By Patricia Zengerle
MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Carnival Corp on Thursday for barring Cuban-Americans from its planned cruises to Cuba and called on the Cuban government to change its policies to allow them.
"Carnival needs to not discriminate," Kerry said in an interview with CNN Espanol and the Miami Herald.
Cuban-born Americans cannot visit the island by sea, due to a Cuban law that dates to the Cold War era, and therefore are barred from joining in Carnival's sailings to the island, the Miami Herald has reported. People born in Cuba can, however, travel to the island on an airplane.
"We call on the government of Cuba to change that policy and to recognize that if they want a full relationship and normal relationship with the United States, they have to live by international law," Kerry said during a trip to the Florida city.
Carnival officials could not immediately be reached for comment. But the company has told the Miami Herald it had no choice but to enforce the rule when booking tickets for its new Miami-to-Havana route. It said it has asked the Cuban government to waive the rule before the first ship sails on May 1.
Miami is the center of the U.S. Cuban-American community, and many of its residents from the island nation, who fled Cuba after its Communist revolution, are vehemently opposed to moves by President Barack Obama's administration toward more normal relations with Havana.
Critics of the policy say Washington should not ease a half century of restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba until the island has free elections and its human rights record improves.
Kerry, who gave two interviews to local media, met with business leaders and addressed college students, said Cuba could move more quickly to improve its rights record. But he said he was sure a more open relationship with the United States would yield positive changes.
"I think more could happen faster. More should happen faster. But I'm not surprised. Nobody expected that. This has been 50-plus years of the status quo ... but there are changes that are in place for the positive," Kerry said.
"If you look at our engagement with other authoritarian regimes around the world through history, have they changed overnight?" Kerry asked.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Dan Grebler)