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Miami-Dade mayor calls on Carnival to cancel cruise to Cuba if Cuban-born Americans can’t buy tickets

Miami-Dade mayor calls on Carnival to cancel cruise to Cuba if
Cuban-born Americans can’t buy tickets

Cuba law bars Cuban-born Americans from arriving by sea
Carnival is asking the Castro regime to waive the rule
BY DOUGLAS HANKS
dhanks@miamiherald.com

Miami-Dade’s mayor on Wednesday called on Carnival to cancel cruises to
Cuba if Cuban-born Americans can’t buy tickets, and accused the
Doral-based company of violating the county’s human-rights ordinance by
enforcing a Cuban law restricting who can to the island by sea.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez called a press conference to raise the possibility
of a court fight between the world’s largest cruise company and the
county that owns the port where Carnival plans to launch its first
cruises to Havana next month. At issue is a rule banning Cuban-born
Americans from traveling to the country by sea, a category that covers
much of the Miami area’s political leadership.

“I find it offensive that I as a citizen of the United States, although
born in Cuba, cannot buy a ticket simply because of my national origin,”
Gimenez told reporters. He said he’s asked county lawyers to rule on
whether Carnival’s booking policy violates a county ordinance banning
discrimination based on national origin.

Carnival said it had no choice but to enforce the rule when booking
tickets for its new Miami-to-Havana route out of PortMiami. The company
said it is asking the Castro regime to waive the rule before the first
ships sails on May 1 under Carnival’s new “impact travel” brand called
fathom, which is marketed as encouraging interactions between cruise
passengers and the countries they visit.

“This is not a decision by our Fathom brand, but rather a Cuba decision.
Cuba allows Cuban-born individuals to enter the country by airplanes,
but not yet by ships,” Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said in a
statement. “We believe there is a much better opportunity to effect a
change in the policy by having an active dialogue with the Cubans versus
some of the policies in the past many years.”

Gimenez stopped short of saying he would block Carnival from using
PortMiami for its upcoming Cuba cruise, but said he wanted to know what
authority he has to enforce the human-rights law. “What can we do about
it so that they come into compliance?” he said. “This is not about one
particular cruise. This is really about Carnival. They’re an important
partner, and there are a lot of jobs here in Miami-Dade County. But
they’re still violating the ordinance.”

Gimenez said he spoke with Micky Arison, Carnival’s chairman and owner
of the Miami Heat, earlier in the day about the cruises. Gimenez said
Arison hopes Cuba will agree to waive the rules, allowing the company to
avoid a stand-off with Miami-Dade. Insiders note the Castro regime is
sensitive to being seen as bending to political pressure from Miami,
complicating the matter as the controversy gets more attention from
elected leaders and the media.

There was pressure among U.S. cruise operators to be first into Cuba
following Obama’s relaxing of commercial barriers in late
2014, and Carnival announced its debut voyages in March during the
president’s historic trip to Havana.

And while initial coverage of the fathom voyages mentioned restrictions
against Cuban-born Americans buying tickets, the political uproar only
followed once Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago wrote on April 7
about her failure to book a berth over her Cuban birthplace.

Earlier this week, Rebeca Sosa, a Cuban-born county commissioner, asked
Gimenez’s administration to research what steps could be block Carnival
from turning away Cuban-born passengers. “If you don’t have the ability
as a U.S. citizen to go wherever you want, then I have a problem with
that,” she said. “Because the United States is a democracy.”

In a memo titled “Inquiry Regarding Possible Violation the
Code of Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez on Wednesday asked county lawyers
whether they agree that Carnival is violating a local law that bans
discrimination based on national origin.

“As a Cuban-born, naturalized American citizen myself,” Gimenez wrote
“it is clear to me that this policy violates the Code.”

Source: Miami-Dade mayor calls on Carnival to cancel cruise to Cuba if
Cuban-born Americans can’t buy tickets | Miami Herald –
www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article71567862.html

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