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Orchestra (but not money) can go to Cuba

0 Robert Levine

US policy towards Cuba has claimed another victim:

The New York Philharmonic scratched its planned trip to Cuba at the end of October because the United States government was barring a group of patrons from going along, the orchestra said on Thursday. Without them and their donations, the Philharmonic said, it could not afford the tour.

About 150 board members and other donors had promised to pay $10,000 each to spend Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in Havana, where the orchestra was to play two concerts, said Zarin Mehta, its president. The money was to have covered the cost of the proposed trip, which came at the invitation of the Cuban government.

…Mr. Mehta said he had hoped that pressure applied by New York elected officials — including Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representatives Steve Israel and Charles B. Rangel, who have supported the trip — would help to have the decision overturned. “They haven’t been successful,” he said. “They’re befuddled.”

The sanctions on Cuba permit performing artists to enter, said the [State Department] spokesman, P. J. Crowley, but “there’s no permitted category of travel that would include the Philharmonic patrons. Basically they’re tourists, and we don’t license tourist travel to Cuba under the present circumstances.”

He said there was also an economic component to the decision: the wealthy patrons could spend large amounts of money in Cuba, which would effectively violate economic sanctions.

In response to the Philharmonic’s position that it could not go without the financial supporters, he said, “Perhaps the New York Philharmonic should have checked with the government before announcing the trip.”

A lawyer for the orchestra has delivered a brief to the licensing office, making its case that the categories are elastic and an exception should be made for the donors. Several board members were allowed to accompany the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra when it visited Havana in 1999.

Absolutely correct, as I recall; I was on that trip and there were some board members along.

It’s ironic that the NY Phil can go to Vietnam and North Korea but not Cuba; Vietnam defeated the US in a war and North Korea is possibly the most dangerous nation on earth, both to its neighbors and its own people. But apparently all those artillery pieces aimed at American troops in South Korea aren’t as dangerous as dollars in Cuba might be.

But then look at all the damage to American interests done by my orchestra’s board members’ dollars when we went to Cuba in 1999! O, wait…


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