Cuba Central News Brief 12/15/2017

December 15, 2017

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This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-Cuba Relations

U.S., Cuba hold migration talks; interdiction of Cubans drastically down

Officials from the U.S. State Department and Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) met in Washington Monday for the 31st meeting of the biannual Migration Talks series.

According to a MINREX press release, the two delegations discussed the benefits of cooperation between Cuba’s Border Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the effects of the State Department’s decision to freeze consular services at its Havana embassy. A State Department press release noted that the U.S. has met its annual commitment for the fiscal year ending September 30 to grant immigrant visas to 20,000 Cubans under the 1994 and 1995 Migration Accords.

Meanwhile, the State Department statement announced, “Apprehensions of Cuban migrants at U.S. ports of entry decreased by 64 percent from fiscal year 2016 to 2017, and maritime interdictions of Cuban migrants decreased by 71 percent.” Earlier this year, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft attributed the precipitous drop in migrant interceptions to the Obama administration’s January decision to rescind the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, as the Wall Street Journal reported at the time. (In fiscal year 2016, the U.S. Coast Guarded interdicted 5,213 Cuban migrants at sea and the U.S. border patrol apprehended 1,930 Cuban migrants at U.S. ports of entry.)

Delta to alter Cuba routes; American and JetBlue look to consolidate Cuba frequencies

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines will cancel six of its seven weekly flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Havana, effective February 1, but is looking to add a second daily Miami-Havana flight, according to a letter published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle by Alexander Krulic, Delta’s associate general counsel for regulatory & international affairs.

Krulic writes, “Recent regulatory changes have resulted in lower demand for travel to Cuba from areas outside of South Florida.” The action comes just one week after Rodrigo Bertola, Delta Air Lines’ director for South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, said the company “is very happy” with its Cuba routes and is looking to add two more weekly flights, as EFE reported at the time.

Meanwhile, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways, who filed applications with the Department of Transportation in August to add new Cuba frequencies, have amended their requests to propose absorbing Cuba flight frequencies left behind by Delta and Frontier. (Frontier ended its service to the island, a once-daily Miami-Havana route, in March.) American and JetBlue had previously each proposed adding seven weekly flights to Havana to their current itineraries; this week, American filed with the Department of Transportation to add another seven weekly flights between Miami and Havana, and JetBlue filed to add seven weekly flights between Tampa and Havana and claim two of Delta’s flights between New York and Havana. Airlines FedEx, Southwest, and United also filed with the department in September to increase frequencies to the island. Read the rest of this entry »


Very Fresh Thinking

December 8, 2017

This week, President Trump said, “When I came into office, I promised to look at the world’s challenges with open eyes and very fresh thinking. We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. Old challenges demand new approaches.”

Three years prior, President Obama said something similar: “When I came into office, I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy… I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”

The two presidents were speaking about different issues. But, as we approach the third anniversary of the historic diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and Cuba, we can reflect on the progress made and the benefits accrued to people in both countries, and the folly of returning to the failed strategies of the past.

President Trump has clearly expressed his desire for new approaches in foreign policy. We hope that he will step back and reflect on how the fresh thinking in our Cuba policy over the past three years has already begun to heal the wounds of the past and to advance U.S. interests in the entire Western Hemisphere.

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This week, in Cuba news… Read the rest of this entry »

Cuba Central News Brief: 12/1/2017

December 1, 2017

CDA’s Year End Fundraising Drive continues – Consider a gift today to help shape U.S. policy toward Cuba!

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This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-Cuba Relations

Cuba reaches 4.2 million travelers in 2017

Cuba has reached its 2017 goal of 4.2 million travelers one month ahead of schedule, according to CubaDebate. CubaDebate reports that the 4.2 million travelers include 573,000 visitors from the U.S.

Cuba announced last December that it was aiming for 4.2 million visitors in 2018, and stated in July that it was on target to reach the mark in spite of the threat of new U.S. travel restrictions (which have since been published). In 2016, Cuba received 4 million international visitors, including 285,000 from the U.S.

In Cuba

Cuba holds municipal elections

Cuba held elections for municipal assembly delegates last week, the first step in an election cycle which will culminate in the selection of a new president, Reuters reports. Municipal elections are the sole step of the process where candidates are directly elected.

The elections were originally scheduled for late October, but were postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Irma. According to CubaDebate, the country saw 86 percent voter turnout, which the Miami Herald reports is its lowest mark in 40 years. CubaDebate also reports that women made up 35 percent of elected representatives, a slight increase over the number elected in 2015.

The elections also served as an arena for some U.S. and Cuban officials to trade barbs. Cuba’s First President Miguel Díaz-Canel, considered a possible successor to President Raúl Castro, said at a polling station “Our people don’t bow down … to external pressure and some people’s desire to see our system change,” and “The future [of U.S.-Cuba relations] depends on them, not us.” Meanwhile, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert opened her November 28 press briefing by calling the elections “a flawed process” under “an authoritarian state.”

Nestlé, Cuba break ground on new factory in Mariel

Nestlé S.A. and Cuba’s food enterprise Corporación Alimentaria have begun construction on a joint enterprise factory to produce coffee and powdered beverage products, cereal, and cooking aids, Reuters reports.

According to a press release from Nestlé, the Swiss multinational will invest roughly $55 million in the factory, which is expected to employ over 250 people and produce 18,500 tons in products annually. The factory is expected to open in January 2020. Nestlé currently operates two factories on the island, which produce mineral water, carbonated soft drinks, and ice cream.

Cuba begins 2017-2018 sugarcane harvest

A sugar mill in Cuba’s western Mayabeque province has begun harvesting sugarcane, marking the beginning of the country’s November-May harvest season, Reuters reports.

The 2017-2018 harvest season is marked by concerns over issues stemming from Hurricane Irma, which damaged 300,000 hectares of sugarcane crops and 40 percent of sugar refineries in Cuba.

Cuba’s 2016-2017 harvest led to the production of 1.8 million tons of raw sugar, a 20 percent increase over the 2015-2016 season; however, yields reached just 85 percent of the goal set by AZCUBA, Cuba’s state sugar enterprise. Cuba attributed the lower-than-expected yields to drought and poor irrigation and drainage systems, as Reuters reported at the time.

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