Grand Classica Denied Entry Cuban Constitutional Referendum

Grand Classica Cruise Ship Denied Entry Havana Cuba
Grand Classica Cruise Ship Denied Entry Havana Cuba

Havana Cuba MapGrand Classica Denied Entry Cuban Constitutional Referendum – On Friday. February 15, 2019, Celebration Cruise ship Grand Classica was denied entry in the port of Havana, Cuba. As we discovered, the 2019 Cuban Constitutional Referendum on February 24, 2019, may be the reason to keep this particular Port of Palm Beach, Florida cruise ship away. Viva Travel chartered the Grand Classica for the voyage.

Cuba is a communist country (Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and Union of Young Communists (UJC, the youth branch of the Party) located in the Caribbean Sea, approximately 90 miles south of Florida.  Cuba has a population of approximate;y 11,147,407. The PCC has 800,000 members and the UJC another 600,000 (between 16 and 32 years old), in a country of 11.1 million inhabitants.

Bahamas Paradise’s cruise ship, the Grand Classica, departed the Port of Palm Beach Thursday for her maiden voyage to Cuba. The ship would have arrived in Havana at 0700 hours Friday. Some people would have gotten off the ship to explore the island, and some Cuban nationals would have been allowed to temporarily board to reunite with family and friends.

That may be where the problem originated, “allowed to temporarily board”.

On January 14, 2013, Cubans were able to start traveling without asking the government for permission, after an immigration reform came into effect that eliminated the irritating exit permit, in effect since 1961, and the letter of invitation. The partisan permit could be delayed and the applicant had to substantiate very well the reason for the trip to be approved.

Citizens holding a Cuban passport can travel to 78 countries visa-free, according to Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index 2016, topping India (52) and China (50). The communists faced a double barrier to leave the island, since in addition to requesting authorization from the government they had to request another permit from the PCC or the UJC, which they could deny without explaining the cause.

“The policy was that the least number of possible militants left the country, it seems that they would not be contaminated ideologically. Permission was usually given only in extreme humanitarian cases,” such as visiting a sick relative (father or mother) in another country.

2019 Cuban Constitutional ReferendumMayarí Cuba

Next Sunday, on February 24, 2019, Cubans take a final vote to approved a new constitution passed by the National Assembly of People’s Power in July 2018, on proposed changes to the Constitution.  State security agents have cracked down on activists by carrying out multiple arrests and raiding the homes of those who have called for a NO vote on the referendum.

Security forces on Monday detained about 20 members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) opposition group, including its leader, José Daniel Ferrer. That is the latest chapter in the unequal battle between the government-supported YES vote on the referendum and those pushing for a NO vote.

Osmel RamirezThis week an Article in the Havana Times, written by Cuban farmer and journalist Osmel Ramirez who is from Mayarí municipality in Holguín Province, Cuba,  “My cousin Marcelo tells me about his 27-year-old son, who has everything ready to leave for Nicaragua before the end of this month. “He doesn’t want to live in this country anymore, he’s got the idea stuck in his head. I managed to get him a job and he didn’t want to even start, he says that he won’t work for anyone for 500 pesos (20 usd).” Marcelo was upset because his son didn’t want to work like him and because of how risky the journey is awaiting him to get to the US.”

With the flood gates now open for Cubans wishing to leave,  it could be too easy for Cubans with talent, skills and education, to simply board or stow away on a cruise ship, land on American soil and ask for refugee statis.

There is also the possibility, the Cuban government is worried about militants boarding and taking the Grand Classica hostage in a hijacking, much like what happened during the Achille Lauro hijacking and murder, which happened on October 7, 1985. It certainly would create a new Cuban Crisis with the United States, becoming far worst than the Achille Lauro incident.

It will be interesting to see if other cruise ships,  sailing directly from an American port to Havana have probems in the future and if the Constitutional Referendum is the beginning of civil unrest in Cuba.

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Video:Bahamas Paradise cruise from Port of Palm Beach turned around by Cuban Government