CubaNews / May 2005
The National Foreign Trade Council and its affiliated coalition, USA*Engage, is scaling back efforts to lobby for an end to the Cuba embargo.
Jody Frisch, who was hired by USA*Engage in 2002 to lead Cuba issues on a full-time basis, said she’s leaving the organization this month to explore other options.
“I was hired by USA*Engage two and a half years ago to work specifically on Cuba. But it was always a difficult thing to do,” said Frisch, who later helped form an alliance between USA*Engage and the Association of Travel Related Industry Professionals to lobby for a lifting of the travel ban.
But now, ATRIP has ceased to exist — a victim of tough new White House policies that have succeeded in dramatically cutting Cuban-American travel to the island.
“The issue really has more to do with ATRIP than USA*Engage,” said Frisch, a former Hollywood entertainment executive who got involved with Cuba during the Elián González affair.
ATRIP had around a dozen members including ABC Charters and Marazul Charters, both based in Miami, and Los Angeles-based Cuba Travel Services.
“When we formed the alliance, ATRIP members were predominantly charter operators, but ATRIP suffered from the restrictions that Bush enacted a year ago, which affected Cuban-American travel,” she said.
“As a result, all the charter operators took tremendous financial hits, and when travel dropped substantially because of those re-strictions, those operators no longer had the budget they once had to put the money behind legislative efforts and do the things that ATRIP was supposed to be doing. And without ATRIP’s contribution to the alliance, USA*Engage couldn’t really afford to support a Cuba-specific program.”
The organization, which is supported by over 300 companies, originally formed its alliance with ATRIP because of its long-standing opposition to unilateral sanctions.
“However, the membership of USA*Engage cares as much about sanctions against Iran, if not more so, than Cuba,” she said.
“USA*Engage will continue to support opening trade and travel to Cuba, but it will be very difficult, especially in this political environment.”