United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Saturday, October 3, 2009

NY Philharmonic Orchestra Trip to Cuba Postponement

October 2, 2009
Mr. President, Secretary Clinton - please call OFAC. This news is unfortunate, troubling, and embarassing. The NY Philharmonic and its patrons could go to North Korea but it cannot go to Cuba because its patrons would be considered tourists? It is indicative of another challenging aspect to changing our current Cuba travel policy -- the officials who handle these requests need a new set of marching orders.
They are still operating with the Bush Administration interpretations and guidelines of Cuba travel regulations. Apparently, no one from the Obama Administation has said to the good folks at OFAC (BTW their job is not easy either to accommodate the varying politics of this issue and they have had to endure 180 degree regulatory reversals, modifications, and interventions over the years) its time to be more flexible and at the very least go back to Clinton era interpretations on these questions, when it probably would have been no issue for the Philharmonic and its patrons had those directives been in place.
The pathway to improved relations between both countries lies in more people to people exchanges - culture, art, music, performing arts, sports, education, science and health, and social responsibility.
Do we want better relations with Cuba? The Bush Administration cancelled most of that or made it more complicated, costly, and difficult to do. The Obama Administration guidance to OFAC should be clear and direct on this question. And while OFAC waits for new instructions, they will continue to apply the same regulatory scrutiny they have been applying since 2004, to the glee of pro-embargo legislators and hardliners. And the change the majority is waiting and voted for, well, we keep waiting.
The fact that Senator Schumer, Congressmen Rangel, Israel and others had difficulty to get even some flexibility should be a wakeup call for Congressional leaders and the Administration officials to start talking and getting this cleared up from the top down.-TM

NY PHILHARMONIC: Press Statement on Havana, Cuba Trip Postponement
Eric Latzky
Vice President,
Statement: October 1, 2009
Alan Gilbert, Music Director
Gary W. Parr,
ChairmanZarin Mehta, President and Executive Director
The New York Philharmonic has postponed its proposed concerts in Havana, Cuba, which had been tentatively scheduled for October 30 - November 2, 2009. The postponement is due to existing U.S. Government restrictions on travel to Cuba which would affect project funders and supporters, without whose financial support the trip is not possible.
The Philharmonic offers its sincere appreciation to the many people who have offered their support of the project and are continuing to work toward its fruition - including the current Administration, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Steve Israel and patrons of the New York Philharmonic. The New York Philharmonic extends its thanks to the people and government of Cuba for their invitation to perform in Havana.
The New York Philharmonic intends to reschedule these concerts when travel restrictions for project funders are resolved.
Contact: Eric Latzky
1 212-875-5715