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Cubans told to limit time with foreigners
by VANESSA ARRINGTON
HAVANA (Associated Press) - Cuba's tourism ministry told its workers to keep their mingling with foreigners to a minimum, prohibiting everything from accepting personal gifts to attending events in the homes or embassies of foreigners without written permission.
The new regulations, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, were signed by Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero in January and went into effect last week. They apply to Cubans working in tourism on the island as well as overseas.
The action is the latest in a series of attempts by the government to further tighten state control on the island, which embraced tourism in the 1990s as a necessary evil after the fall of the Soviet Union thrust Cuba into an economic crisis.
Marrero took over as head of the tourism ministry last February after officials acknowledged serious problems in an agency that handles much of the business stemming from foreign visitors.
He has launched a restructuring of the country's vital tourism sector, which last year brought in more than 2 million visitors, primarily from Canada and Europe.
The new rules say "current conditions" make it necessary to update norms to "regulate relations with foreigners ... using the ethical, moral and professional principles that characterize our society." Under them, tourism workers must limit their contact with foreigners to what is "absolutely necessary" for their work.
While in the company of foreigners, workers are also urged to remain faithful to Cuba's socialist system and abstain from opinions that go against the "prestige" of the country or workplace.
The ministry also calls on its workers to practice austerity, protect all classified information and be on the alert for possible plots against the government.
All workers should "maintain permanent watchfulness over acts or attitudes harmful to the interests of the State," and communicate all actions that could threaten the principles of the Cuban revolution.