A law-centric trip to Cuba that had been scheduled for October will no longer be taking place.
The International Law Section of the Florida Bar had arranged a trip to Cuba for Oct. 19-22, but the excursion came under scrutiny when the Cuban American Bar Association criticized it in an open letter sent to the bar section.
The letter expressed reservations about the perceived lack of focus on the country’s often-criticized human rights record. Additionally, the letter took issue with the Cuban government’s stipulation that Cuban-born expatriates would need an additional visa costing $250, a contact in Cuba and other special requirements to enter the country.
The trip has now been canceled.
According to an open letter by International Law Section chair Carlos F. Osorio and published on the Florida Bar’s website, the tour company, Cuban Cultural Travel, pulled out following the release of CABA’s letter.
“As you know, under current law, without an Office of Foreign Assets Control-licensed tour operator, the ILS cannot conduct its visit as planned. Therefore, we are very disappointed to inform you that … supporting the advancement of human rights in Cuba will have to be put on hold,” Osorio wrote. “We would hope that you will not see this as victory, but rather as a missed opportunity to communicate with like-minded colleagues to advance our common interests for the benefit of the Cuban people. Indeed, I believe that this unfortunate result could have been easily avoided if you had simply made a phone call to ILS leadership (your fellow bar members) instead of airing your concerns in the most public manner possible.”
According to ILS’ Cuba Committee co-chair James M. Meyer, the trip would not have been canceled had Cuban Cultural Travel not decided to rescind its services.
“We’re still considering what our options are for a different date and time, but at this moment the trip is cancelled until further notice,” Meyer, who is the treasurer of the International Law Section and partner at Miami firm Harper Meyer Perez Hagen O’Connor Albert & Dribin, told the Daily Business Review. “I think that it’s a shame, and as Carlos wrote in the letter, we think that it’s counterproductive to what we are trying to do and what CABA is trying to do. We understand the tour operator’s concerns to the extent that this issue was going to create difficulties.”
Meyer said that there are tentative plans for another ILS trip to Cuba with a different tour provider. He added that the central problem concerned the differential treatment given by the Cuban government to Cuban-born expatriates looking to travel to the island, noting that the policy “seems rather draconian and restricts a U.S. citizen’s constitutional right to travel.”
“We’re actually thinking about taking up that question and discussing it at the ILS’ international conference [with] a panel discussion,” Meyer said, adding that CABA would be invited to participate to discuss the matter.
CABA president and managing partner at Piedra & Associates Jorge L. Piedra told the Daily Business Review that neither he nor CABA intended to have the trip canceled. He added that the letter was only written and published openly after not receiving a response from Osorio and the ILS regarding earlier communications. This is disputed by Osorio in the letter announcing the trip’s cancellation.
“We’’re not out to stop anybody from traveling to Cuba. We’re opposed to junkets and vacations in Cuba, primarily because they’re illegal,” Piedra said. “But we’re happy to discuss a trip to Cuba with anybody in the bar and give them guidance and direction on who they should speak to when they’re down there.”