Cuba Central News Brief: 1/5/2018

Happy New Year!

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This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-Cuba Relations

Cuba allows Cuban descendants to apply for citizenship, with requirements

Cuba’s 2017 Gaceta Oficial, the publication of the country’s laws, included policy changes expanding possibilities for the children of Cubans living abroad to obtain Cuban citizenship. Beginning this week, it is no longer necessary for applicants to reside in Cuba for any length of time or for their parents to have been born in Cuba, reports the Miami Herald. Applications are still subject to political considerations, including whether the applicant or parents have committed acts considered counterrevolutionary by Cuba’s government.

Children of Cuban descents whose parents were born outside the island but later obtained Cuban citizenship may now apply and must pass a new citizenship exam proving knowledge of Cuba’s political system, current events, and the Spanish language, and must provide evidence of strong and sustained links to the island for at least two years. Cuban-Americans born in the U.S. would be subject to these requirements. The new changes do not alter Cuba’s eight-year travel ban on Cuban doctors, athletes, academics, and government officials who do not return from government missions abroad.

The changes taking effect this week were announced in October 2017, along with the removal of travel restrictions on Cubans who left the island by irregular means, including many Cuban-Americans. The decree is the latest in a series of measures easing restrictions on travel and citizenship requirements that began in 2013, when Cuba eliminated the exit visa requirement and began allowing Cubans to live abroad for two years without losing their citizenship.

Cuba’s Foreign Relations

European Union’s top diplomat visits Cuba to strengthen ties

This week the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, visited Havana. Reuters reports the visit was intended to bolster EU economic and political relations with Cuba. In December 2016, the EU signed a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations, dissolving the previous EU Common Position toward Cuba, under which the EU had previously imposed sanctions on the island.

Mogherini met with Foreign Investment and Cooperation Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez. In public remarks, she highlighted the EU’s position as Cuba’s number one trading partner and forthcoming agreements on renewable energy and agriculture. She also criticized the U.S. trade embargo, stating her regret “that the current U.S. administration has apparently changed course with Cuba.” The European Investment Bank is scheduled to visit Cuba later in January. Mogherini concluded the two-day visit with a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro.

In Cuba

Cuba reaches lowest infant mortality rate in its history

In 2017, Cuba’s infant mortality rate was four per 1,000 births, according to preliminary data from Cuba’s Medical Records and Health Statistics Directorate. State newspaper Granma reports that this is the tenth consecutive year Cuba maintained an infant mortality rate below five per 1,000 live births. In 1970, Cuba’s infant mortality rate was 38.7 per 1,000 births.

Japan leads major industrialized countries with an estimated infant mortality rate of 2 per 1,000 births in 2017. The estimated infant mortality rate in the U.S. is 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births in 2017.

What We’re Reading

Cuba Looks More to Russia as the Prospects for Better U.S. Ties Fade Under Trump, Interview with William M. LeoGrande, World Politics Review

American University Professor and Cuba expert William LeoGrande discusses Russia’s reinvigorated economic and political ties with Cuba in the context of soured U.S.-Cuba relations.

A Cuban Island That Has Played Both Paradise and Prison, Tony Perrottet, The New York Times

Travel author Tony Perrottet travels to Cuba’s Isle of Pines and describes its historical development from the prison island where Fidel Castro planned the Revolution, to a growing eco-tourism destination of today.


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