A Visit To Cuba

| By Marvin R. Shanken , David Savona | From Sean Combs, May/June 2016
A Visit To Cuba

You want to visit Cuba. We conducted a recent poll of our audience at cigaraficionado.com, and an incredible 95 percent of you said you were eager to pay a visit to the island, which has been off-limits to most Americans for more than 50 years.

Some of you reading this have already gone. Twenty-nine percent of you who answered our survey said you had been to Cuba at least once (some of you have gone several times) and most of you were quite pleased with the trip: 77 percent of you rated the visit very good or better, and 23.5 percent called it "the trip of a lifetime."

One American who made the trip recently is U.S. President Barack Obama. He made history on March 20 as the first sitting American president in 88 years to set foot on Cuban soil. He spent time in Old Havana, watched a baseball game and met with some dissidents and Cuban leaders. But we wish more had been done.

Cuban President Raúl Castro wasn't shy about making demands during the visit, calling for the end of the embargo as well as the return of Guantanamo Bay. Former leader Fidel Castro expressed his disdain for the trip, writing in Granma: "We do not need the empire to give us anything."

President Obama tread lightly. "I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people," he said. But rather than demanding change, he merely alluded to Cuban freedom, stating: "I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections." This visit was long on style, but short on substance.

This is not the time to lose our way. We have come far since December 2014, when the two governments began to normalize relations. Making a trip to Cuba is getting easier for Americans. In March the U.S. eased some travel prohibitions to Cuba, allowing individual Americans to make people-to-people trips of their own design. Previously such visits were limited to groups run by licensed operators. And business ventures have begun. Starwood Corp. announced plans this spring to renovate and rebrand three Cuban hotels, and Carnival Cruise Lines is preparing to sail to Cuba this summer. But there's so much more to do.

We know these moves are emotionally charged for many, especially Cuban Americans who have suffered—or who have family members or friends who have suffered—at the hands of the Castro government. And there are those who feel that Americans shouldn't visit Cuba, and that America's leader shouldn't be speaking with the government of Cuba.

It's time for a change. But change should come without compromising our beliefs. It's what the people of Cuba deserve, it's what the American people deserve and it's what the world deserves.