14ymedio, Mario Penton, 20 September 2016 — Ramon Saul Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement, said on Tuesday at a press conference in Miami that if American Airlines does not change, within 24 hours, its “policy of apartheid” against its Cuban-American employees, the organization would take action against it ranging from protests in the street to possible lawsuits.
“The Democracy Movement rejects apartheid on the part of AA by virtue of nationality against Cuban-American workers whom the regime will not allow to enter Cuba, and and other nationalities with American citizenship,” said Sanchez.
A Cuban exile himself, the president stressed that his organization has nothing against flights to the island. “This is not a campaign against the flights to Cuba, which we support and we believe are useful for family reunification,” he said, but he argued that the Cuban law preventing Cuban-Americans from entering the island on their United States passports is the real problem.
“We believe AA as a prestigious company, which should not discriminate against people simply because the government of Cuba does,” noted Sanchez.
With flights to Cienfuegos and Holguin on 7 September, the company began direct service to the island. These were the first of 12 daily flights to Cuba. The problem arose when, on a flight to Varadero, the crew needed to stay overnight in Cuba and the Cuban authorities refused Cuban-American flight members permission to do so because they did not have Cuban passports, according to the Miami Herald.
The company’s response was to withdraw the Cuban-American employees from the flight, although they were paid for the day. Ramon Saul Sanchez made clear that although AA decided to bear the cost of the paperwork required for Cuban-Americans to enter Cuba, so as not to upset the Cuban government, the campaign would continue.
Cuban law does not recognize the dual nationality of Cubans living abroad, and requires those who want to travel to the island to first obtain an expensive passport (about $450) that must be renewed every two years at a cost of $200. In addition, the Cuban Government reserves the right whether to admit its nationals to the island, which is enforced through an entry permit called a habilitación, which also must be paid for.
For the Democracy Movement, maintaining this law is a way to maintain its excessive charges to penalize the Cuban exile. “We are asking American Airlines to open a constructive and friendly dialog among everyone working to overcome this discriminatory practice,” said the movement’s president.
As a part of the actions the organization has already begun it sent a letter to Doug Parker, CEO of the company, in which it expresses its dissatisfaction with the measure. Sanchez said his movement has already planned a protest for Saturday in front of the AA Arena in Miami and will continue the pressure until the policy is changed.
“We know that the main discriminator is the Cuban government. To associate itself with the policies of apartheid by virtue of nationality that the Government of Cuba practices against its own citizens puts a shameful stain on the image of the company,” said Sanchez.
Last April, Democracy Movement organized a demonstration outside the headquarters of the shipping company Carnival for a similar reason. The cruise company did not allow Cuban-Americans to book passage to Cuba because of a ban by the Cuban government on their entering the country by sea.
“At the time Carnival Cruises said they would not continue service to Cuba if Cubans were not allowed to enter. We urge American Airlines to cancel their trips to the island if the Cuban government does not change its policy,” Sanchez added.