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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,

Sincerely yours,

Philip Agee
 
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