(15 Jun 1999) Spanish/Nat

While tourism in Cuba has brought a much needed injection of cash into the local economy, it has also brought its share of problems.

The Cuban government has begun a purge within the tourism industry in an attempt to break ties between tourism and the sex trade.

A number of highly placed people within the state tourism agencies have lost their jobs over connections with a Mexican company linked to prostitution.

A decade of tourism has made some fundamental changes in the communist state of Cuba.

In the Caribbean, Cuba has been one of the top five tourist destinations over the past five years.

About 1.7 million visitors are expected this year, and 2 million in the year 2000.

The tourist industry has brought much needed cash to the Cuban economy which has been strangled by a 30-year-old American blockade.

The tourist cash has meant vital restoration to some of the historic buildings of Old Havana.

In one of the tourist resorts, a new 7 (m) million dollar hotel – “Breezes Jibacoa” – recently opened with much fanfare.

Italian capital funded the hotel, built on Jibacoa, east of Havana.

The Cuban Vice-President welcomed the opening, saying that soon all of Cuba would be a tourist destination, not just the resorts.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“I believe that here we can anticipate a future and that today we’re talking about the touristic centre of Varadero, Cayo Coco, Trinidad, and in the future the touristic centre will be all of Cuba.”
SUPER CAPTION: Carlos Lage, Cuban Vice-President

The tourist boom is not without its down side.

Locals not employed in the hotels are not allowed to visit.

Tourist money has not universally improved the income of Cubans either.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“There is no doubt that it is creating an unequal distribution of people’s income, that previously, following recent economic and social history, we were used to.”
SUPER CAPTION: Dr. Alfonso Casanova, Economic Vice-Minister

Those Cubans not involved in the tourism industry say they’re not benefiting.

This pensioner says his allowance hasn’t gone up, despite the inject of tourism cash into the economy.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“With 79 pesos, I can’t do it. I had hoped that they would raise it to 100, but it hasn’t gone up, and I live on this.”
SUPER CAPTION: Juana Menendez, Pensioner

A recent scandal surrounding a Mexican tourist operator has illustrated the damaging links between the sex trade and the tourism industry.

About ten chief employees from three state tourist organizations have lost their jobs because of supposed links with the Mexican company linked to prostitution.

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