The U.S. government persists in recommending to its citizens that they reconsider traveling to Cuba, and keeps the island on level 3 (second to last) of its warning system. Meanwhile, U.S. visitors have their own opinions about the safety levels in Cuba.
A recent survey by Cuba Educational Travel (CET) recently revealed the evident contradiction between the experiences of travelers and the warnings of the Trump administration. The survey was applied to 462 Americans who visited Cuba between 2017 and early 2018, who mainly said they felt safe and recommended traveling to the island.
— Cuban Embassy in US (@EmbaCubaUS) 2 de marzo de 2018
After the results of the study that analyzes firsthand the particular experiences of travelers about safety in Cuba came out, Collin Laverty, CET president, said it is clear that Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world for Americans’ visits.
Based on the survey, CET estimates that the island is “clearly safe” and is well prepared to respond to criminal, environmental, health and safety problems visitors can confront. Moreover, it sustains that the results must be taken into account by the Department of State to reassess Cuba’s status in its warning system.
The survey inquired among U.S. travelers about safety in Cuba in general, as well as their perception about specific aspects like the occurrence of crimes and the prevention and response capacity that exists on the island.
In all the aspects they were asked about, the biggest percentage of visitors considered Cuba “very safe” and “safe” or “very prepared” and “prepared.” On the other hand, only 4 percent or less had an unfavorable opinion on some of the issues.
In conclusion, 97 percent of the visitors said they would recommend Cuba based on their personal experience, while only 3 percent won’t recommend these visits.
The results of the CET survey coincide with the renewing of Cuba on level 3 on the Department of State’s warning system, a group that includes another five Latin American countries: Venezuela, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
It also coincides with the March 2 announcement that the U.S. government will maintain its embassy in Cuba with the minimum of personnel necessary, after the expiry of the departure status since September 29 last year due to the alleged attacks suffered by about 20 of its diplomats in Havana.
Laverty affirms that the situation of the U.S. diplomats in Havana has been managed very badly by the Department of State and highly politicized by the White House and the members of Congress against the normalization of relations with the neighboring island.
He added that it is unfair for the affected diplomats and their families to politicize the situation, which completely discredits the integrity of the Department of State’s warning system. He went on to say that the damage caused to the Cuban families that are separated because they cannot get visas is inexcusable, as well as the damage it is causing to Cuban entrepreneurs separated from U.S. visitors.
CET sustains that no U.S. traveler has been affected by incidents of health or “attacks” similar to those alleged by the Department of State, an opinion also defended by other U.S. agencies that promote visits to Cuba.
In addition, it considers that the reduction in Americans’ trips as a result of the Trump measures economically damages the Cubans, especially those from the private sector and those who work in tourism.
According to CET, the Department of State has delayed the publication of the results of the investigation about what happened in Havana, the one carried out by the FBI as well as that of the medical investigators, whose first article “did not show evidence of any attack.”
It also affirms that the U.S. diplomats have internally promoted the reopening of the embassy saying that they serve in much more dangerous environments across the world and that they do not feel at risk in Cuba, but they have been silenced by the White House.
35 diplomats & spouses who worked in the embassy appealed to senior State Department officials before withdrawals to be allowed to remain in Havana. “We ask that the Department give us the opportunity to decide for ourselves whether to stay or leave.” https://t.co/9qXLfAfc7u
— Collin Laverty (@collinlaverty11) 2 de marzo de 2018
Based on the results of the survey, the FBI investigation on the incidents, the recommendations of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) and conversations with U.S. diplomats who served in Havana at the time of the health incidents, CET makes a group of recommendations to the Department of State.
In the first place, to lower the travel warning for Cuba to a level 1 warning, advising travelers “to take normal precautions.”
Moreover, it considers that the U.S. embassy in Havana and its consular services should be completely restored, as well as allowing Cuba to again have its complete diplomatic personnel in Washington.
CET recommends to the Department of State to join the CIA, the Center for Disease Control, the FBI and the U.S. physicians who are treating the affected diplomats and cooperate in the investigation with the Cuban side, which is “the only way to resolve the problem.”
Finally, it asks the FBI to publish the results of its investigation, even if they censure certain elements “for reasons of privacy and national security.”
CET is one of the principal providers of trips to Cuba from the United States and is working with companies, cultural organizations, professional associations, commercial groups and universities in their programs for the island.
Another survey was published in 2017 and it revealed that 86 percent of U.S. travelers believe their visits and businesses in Cuba benefitted the Cuban people and said that their activities on the island supported the development of the private sector.
A few days ago, a coalition of 28 U.S. tour operators and companies specializing in educational trips to Cuba appealed to President Donald Trump to reduce the travel to Cuba restrictions.