Cuba Voids Cold War Ban on Cuban-Born Travelers

     (CN) — In a historic step for U.S.-Cuba relations, the Cuban government on Friday agreed to permit Cuban-born people to arrive to the country by sea.
     The change in policy put an end to what many saw as a discriminatory policy against Cuban-born people, and will allow Carnival Corp. to send the first cruise from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years.
     The policy change comes on the heels of a public outcry over Carnival’s earlier refusal to sell two Cuban-born men tickets for the cruise, and its assertion that it had no choice but to comply with Cuban law.
     The men, Amparo Sanchez and Francisco Marty, filed a lawsuit last week in Miami Federal Court, arguing that the cruise line was discriminating against them by upholding the Cuban law that prohibited Cuban-born people from traveling to the island by boat.
     The law was adopted in the early 1960s, after the Cuban Revolution, to prevent exiles from attacking the country from the sea.
     In response to the lawsuit, Carnival’s chief communications officer, Roger Frizzell, announced that the cruise line had requested a change in Cuba’s regulation and was working with the Cuban government.
     Addressing critics who accused the cruise line of importing Cuba’s discriminatory policy to American soil, Carnival said that if Cuba’s policy did not change before Sunday, May 1, the ship would not sail.
     During a hearing at Miami’s federal courthouse on Thursday, attorney Thomas Tucker Ronzetti — who represents Sanchez and Marty — questioned Carnival’s veracity and asked U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to enjoin the cruise line from going back on its word.
     “They want to be able to change their minds,” Ronzetti said.
     Cooke has not yet filed her decision, but the point appears to be moot.
     After engaging in the unusual negotiation with an American corporation, Cuba will allow Cuban-born passengers to secure visas before entering in much the same way airline passengers do.
     Carnival’s 704-passenger Adonia ship will sail to Cuba May 1 as planned, and the first-of-its kind cruise will be carrying volunteers to help with service projects in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Presently, Carnival is not aware of any Cuban-born people (aside from Sanchez and Marty) who have attempted to book passage. But everyone now has the right.

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