September 19, 2016
Mr. Doug Parker
Chairman and CEO
American Airlines Group, Inc.
P.O. Box 619616
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616
Dear Mr. Parker:
With the utmost respect, we approach you through this missive to address an issue that has projected an image of American Airlines that, in our opinion, drastically departs, not only from the traditional values of respect for human and workers’ rights of the company that you represent, but also from what is widely expected from a prestigious firm in a free society like that of the United States: To never side with policies, whether domestically or abroad, that harm human dignity by discrimination or other forms of degradation of human and civil rights.
When we heard that American Airlines and other US airlines were going to be traveling to Cuba, we were hopeful that the Cuban People, both in the Island and in the Unites States were going to be better served by entering into a new Era of less exploitation of their need to travel in order to reunite with their loved ones, victims of painful family division in both sides of the Straits of Florida. We were sure that the new dynamic of free market competition among airlines was going to lower abusive prices and, perhaps, contribute to build bridges between the two segments of a divided Cuba that has longed for the day in which they don’t have to risk losing their lives across the jungles of Latin America or in the perilous waters of the Caribbean to be able to reunite with their loved ones.
But those hopes vanished too soon when we all learned through an article by journalist Fabiola Santiago of The Miami Herald, that American Airlines had ordered their Cuban-born US Citizen crew members “removed” from the trips to Cuba to please a deplorable policy of discrimination against its own nationals that the Cuban Government has long kept in effect with two obvious purposes: 1) further exploiting the human needs of the Cuban People in Exile to travel to the Island to see their loved ones by making them pay for the most expensive passport on Earth even when they have the US Passport; and 2) to be able to arbitrarily deprive them of entering their own country whenever the government dislikes their political views, by simply denying the passport, a clear violation of International Conventions on Human and Civil Rights, including Article 13th of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
While publicly American Airlines’ vice president of Miami operations, Ralph Lopez, heralded the beginning of the flights to Cuba with this statement: “Today is historic not only for American Airlines, but also for Miami, the heart and soul of the Cuban-American community in the United States”; and while American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello stated to The Miami Herald that “(t)his flight is not only important to our airline, to our 12,000 employees here in Miami — many of them Cuban-American — but also, this is of huge importance for Miami-Dade County, home to so many Cuban Americans like my parents", columnist Fabiola Santiago got access through her sources to an internal American Airline memo stating: “Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crew members”.
Sadly, it was obvious that when American Airlines sent out the Memo it already knew such requirements: It is a law in Cuba that Cuban-Americans that came out of Cuba after 1970 cannot return to their native country without the very expensive Cuban Passport regardless of the fact that as US citizens they have the US passport.
In American Airlines’ own spokesperson’s words: "The Cuban government requires all Cuban-born individuals to have a valid Cuban passport when entering the country. American Airlines abides by the laws and regulations in all of the countries and territories where we operate," "That’s a Cuban government demand. That’s not something we’re saying,”. “We are abiding by the laws of the Cuban government" said American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello to the Miami Herald.
This attempt to pass on the corporate social responsibility of American Airlines does not exonerate the firm of the wrongdoing it has incurred. We sincerely believe that American Airlines, or any other United States airline for that matter, would not like to see themselves stepping all over the civil and human rights of the Cuban People just to make money out of their six-decade long misery.
Therefore, convinced of the values held by your prestigious firm, we hereby request that:
- American Airlines distance itself from the policies of the Apartheid by Virtue of Nationality that the Cuban Government practices against its own national-born individuals with US citizenship while it allows US nationals to enter the Island with just the US Passport;
- That American Airlines commit itself to do everything it can to persuade the Cuban Government to rescind the deplorable law of requiring Cuban-Americans to additionally obtain the Cuban Passport when traveling to Cuba when it does not require so from US born citizens or from US naturalized citizens that were born in countries other than Cuba;
- That American Airlines voluntarily incorporate in their policies the Sullivan General Principles, that qualify the way a Company does business with regimes that violate universally recognized human and civil rights so that such Company does not become part of such violations. As you know, this was the method employed in South Africa that greatly contributed to the end of the racial Apartheid in that country.
- That American Airlines open up to a meaningful dialogue with the Democracy Movement and other voices in the Community as it does with the representatives of the Cuban Government so that we can all work towards overcoming these unjust policies that offend human dignity.
Additionally, please know that, in spite the irreconcilable political differendum that exists between the Cuban Government and our Movement, we also encourage the Cuban Government to leave without effect the draconian policies addressed herein and rescind the laws that discriminate the Cuban-American travelers to the Island as it did in the case of Carnival Cruise Lines which, after a very popular campaign of public opinion and direct mediation by Carnival after initial resistance, the Cuban Government was persuaded to rescind the maritime prohibition that forbid Cuban nationals from leaving or entering the Island by the ocean. The Democracy Movement was the first to greet as positive such decision on the sides of the parts involved.
As we get ready to convoke public solidarity to this critical issue with a series of respectful public expressions campaigns of persuasion, we encourage you to see towards the future and realize how much good you can do by utilizing the persuading factor that the weigh of your business engagement with the Cuban Government represents to convince them to overcome what in the eyes of most honest people on Earth is a blatant infringement into human decency and dignity.
We reiterate: Please understand that we do not seek to stop the flights to Cuba by the different airlines. It has been our long standing position that such competition will benefit the Cuban and Cuban-American travelers should the violations named here be overcome. Your reduced fares as compared with the historic cost of the tickets are proof of it. It’s not flying to Cuba what we consider wrong; it is siding with discrimination what offends us and, perhaps, most Cubans and Cuban-Americans.
May the path to overcome barriers that you have chosen in establishing the flights, set clear the mission to never be part of further humiliating the Cuban People in order to do business with the ones that, for nearly six decades, have deprived them of essential rights that you yourself would never desire to see your own people be deprived of.
Awaiting your kind reply with the confidence that you would not disappoint the Cuban and American Peoples, I remain,
Ramon Saul Sanchez