CUBA CENTRAL NEWS BRIEF: 07/06/2018

Thank you for your generous donations to CDA! Your contributions connect the people of the U.S. and Cuba in ways that matter. See for yourself! Check out this video for a personal reflection from Brian White, senior technical advisor on FHI 360’s LINKAGES project, whose work strengthens communities and systems around the world to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. Brian participated in CDA’s recent LGBTQ delegation to Cuba.

Interested in hearing reflections in-person? Will you be in New York mid-July? Join CDA’s executive director, Emily Mendrala, and former Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn (Member of CDA’s Board of Directors), for cocktails and conversation on engagement with the LGBTQ communities in Cuba. Mrs. Quinn participated in CDA’s recent LGBTQ delegation to the island. The discussion will be moderated by Gerson Borrero. Learn more about this event.

This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

Letter to the Editor: Treating Similar Events Similarly

In response to the Washington Post’s June 24 editorial “No time for waiting,” Representative Eliot L. Engel (NY-16) writes a letter to the editor in which he argues against “playing politics with the health of our citizens.” He notes his efforts alongside Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (CA-32) to urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take charge in the health incidents investigations in Havana. So far, the CDC has not traveled to Cuba, where 26 U.S. employees have been confirmed to be affected, yet they have reportedly been deployed to Guangzhou, China, where at least one case has been medically confirmed. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened, and that begins by treating similar health incidents in Cuba and China in a similar fashion …,” Rep. Engel states.

Episcopal Churches in U.S. and Cuba consider reunification

The 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is underway in Austin Texas, where, among other business, officials will consider a resolution to reunite with Cuba’s Episcopal Church after more than five decades of separation, reports the Episcopal News Service. The pending resolution would facilitate financial support for the Episcopal Church in Cuba and bring the Cuban clergy into the Church Pension Fund. The Metropolitan Council of Churches has overseen Cuba’s Episcopal Church since 1967, when it separated from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church.

IN CUBA

Cuban environmental activist freed

Cuba’s authorities released Dr. Ariel Ruiz Urquiola on an “extrapenal license” for health reasons after he was sentenced to a year in prison for contempt of law enforcement officers. Dr. Ruiz Urquiola initiated a hunger strike in mid-June in protest of his arrest and sentencing.

Dr. Ruiz Urquiola, an environmentalist, is an outspoken critic of some of the government’s environmental practices. As we reported last week, the U.S. State Department called for his release. Reuters reports his case received more attention than usual. Ted Henken, a Cuba expert at Baruch College, notes that Dr. Ruiz Urquiola’s case attracted attention from, “more mainstream public figures and indie digital sites.”

Cubana de Aviación struggles after crash

Cubana de Aviación airline has cut routes to Santiago, Holguin, and Baracoa, as well as all international routes except those to Madrid or Buenos Aires, reports Business Insider. Many Cubans will trade in their previously-purchased plane tickets for bus fare in order to visit relatives in other parts of the country, enduring long travel times, often 15 to 16 hours.

After the deadly crash of one of its planes in Havana in May, Cubana de Aviación has struggled to keep domestic flights in operation, according to the report. The airline, owned and run by Cuba’s government, has struggled to maintain its planes for years, in part due to inability to access parts because of the U.S. embargo, Reuters reports. Once a prestigious airline within Latin America, Cubana de Aviación has turned to leasing from other companies in Lithuania, Italy, and most recently Mexico. However, in May, Avion Express and Blue Panorama, from Lithuania and Italy respectively, both reportedly terminated their contracts with Cubana without explanation. The Mexican company Damojh leased the Boeing 737 that crashed this May, prior to which complaints had been made that flight attendants were overloading the plane with luggage.

First Cuba fund to be run by UK’s Aberdeen Standard

The Scotland-based asset manager Aberdeen Standard will take over the management of CEIBA Investments after it has been listed on the London Stock Exchange, reports Reuters. This is the first Cuban business to be listed on the important exchange. The fund, founded in 2001 and worth around $172 million, is a stakeholder of several real estate’s properties in Cuba. Among those properties are four hotels in Varadero and Havana. Investment Trust Insider reports that the fund “has no borrowings and aims to generate a fully covered annual dividend yield of at least 4%” and that Aberdeen Standard Investment is “the world’s largest emerging markets closed-end fund manager.”

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

North Korea delegation visits Cuba

North Korea’s former Foreign Minister, Ri Su Yong is leading a delegation to Cuba to strengthen bilateral relations. Mr. Su Yong, who is currently the Vice President of the Workers’ Party, is considered a close confidant of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. After the ascension of President Miguel Díaz-Canel as the head of the Cuban state, Kim Jong Un sent a congratulatory message, which was replied to by President Díaz-Canel with wishes to strength diplomatic relations. According to the National Committee on North Korea, Havana is one of only five capitals that have a North Korean embassy. In 2013, Panamanian authorities seized a North Korean vessel en route to Pyongyang from Cuba, after finding a load of arms, including fighter jets. We reported at the time that the incident prompted a report of the United Nations Security Council, which concluded that the shipment and the transaction had violated international sanctions against North Korea.

Cuban President travels to Jamaica as special guest for Caricom Summit

Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel arrived Thursday in Jamaica, where he will join the CARICOM Summit as a special guest along with Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera. This is President Díaz-Canel’s second trip abroad as Cuba’s head of state; he traveled to Venezuela in May and he will likely have several bilateral meetings with Caribbean leaders on the margins of the summit. Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Rogelio Sierra, was in Jamaica in June for a three-day visit as part of a Caribbean trade mission, as we reported then.

RECOMMENDED READING

Russia sent Obama a blunt message about Cuba, and now Trump is giving the edge back to Moscow, Christopher Woody, Business Insider

As the Obama administration worked to restore relations with Cuba, Russia was watching, Ben Rhodes, former White House deputy national security adviser attests in his book “The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House.” Obama’s rapprochement with the island was seen by Russia as an attempt to “counter [its] growing influence there,” as it increased exports to the island, forgave debts, and attempted to increase its presence. President Trump’s restrictions, Woody suggests, have been in Russia’s favor, and have resulted in the U.S. ceding potential influence on the island.

In this isolated Cuban town on Guantanamo Bay, they still call Americans ‘the enemy,’ Patrick Oppmann, CNN

CNN’s Patrick Oppmann gains rare access to the town of Caimanera, just across the bay from the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, where he interviews residents and reports on the struggles of isolation.

EVENTS IN WASHINGTON, D.C

“Cuban Slugger,” an exhibition of Cuban artist Reynerio Tamayo, July 11-29, main lobby at Arena Stage at the Mead Center of American Theater

Just in time for the All-Star game at Nationals Park in Washington D.C., the Rodriguez Collection and the Caribbean Educational and Baseball Foundation (CEBF) along with Arena Stage will come together to present a collection of over 35 pieces of art by Cuban artist Reynerio Tamayo. Tamayo is a hyper-realist painter and contemporary caricaturist whose work features politics, athletes, comic book heroes, notorious gangsters, and art historical icons. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Editor’s note: CDA is seeking candidates for our Fall 2018 internship! Please visit our website for information about how to apply. The deadline is July 15.

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