|Letter From Philip Agee
A Letter from Philip Agee
Founder and Director, Cubalinda.com Inter-Active Travel
Dear Visitor to Cubalinda.com,
We are very pleased to welcome you to our new website. This is our second site,
launched for public view during the summer of 2001. We have opened
the site in a limited form, and in the months ahead we will be adding
a wide variety of interesting offers. Eventually you will be able
to select with us from more than 20 different activities throughout
the length and breadth of Cuba including programs designed to impart
the everyday realities of revolutionary Cuba.
Some of you may be surprised to find me engaged in an ambitious project to promote
travel and tourism in Cuba, having identified me for many years
from my writing, lectures and interviews as a critic of the C.I.A.
and U.S. foreign policy generally. The path from there to here is
simple but somewhat curious.
While teaching at the University of Hamburg in the mid-1990's and writing a new
book on the secret side of the Cold War, I began buying books from
amazon.com. At the same time I was following events in Cuba very
closely, since the country was going through its worst crisis since
the triumph of the revolution in early 1959. I visited the island
regularly and developed a strong interest in Cuba's successful effort
to develop tourism as a partial solution to the crisis. The country
had, after all, abruptly lost 85% of its foreign trade with the
collapse of European parrtners, resulting in a drop in the GDP of
nearly 35%. At the same time the U.S. government was intensifying
the economic squeeze with laws like Torricelli and eventually Helms-Burton.
One day in the fall of 1997 I was checking for some books at amazon.com and I suddenly
wondered: why couldn't someone market travel to Cuba and all the
things to do there like amazon.com markets books? I started research
on electronic commerce and the travel industry and soon found many
on-line tour operators and travel agencies doing more or less what
I had in mind for Cuba. I went to Cuba to speak with long-time friends
about the possibility, and as a result of those conversations I
decided to establish an e-commerce operation to promote travel and
tourism in Cuba. This, I thought, would be a concrete way to continue
solidarity activities with the revolution by presenting Cuban realities
to the world on-line and by bringing people to see Cuba with their
own eyes. The effect, I hoped, would help to correct the many years
of lies and distortions fomented by the U.S. government and others
about the revolutionary process here.
After three years of preparations, we opened for business in January 2000 and
the following month published our first website. During the year
we successfully announced our operation to the world through two
press conferences in Havana and a considerable number of press,
radio and television interviews. Several hundred people came to
Cuba using our services, and dozens of international firms contacted
us for advice on trading and investing in Cuba. Responding to requests
from clients we also arranged interviews with the principal leaders
of the revolution. But most important, we consolidated our staff
with highly qualified personnel. The year ended with great satisfaction
that our dream had become reality and that we were on our way.
During the first half of 2001, we operated at 11 times the volume and visitors of
the comparable period the year before. We also began development
of internal computerized automation systems that will enable us
to increase our productivity several times over. We also modified
our corporate structure in order to begin receiving on-line credit
card payments. And now we have launched our second website which
we believe is far superior in design, functionality and user-friendliness.
Finally, and not least, we had our first profitable periods
I tell this tale of success because none of this would have happened without
the determined support from so many people we had dealt with on
political and solidarity matters over nearly three decades.
Given the difficult realities in Cuba, we admit to a certain pride in what we have achieved,
and to much pride in our staff. We have a well-organized, harmonious
group of energetic, enthusiastic and capable specialists, about
equally balanced in gender, who we believe will bring great success
to this venture. We range in age from twenties to sixties, have
a diversity of backgrounds, and are equally convinced that we can
provide a superb service both to our clients and to Cuba.
To all who read this note, we at Cubalinda.com thank you for your interest and for
visiting our site. We will do all in our power to make your visit
to Cuba, should you decide to come with us, as pleasant and as memorable
an experience as you will ever have anywhere. And, of course, we
hope that you will want to return.
With very best wishes from all of us at Cubalinda.com,