RIALTO: Travel plans for Cuba visit revealed

Planned nine-day trip to explore sister city possibility can accommodate 24 and will be paid for with private funds.

Rialto officials are moving forward with plans for a trip to Cuba as they consider establishing a sister city relationship with a city on the island nation.

A travel company briefed members of the city’s Human Relations Commission on Monday evening on a planned nine-day trip in late September. Each person would pay his or her own way, with no city funds involved.

Mayor Deborah Robertson, who was not at the meeting due to a family emergency, has said that she’s been wanting to look at Rialto forming a sister city in Cuba even before President Barack Obama called for normalizing relations with the country in December.

No particular city has been identified.

The trip, open to up to 24 interested residents and city officials, would include visits to Havana and three other cities: Camagüey, Trinidad and Cienfuegos, the travel company told the panel Monday.

Travel company Globus, which provided Cuban pastries at the meeting, would have a company representative escort the group on a charter plane from Miami to Havana. The company makes all the arrangements for food, hotel and travel around the country.

The trip would include visits to the ballet, museums, a cigar factory, an organic farm and meetings with artists, musicians, librarians and Cuban baseball players. The company is also working on setting up meetings with officials from three smaller cities that could be candidates for becoming a sister-city.

Rialto’s proposal has yet to go to the City Council. Two council members — Joe Baca Jr. and Shawn O’Connell — have expressed opposition to the idea.

Baca has said the relationship shouldn’t be a priority for the city, adding that the federal government should take the lead in relations with Cuba.

Robertson has called it an opportunity to open up a cultural exchange between people.

Joe Britt, one of a half-dozen people in the audience, said he’s hoping to go on the trip. He hosts a Saturday morning show on radio station KCAA and likes talking cars.

“With the vintage cars they have there it would be good for my show,” he said.

Cuba is known for its wide use of 1950s-era cars and the trip would include a visit with members of the American Car Association.

Sister cities have recently made news after Orange County residents protested Riverside’s relationship with Can Tho, Vietnam.

By Imran Ghori, The Press Enterprise

February 10, 2015

Contact the writer: ighori@pe.com, 951-368-9558

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