By Bob Shryock, reprinted with permission from the Gloucester County Times
"It's beyond time to halt the embargo of Cuba—citizens of both countries should be allowed to travel freely and trade," says Dr. Ross Beitzel, Gloucester County College professor emeritus and well-known world traveler, who recently toured Cuba at the invitation of the Grand Circle Foundation.
In Cuba, Beitzel met with artists, writers, political figures, farmers, musicians, physicians, nurses, priests and others, calling it a fantastic learning experience.
"Many Cubans wait silently for 'white card' permission to travel outside their country," Beitzel says. "They're not free to leave and enter their own country. Americans also aren't free to travel to Cuba unless it's with a licensed government-approved agent like Grand Circle. Yes, we may travel to Cuba but first we must go to another country, like Canada, and depart from there."
The outspoken Beitzel said Cubans' "crime" is "thinking critically of their leaders," while "ours is having a government unwilling to bend and unlock freedom's door. "We can easily go to other communist countries like China and Vietnam to travel and trade. I've done so. I found Cuba to be wonderful and felt safe, as crime is very low. I've visited 78 countries and Cuba is the cleanest.
"Havana is overflowing with creative artists and musicians, UNESCO sites and historic architecture in Spanish design. Vintage American cars in bright colors from the 1950s are icons. There's a 99-percent literacy rate. Cubans train doctors for more than 70 countries worldwide.
"There are obvious problems with wages, housing and food shortages, but that's their business, not ours. No more embargo."
Beitzel purchased five works of art for Gloucester County College's permanent collection, plus three for himself.
"There was live music at every turn. Smiling faces prevailed. The cigars and rum were plentiful ... and good. I suggest you visit Cuba before McDonald's arches go up—should our government ever lift the embargo."
Reprinted with permission from Gloucester County Times.
Featured in our May 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.