Minnesotans sort through new Cuba restrictions

Passengers wait for transportation after returning from a cruise to Cuba.
Passengers wait for transportation after returning from a cruise to Cuba at the Port Everglades on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Brynn Anderson | AP Photo

The first thing Julian Loscalzo did when he learned about the new travel ban this week was to get to the bank.

"I talked to my travel agent. She's licensed to operate in Cuba, she's worked there for 20 years," said Loscalzo, who runs a company called Ballpark Tours, which organizes trips to ballparks around the country and in Cuba. "She said, 'listen, get those deposits in the mail, in the bank and confirm that it's all taken care of, if you get them in by June 5, they're not going to interfere.'"

The travel agent was referring to new travel restrictions laid out this week by the Trump administration on how Americans are allowed to visit Cuba. There used to be 12 ways for Americans to legally travel to Cuba, including things like family visits, religious activities and what is called People-to-People travel, which was meant to "foster educational dialogue."

The new rules ban People-to-People travel. They also say that American boats aren't allowed to stop there, which means cruise ships, fishing boats and private yachts are all prohibited by American law from docking there. Travelers who booked flights to the island before the June 5 deadline are fine. Those who booked cruises or other boat trips, even before the deadline, are not.

What's not clear is how the ban will play out in other scenarios. Bud Philbrook, CEO of Global Volunteers, is still trying to figure out what the ban will mean for his group, an organization that takes volunteers all over the world, including Cuba.

"Because we send a lot of people to serve the communities in Cuba so this travel restriction would be adverse to that," he said.

But more than that, he says, he's worried about what it means for Cubans.

"It's the people who suffer," he said. "Not the government. It's the people who suffer when they take steps that prohibit Americans from travelling to Cuba."

And that's why he wants to figure out how he can keep doing what he does. So does Julian Loscalzo.

"It's international diplomacy done by a bunch of baseball nuts," he said. "Who can talk about anything better than that?"

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