On top of that, oversight of the coastal initiative happens at the highest level possible: Cuba's ruling Council of State, headed by President Raul Castro.
"He is leading this battle," Alvarez said of Castro.
Whittle said the island can learn some things from Costa Rica, where significant swaths of coastal and inland terrain have been protected even as tourism flourishes. For Cuba, there's a lot riding on striking the right balance.
"Will Cuba become a sustainable destination like Costa Rica?" Whittle asked. "Or will it go the way of Cancun and much of the rest of the Caribbean that has essentially sacrificed natural areas, marine and coastal ecosystems for economic development in the short run?"
Associated Press writer Peter Orsi contributed to this report.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
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