Cuba Central News Brief 11/3/2017

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This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-Cuba Relations

U.S. opposes UN call to end embargo; Cuba’s Foreign Minister speaks out on alleged attacks

The UN passed a resolution Wednesday condemning the U.S. embargo on Cuba by a vote of 191-2, with the U.S. and Israel each opposing the measure. Each year between 1992 and 2015, the U.S. voted against the resolution; then-Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power abstained from the vote in 2016. President Trump’s June Memorandum on Cuba policy states that the U.S. will oppose international measures calling for the embargo’s end.

Speaking before the UN General Assembly this week, Ambassador Nikki Haley called the vote “political theater” and said, “Today, the crime is the Cuban government’s continued repression of its people.” In his own speech to the assembly, Bruno Rodríguez, Cuba’s foreign minister, called Ambassador Haley’s comments “disrespectful, offensive and interventionist,” and stated the Cuba “will never accept conditions or impositions.” Mr. Rodríguez also criticized the perceived politicization of alleged attacks on diplomats in Havana, but reiterated Cuba’s desire to “continue respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest with the U.S. government.”

Separately, speaking at a press conference in Washington Thursday, Mr. Rodríguez called on U.S. officials to “tell the truth or otherwise present evidence” regarding the alleged attacks, the Washington Post reports. Mr. Rodríguez acknowledged diplomats’ health symptoms, but stated their cause cannot be determined, and that the Trump administration has used the incidents “as a political pretext for damaging bilateral relations and eliminating the progress made,” according to the Associated Press.

Editor’s note: Per President Trump’s National Security Memorandum on Cuba policy, relevant agencies began the process of drafting new regulations July 16. You can find the Cuba Central Team’s comprehensive overview of what we do and don’t know about the President’s Cuba policy at this link.

In Cuba

Cuba lowers internet browsing rates

ETECSA, Cuba’s state telecommunications entity, announced this week that it has lowered the price for browsing internationally-hosted websites from 1.50 CUC per hour (same as USD) to 1 CUC per hour. The fee to browse domestic websites will remain 0.10 CUC per hour; the cost was reduced from 0.25 CUC per hour to its current rate in March. ETECSA also announced that it will double storage space for mailboxes on its email service, from 50 to 100 MB.

In the last month, Cuba has announced that it will expand offers for in-home internet to several Havana neighborhoods and seven cities across the country; the program was previously available only in the Old Havana neighborhood. Cuba has 432 public Wi-Fi hotspots, up from zero three years ago.

Cuba’s Foreign Relations

Cuba announces new travel regulations for Cubans abroad

Cuba announced this week that it will loosen rules on travel to the country for its citizens abroad, including: eliminating the habilitación entry passport stamp; scrapping a requirement that children of Cuban emigrants must reside in Cuba for 90 days before obtaining citizenship; allowing Cubans abroad to enter the country via cruise at two ports in Havana and Varadero; and permitting some Cubans who left the island “illegally” to reenter the country, the Miami Herald reports. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez presented the new policy at Howard University to an audience of Cubans residing in the U.S., saying, “The United States government closes and Cuba opens.”

While a major step for Cubans abroad, the policy change leaves some points of contention in place. Cubans who left the country after 1971 can only visit on a Cuban passport; all Cuban passports must be revalidated every two years and renewed every six. Cubans who left prior to 1971 may visit on a non-Cuban passport, but must obtain a visa from Cuba’s government to do so. Additionally, Cubans who left the country through the U.S. base in Guantánamo or who abandoned missions abroad (such as doctors or athletes) are still barred from re-entry for eight years.

The new measures comes in the wake of the U.S. State Department requesting the departure of all but one consular service officer at Cuba’s Embassy in the U.S.

Cuba reports record foreign investment in 2017

Cuba has received a record $2 billion in foreign investment in 2017 thus far, Rodrigo Malmierca, the country’s minister of foreign trade and investment, told participants at the Havana International Business Fair this week, Reuters reports.

According to Mr. Malmierca, the country has signed 30 investment agreements this year, is currently negotiating another 80, and believes “15 are nearly completed.” Reuters reports that of the agreements, which are mostly clustered in the energy and tourism sectors, 11 have 100 percent foreign ownership, a rarity in Cuba. The country also used this week’s trade fair to announce its 2017-2018 Portfolio of Opportunities for Foreign Investment. The portfolio contains some 456 projects; over half of the proposed projects are in the tourism or agro-food industries.

Separately, Illinois-based Caterpillar, Inc. announced this week that its subsidiary Rimco will open a distribution center at the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone to sell Caterpillar products. Meanwhile, John Deere, also based in Illinois, signed an agreement at the Havana fair to ship tractors and farm equipment to Cuba later this month. The deal is an important agreement for Cuba’s agricultural sector; according to the U.S. International Trade Commission, just 1 percent of Cuba’s tractors are less than five years old, and 87 percent are over 30 years old.

Cuba-EU agreement enters into effect

The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement to fully normalize relations between Cuba and the European Union entered into effect on a provisional basis November 1. The agreement will operate for general EU competences, policies to promote trade and dialogue, though all EU member states can individually decide whether to apply the agreement to their dealings with Cuba.

The agreement was signed in December 2016, and approved by the EU Parliament in July.

What We’re Reading

Havana’s Malecón threatened by climate change, neglect, Andrea Rodríguez, Associated Press

This AP article discusses the tenuous future of Cuba’s coastline, faced with the threat of climate change. The U.S. and Cuba have signed bilateral agreements on Cooperation in Environmental Protection and Meteorology and Weather Research.

Senators urge against UN no vote

A group of 10 U.S. Senators pen a letter to President Trump, writing that a “no” vote on the UN resolution calling for an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba “would neither reflect the will of the American people, nor would it represent the voices of hundreds of U.S. companies, universities, state and local agencies, and cultural institutions that have already started to engage with and invest in Cuba.”

Cuba’s Cultural Sector Slammed By Partial Closure of US Embassy, Isabel Albee, Huffington Post

Isabel Albee profiles a number of Cuban artists and performers who have been affected by the State Department’s decision to suspend visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, writing, “The result of this seemingly benign foreign policy decision is a starkly human one.”

Editor’s note: CDA is seeking interns for the Spring 2018 semester! Applications are due by November 15. Please visit our website for more information about how to apply.

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