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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

1/2/2014 (3 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

President Obama re-instituted cultural exchange licenses

Separated by a mere 90 miles of water, the separation between Key West in Florida and the nation of Cuba had previously remained one of the few hold-outs of the Soviet-style Cold War. That has all changed with the first commercial passenger flight from Key West to Cuba in 50 years. While President Obama approved commercial flight between the two nations in 2011, this marked the first nine lucky passengers were able to fly from Cuba, dine in Key West and then return. 

Key West Mayor Craig Cates flew to Cuba with the group, but returned Monday without venturing beyond the Havana airport terminal. 'We haven't had flights over there in 50 years,' Cates said. 'It's going to be great for the city of Key West - cultural exchange, historic exchange, to be able to go back and forth directly from Key West.'

Key West Mayor Craig Cates flew to Cuba with the group, but returned Monday without venturing beyond the Havana airport terminal. "We haven't had flights over there in 50 years," Cates said. "It's going to be great for the city of Key West - cultural exchange, historic exchange, to be able to go back and forth directly from Key West."

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/2/2014 (3 months ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Cuba, Key West, Florida, cultural exchange


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave the final approval Monday morning. It was an all-too brief trip. The nine-passenger aircraft departed 90 minutes later at 10 a.m. from Key West International Airport.

Charter operators admitted they had trouble getting all of the required approvals from U.S. and Cuban authorities. Hindering future flights is the fact that Key West is currently only approved to process 10 passengers and crew from Cuba at a time.

The Cessna Conquest II aircraft departed Key West carrying nine passengers, five of which planned to participate in a licensed "people-to-people" trip focusing on Cuba's culture and environment. The trip was organized by the Florida Keys Tropical Research Ecological Exchange Institute.

"This is just a test run. Whether this is going to come and be a regular service I don't believe has been determined yet," Key West International Airport director Peter Horton said.

Before the 1959 Cuban revolution, there were regular flights and ferry service to between Key West and Cuba.

The Obama administration re-instituted the cultural exchange licenses two years ago in order to allow organizations to take U.S. citizens to the island for educational activities to promote international cooperation.

The Key West travelers met with Cubans at botanical gardens, organic farms and cultural centers.

"We're doing some really meaningful things there, working with botanical gardens, scientists, researchers, all the people there to help preserve their environment and ecology," Carolann Sharkey, the institute's trip organizer said.

Key West Mayor Craig Cates flew to Cuba with the group, but returned Monday without venturing beyond the Havana airport terminal. "We haven't had flights over there in 50 years," Cates said. "It's going to be great for the city of Key West - cultural exchange, historic exchange, to be able to go back and forth directly from Key West."



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