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Kip Powick
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While vacationing in Cuba I managed to get on the Internet and posted only a Subject heading which said "Cuba Rocks". Although I did not elaborate I was actually referring to the scuba diving I was doing at the time...naturally you did not know that. I was, however, surprised by part of your reply thought, that part in which you said.........

There's a lot of people breakin' rocks in Cuba right now......I can think of better places to vacation than in a Gulag...

While I agree that there is much that we perceive as politically unacceptable in Cuba I think you are wrong in stating that it is almost unthinkable to vacation in Cuba. I have been there twice and will go back again, not only because it is a beautiful country but because of the people. It is not my call to discuss politics with any Cuban but we do try to help the local populace when we venture into their country.

Like most Tourists that take the time to read vacation summaries, I load up our bags with over the counter drugs, as well as “excess” drugs, (non-narcotic) from my family doctor and make numerous trips to variety stores to buy coloring book, crayons, pens, pencils, make-up, tooth brushes, toothpaste and other sundries that the local folks are not able to buy. Yes, I put all the extras in the Scuba gear bags and lie about the little bit of extra weight and say it is “all Scuba gear” but it’s a “good” lie.

In Havana a small tube of Sensodyne toothpaste is around $9.75US, a half a months pay for most employed individuals. We walked around Havana and when we found small children with their parents we asked if they would like a coloring book and crayons, most parents indicated that they could not pay for them and you can imagine their delight when we said there was no charge and that it was an early Christmas gift for the child. If you have ever seen a child’s face light up when they are given a new coloring book and a full box of crayons you would know what I mean. Even a free toothbrush and toothpaste brings smiles of gratitude.

We went to very small clinics , outside of the large populated areas, and gave the drugs to the “doctor” or nurse in charge and once again their appreciation could be not only be seen but it could be felt.

You may call it a “Gulag” but I don’t. I think that the people are oppressed and I certainly wouldn’t want to be living under Castro’s rule but where else can you take a vacation in the Caribbean and come away feeling that perhaps, in some small way, you have helped some needy people?? You should try it……..it is a great feeling.

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Never happened to me, (trouble with the law), and have never heard of a tourist being hassled. I'm afraid I can't find the regulation right now but I did have a reference about the dollar value in drugs that one could take down. I have never paid any attention to it. I only got checked once as they were not sure about the large case with all the underwater camera gear in it.

Give me some time and I'll try to find that regulation I once had.

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Here is the regs and like all I am sure they are open to interpretation....I think you could even "bend" the fact that you are a good samaritan therefore you are bringing in items that are relative to your occupation :)

22lbs of drugs/medicine is quite a load....

DUTY-FREE ALLOWANCE.

All passengers may import the following products free of duties and taxes.

. Personal effects such as clothing, shoes, toiletries and other articles of personal hygiene, in quantities reasonable for the length of stay in Cuba.

. Articles and equipment relative to their occupation or purpose of visit.

. In addition to the articles described above, goods not exceeding US $50.00 in value.

. Medicines up to a maximum weight of ten (10) kgs.

. A maximum of 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of loose tobacco, and three (3) liters wine or other alcoholic beverages, provided that the passenger is over the age of 18.

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Kip that's great what you are doing keep up the good work and if you enjoy Cuba than who gives a $hit what others think. That's what is great about going on vaction we all go somewhere and do our own thing. I love going to St.Lucia in the winter and in the summer I drive 45 minutes south and hang out at the beach and have a picnic with my wife.

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Hi Kip

Good story and glad you had a good holidy. Nice story about the stuff you take down but I have to admit the drug thing would make me a bit nervous.

I think that the US policy in Cuba is the wrong way to go. It seems to be driven by the large Cuban American population in the States. I think that if the goal is to get rid of Castro it could be done more quickly by opening Cuba up to the rest of the world.

Greg

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Hi Greg,

All the drugs are all "over the counter" stuff...ANACIN, MOTRIN, ADVIL, ASPIRN,female stuff,nose spray,lots of bandaids and bandages, neosporin, cough syrup etc.etc. and the list goes on. Naturally there are NO perscription drugs or narcotics so it is really not a big deal.

There is no way I would take any narcotic medicine down there, however, I always carry a few DEMEROL tablets but I have a perscription for them and they would only be used if we have a diving accident.

Hope retirement is treating you well :> Have a Happy Holiday Season...

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Guest 727driver

Dear Kip

You left Cuba on an airplane the last time I looked the Cubans were leaving on leaky rafts but hey thats the Cubans problem you got a good cheeeep tan.

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Excuses for a cheap vacation!? I had the distinct impression that Kip was describing a nice gesture, not making excuses.

Amnesty International cites violations of human rights in Canada, the United States, and an awful lot of other countries besides. Where do you take your vacations? Antartica?

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You can't be all things to all people. Canada has a fairly special relationship with Cuba. Cuba's not a perfect place, by a long shot but anywhere you can vacation without the Youalls is Ok with me. ;) None the less, Kip (whom I've disagreed with in the past) has the right idea. Go. Spend your very welcome money. Take stuff that helps people in need. Do the right thang. It isn't necessary to wear the worlds hurts on your sleeve all the time but it helps to think about them once in a while. Castro could have done better but Bush is no Guinness either.

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Guest 727driver

Neo

Why dont you get a hold Dr.Orlando Fundora Alvarez or Dr. Ricardo Silva Gual or Dr. Marcelo Cano Rodriguiez who is on an 18 year vacation at Prision Provincal de Ciego de Avila and get back to me. A holiday in Canada what a good idea

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Let's not forget, we have our own third world, cuban like locales here in Canada. We like to call them "reserves". Should people not come to Canada to protest the conditions First Nations people live in here in our first world ?

just a thought !!

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"Let's not forget, we have our own third world, cuban like locales here in Canada. We like to call them "reserves". Should people not come to Canada to protest the conditions First Nations people live in here in our first world ?

just a thought !!"

Why can't these people get a job and join the modern world. In my mind they're not royalty.

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Why don't you get a grip? Visiting a country and its people, for pleasure or otherwise, is not the same as endorsing its government's abuses.

The more contact repressive nations have with people from outside, the more pressure will be brought to bear for change. That's why countries like Myanmar (Burma) severely restrict entry by foreigners.

If you want to bring influence to bear on Cuba, get them dependent on our money, via tourism and everything else. It's the fastest way to effect social change that doesn't require a bloody revolution.

neo

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727 Driver , ever vacationed in the U.S. , ever heard of the IRAN - CONTRA affair? I would agree with everyone else that just because you visit and spend some leisure time in a country does not necessarily mean that you endorse that respective government's policies.

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Guest 727driver

good we have debate going should we spend money on vacations in police states that use that money to suppress freedoms . Lets leave the US out of this Kip and Neo are good people. The question is are there better places to go. While you are on the beach with a rum what do you say to Dr.Gual who is in jail for wanting what you take for granted freedom. Dr. Gual wants for his family what you want for yours. He opened his mouth which he did not have to do and is paying the price 10 years what would you do in his shoes. What do you say to his wife and kids. Fire away . As for our Native problems which are not good Canada does spend 8 Billion trying to fix the problem.

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I don't know about this Dr Gual. Maybe he's a good guy who has had a tough go but maybe he's the Dr. here who put a tube of somebody else's blood in his arm to dodge criminal charges. I suspect this guy here did some good as a doctor but he's a criminal and he's outta here - thank goodness. Now before you get your water hot I'm not saying this Gual guy is a problem but I just don't know what the heck your talking about. You want me to take your anecdotal instance and us that to get on your horse. My ORIGINAL point was that nothings perfect. OK, your guy got screwed. Happens here too. Ask Donald Marshall et al.

When people scream at me I either wanna smack 'em or leave or both. I'm going to Cuba. Lots of good hearted people are going to Cuba. We're gonna have a good time. We'll take some stuff with us. Make things a little easier for a few folks. You stay home and fight the good fight too. Maybe it both works.

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That line has been tried before - didn't work. A native band in northern Ontario invited Desmond Tutu for a visit hoping that he would give some favorable quotes like: "The natives in Canada are treated just like the blacks of South Africa". Unfortunately for them his comments were more along the lines of: "That's a nice new school",and "That's a nice new clinic", and "You have running water!" and "I guess if you didn't notice the new school and the new clinic and the roads and the running water it's little bit like South Africa!"

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Hi 727driver,

The morality of the question isn't easy to parse. A lot of factors enter into it. Are there better places to go? If by "better" you mean, are there places that have a better human rights record than Cuba? I think the answer is yea. But is there a country in the world with a modern, unblemished record in that regard? Precious few that I'm aware of, including our own. And there are many, many places to vacation and work where the human rights record is undeniably worse.

Thinking of a trip to the Great Wall? What about Tiannamen Square? Gonna take a job in Dubai? Ahem... half the population are second class citizens. Buckingham Palace and see the Queen? Do you recall the dirty tricks and extra-legal killings in Northern Ireland? What's a person to do who just wants to take a week off and relax amidst some new and pleasant surroundings, or make a buck to feed his family?

Here's my suggestion and I mean it dead seriously. What would Dr. Gual say? I believe that's where the answer to the moral issue lies. Would Dr. Gual and the majority of political prisoners in Cuba say, "Don't come, you just legitimize a repressive regime," or would they say, "Come, talk to our people, by all means bring medicine for my clinic, let them see there's another way." I don't know what the answer to that question is. I could see how Dr. Gual and his compatriots might feel either way.

If Dr. Gual and his fellow prisoners said, "Don't come," then I would do as they ask and refrain from visiting Cuba. I support the concept of universal human rights and doing as they ask would be the least I could do. But I believe the morality of the issue lies in what the people of Cuba, and in particular those who are oppressed have to say about the matter. If you speak for them, then by all means I stand corrected and support what you're saying. If you don't speak for those people, then I respectfully suggest you leave it up to the Cubans themselves (by that I mean the common man in Cuba) whether or not they welcome foreigners coming to their homeland.

Best,

neo

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