s government and for every single Canadian travelling or not to the island.Canadian Apartheid

Cuba is one of the most important touristic destinations for Canadians, and probably the farthest in politic and social interests for them. They escape winter sun bathing in Varadero, or enjoying the transparent water of Cayo Largo, or even wandering in herd through Old Havana. Cuba is for them: mulatas, sun and old cars. Nothing more.

It remembers me the long struggling fight in South Africa against the segregation system. The picture of the tiny white population living in a paradise of comfort and luxury, when the huge black inhabitants were segregated in the most tragic ghetto would be the most appropriate in any of those travel agencies. And that is not any exaggeration.

Thousands of Canadians travel to Cuba every year, the majority of them ignore with despicable indifference how Cubans live, how it is their life, what they do to survive. They are segregated in luxury islands of splendour, enjoying the sun and taking funny little pictures of vintage Cuba. A few of them adventure to go to Havana and wander with the occasional tourist guide through the old colonial side of the city. A very few notice the signs of poverty, the shattered face beyond the colonial postcard sold by the travel agencies and what lay hidden far away from hotels and touristic sites.

Canadians are living in an oasis within Cuba. Across Varadero’s bridge they only venture in placid buses to visit other oasis well-preserved in Trinidad or Old Havana. The bridge and the police stop the real Cuba to enter the easy going lives in the oasis. It is like the warning posters of “Only for White” in South Africa.

It is really outrageous how the own Canadian government and the media in Canada ignore Cuba. Canada was, as Mexico, the only two countries who never broke their diplomatic ties with the Caribbean island. But that doesn’t move a millimetre to Castro’s government to acknowledge that fact. Actually, if you read every single reference about the embargo and diplomacy from Cuba’s perspective, it looks that was only Mexico who kept diplomatic ties the last 50 years. No western society will obtain any compliment from Castro in any possible way.

Canada had kept a policy of engagement but it hadn’t make any difference with Cuba’s government either. Canadian companies are probably the more represented in Cuba in all the areas of its economy. Big and small companies, with huge investments and millions of dollars spent every year. But it doesn’t matter to the government of the island to pay in time, or to give any preference to Canadians. In fact, there are millions of dollars frozen in Cuba’s hands that had refused to free for more than one year. So, where is the laudable Canadian policy of engagement?

Meanwhile, the Canadian media ignores every single aspect of Cuba beyond Hotels and sunny beaches. It is only touristic Cuba who keeps its attention busy. It doesn’t matter Cuba is owing millions to Canadian investors, or the presence of a Canadian diplomatic representative within the premises of the protest held in the International Human Rights Day in Havana. Cuba is only a place for a holiday, not a source of bad news.

It is absolutely a Canadian Apartheid. Day after day you search helplessly and you find nothing, or the well-known touristic report about oasis Cuba. It looks like our country only exists as Canada’s exclusive resort. Castro’s government had exploited it with that factor in mind.

Bad news about Cuba doesn’t report dividends to the huge paradise’s business. Bad news about Cuba means to all the investors in Cuba’s touristic industry less Canadians travelling to Cuba and less money in their pockets. So, there won’t have any bad news to the Canadian market.

For Canadians, just imagine your country and your people with restrictions to travel abroad for reasons of opinions, earning a miserable salary that never reach $20.00 per month, with a double currency and salaries in the one currency you cannot buy anything available, where the resorts, hotels, any exclusive golf court or touristic premises aren’t for the citizens of the country, win only one political party, one man in power for more than 50 years, and no freedom of any kind to express disagreements at any level of the society.

And then, you have the paradisiacal oasis on the hands of any traveler: indifferent, irreverent and unconscious of all that is surrounding him. We are not asking any law to ban Canadians for travelling to Cuba. We are not asking to the Canadian government to disengage and break diplomatic ties with our country.

We are requesting to Canada at a whole: Canadian government, Canadian media and Canadians themselves to pay a little more attention at what is happening in Cuba beyond luxuries hotels, sunny beaches and old American vintage cars. That is the only thing we are requesting