The president of the Democracy Movement, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, says his organization will “take action” against American Airlines’ “apartheid policies” toward its Cuban-American employees if said policies are not changed within 24 hours.
“The Democracy Movement rejects AA’s apartheid by virtue of nationality to Cuban workers that the regime does not allow in Cuba as it allows Americans and people from other nationalities with American citizenship,” Sánchez said Tuesday in Miami.
The exile leader stressed that his organization has nothing against the flights to the island.
“This is not a campaign against the flights to Cuba, which we support and we believe that are useful for family reunification,” he said, arguing, however, that the Cuban law prevents Cuban Americans from entering the island with a U.S. passport.
“We believe AA is a prestigious company that should not discriminate only because the government of Cuba does,” Sánchez said.
AA began scheduled commercial flights to the island with trips to Cienfuegos and Holguin on Sept. 7. The problem arose when a flight to Varadero with a crew that included some Cuban Americans on board had to stay overnight in Cuba. The Cuban authorities denied permission to the Cuban Americans to do so, arguing that they had no Cuban passport, the Miami Herald reported.
The company's response was to withdraw with pay the Cuban American employees from that flight.
Cuban law does not recognize dual nationality, requiring that Cubans who live abroad who want to travel to the island must first obtain a Cuban passport. The Cuban passports costs about $450 and must be renewed every two years at an additional cost of $200. In addition, the Cuban government reserves the right to accept its nationals, and requires an authorization or clearance that must be stamped in the passport for an extra fee.
According to the Democracy Movement, such law seeks to penalize the Cuban exile community by charging exaggerated fees to those willing to go to the island.
“We call American Airlines to open a constructive and friendly dialogue so we all can overcome this discriminatory practice,” Sánchez said.
Last April, the Democracy Movement organized a demonstration outside the headquarters of Carnival Cruise Line for a similar reason. The cruise company did not allow Cuban Americans to travel to the island on a new Cuba cruise because Havana banned Cubans from entering the country by sea.