CUBA CENTRAL NEWS BRIEF: 08/10/2018

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This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

U.S. travel company helps Cubans get U.S. visas

ASC International USA, which specializes in trips to Cuba, is now offering Guyana itineraries. The Tampa, Florida-based travel company, run by a Cuban-American, got its start offering trips to Cuba for U.S. travelers. Recently, the company expanded its scope to offer trips to Guyana for those from the U.S. and their families in Cuba seeking U.S. visas, reports the Tampa Bay Times. While the company cannot directly be involved in the legal work to obtain visas, they provide packages that offer travel, accommodations, medical exams, visa interviews, and even translators. Since the drawdown of staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cubans must travel to third countries, previously Colombia and now Guyana, to obtain a U.S. immigrant visa.

Seabourn Cruise Line to sail to Cuba in late 2019

Carnival Corporation’s ultra-luxury brand Seabourn Cruise Line will start trips to Cuba in November 2019 from the Port of Miami, according to a statement released by PR Newswire. A different itinerary will be offered from San Juan, PR. Seabourn will offer five destinations to Cuba including Nipe Bay and the Cayo Saetia National Park, Cienfuegos, Havana, Punta Fracés in Isla de la Juventud, and Santiago de Cuba.

IN CUBA

Cuba’s government offers better terms in land usufruct

On Thursday, Cuba’s Government announced plans to double the amount of land offered in leases to would-be farmers on the island. The lessees will be able to get up to 26.84 hectares for 20 years, compared with the current 13.42 hectares over a ten-year term. Co-ops will be allowed to lease unlimited land for unlimited terms. Xinhua reports that the “leased land continues to be ‘non-transferable government property’ [and] must be managed ‘in person’ by the holder of the lease to prevent the existence of ‘frontmen’ and concentration of wealth.”

The leases allow the beneficiaries to use the land without any major transformations and to receive the fruits of the enterprise — in this case, the right to derive profit from the crops. Cuba imports over 60 percent of its food at a cost of approximately $2 billion annually. As we reported in March, the government aims to increase domestic production.

Cuba invites Cubans abroad to weigh-in on draft constitution

According to Ernesto Soberón, Director for Consular Affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, Cuban citizens who live abroad, including diaspora communities in the U.S., will be able to submit comments on the country’s draft constitution via an online form in September, reports the Miami Herald. It is the first time that Cubans will have this opportunity, which is particularly significant due to the fact that Cubans who spend over two years overseas forfeit their residency in the island and lose their ability to vote. It is unclear how the government will take into account commentary from citizens abroad once it is received.

Cuba constitution referendum date set for February 2019

Cuba’s state television announced Thursday that the Constitutional referendum will occur on February 24, 2019, AFP reports. The current draft constitution was discussed by the National Assembly’s deputies in July and public discussions will take place between August 13 and November 15. For the first time, Cuban citizens living abroad will have the opportunity to contribute to the public discussions through an online form facilitated by the Foreign Affairs Ministry. However, the Ministry has not clarified if citizens abroad will be considered for the referendum. As we previously reported, the proposed draft includes the recognition of private property, same-sex marriage, and structural reforms to Cuba’s governing bodies.

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

Cuba expresses support for Venezuela in wake of Maduro attack; Officials discuss fiber optic cable

In a statement published by Cuba’s state newspaper Granma this week, Cuba reiterated its support for Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro after a suspected assassination attempt against him involving drones on Sunday. Cuba also reiterated its support for the Bolivarian Revolution and expressed solidarity with all of Latin America, speaking against any attempt to divide the region’s people. The government of the island also condemned U.S. statements and actions toward Venezuela, including economic sanctions.

Cuba’s Minister of Communications met with Venezuela’s Minister of Science and Technology August 1 in Havana where they discussed the ALBA-1 underwater fiber optic cable that runs between the two countries, Venezuela’s government reports. The two officials discussed the physical protection of the cable and strategies for its commercialization in the Caribbean. The cable was installed in 2010 and 2011 and was first utilized in 2013 to provide faster internet speeds.

Australian energy company in Cuba estimates 10 percent improvement in island’s oil reserves

Melbana Energy, an Australia-based company with an established presence in Cuba, said that its assessment of oil reserves in Cuba has improved. An independent assessment of the northern coast of Cuba estimates the presence of 15.7 billion barrels of oil, a 24 percent increase from the previous estimate, reports UPI. Nevertheless, Melbana estimates it would cost over $20 million to drill two wells offshore Cuba, higher than was estimated previously. It is likely that Melbana will try to find other investors to share the drilling costs.

RECOMMENDED READING

A Revolution Within the Revolution: Cuba Opens to Same-Sex Marriages, Rubén Gallo, New York Times

The New York Times offers an overview of the changes in Cuba’s draft constitution and how they reaffirm existing practices that have been in place since Raúl assumed Cuba’s presidency in 2008. The article focuses on the draft’s opening to same-sex marriage and Cuba’s progressive LGBTQ+ policies.

EVENTS

Harlem/Havana Music and Cultural Festival 2018, July 18th-August 31, New York

An educational and cultural initiative between New York and Cuba, the festival includes works by Cuban musicians, dancers, artists fashion designers, and chefs. See the schedule here.

Cafecito with Cuba’s Clandestina, August 16, New York

Join AS/COA as they hold a discussion with the couple who founded Clandestina, Cuba’s first clothing brand, and first brand to sell online. Cuba’s new constitutional reforms will also be discussed. $10 fee for non-YPA members.

Manuel Mendive’s exhibition Nature, Spirit, and Body, August 1-November 4, Bronx Museum of the Arts

First premiering at the Kennedy Center’s Artes de Cuba Festival, Cuban artist Manuel Mendive’s artwork is now on display at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. His work is inspired by African oral traditions and their influence on Cuba.

MEDICC A Healthy Cuba Healthy World Conference: Celebrating History, Community & Culture, December 5-10, Meliã Santiago Hotel in Santiago de Cuba

MEDICC (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba), a non-profit that strives to foster collaboration between the medical community in the U.S. and Cuba will host a 20th-anniversary conference in Cuba in December.

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