CUBA CENTRAL NEWS BRIEF: 09/21/2018

This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

Cuba’s president meets with Senator Corker amid tense bilateral relations

Senator Bob Corker (TN), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate traveled to Cuba this week on a previously unannounced trip. Reuters reports the retiring Senator met with Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel, among other Cuban officials including Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Mara Tekach accompanied the retiring Senator to the meeting with Cuba’s head of state, where the discussion reportedly focused on U.S.-Cuba bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest to the two countries. Senator Corker’s previous statements note his view that the U.S. embargo of Cuba, “has not yielded the result we had hoped it would yield,” and his desire to “pursue a policy that over time will cause Cubans to realize their aspirations for a better way of life.” Senator Corker traveled to Cuba in late 2016. Last week, as we previously reported, Sen. Corker met with a Cuban scientific team researching health incidents suffered by U.S. diplomats in Havana.

Ag Coalition For Cuba Working For More Ag Trade Opportunities

The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba will host a business conference in Havana in November at which business representatives, farmers, and officials are expected to be present. Wisconsin Ag Connection reports. USACC Chair Paul Johnson says, “At a time when new markets are needed for our agricultural exports, and Cuba is looking to increase agriculture trade and investment, this conference will help to inform and connect the people who can work wot make those things happen.”

IN CUBA

New information on aviation accident

Armando Daniel López, the President of the Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba confirmed this week that the technical team investigating the deadly May plane crashed in Cuba has recovered the majority of the data from the plane’s black boxes. Cuba’s state-run newspaper Granma reports technicians have recovered 100 percent of the information in the flight data recorder, and 90-95 percent of the audio recordings.

According to Prensa Latina, the process was conducted in the U.S. with the participation of specialists from Cuba, Mexico, and the U.S. With the data recovered, the Commission will develop a graphic simulation of the incident, and will also compare the Havana crash with others around the world to find common parameters. According to Mr. López, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel, and other authorities are closely following the investigation.

Cuba expects new record of foreign tourists in 2018, says minister

On Wednesday, Cuba’s Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said that a record 4.8 million visitors are expected to visit Cuba by the end of the year. The number marks an increase from 2017’s previous record –4.7 million– but a dip in the original 5 million projection. Xinhua reports he delivered remarks in Havana during an industry international conference and announced projected growth despite a 6.5 percent contraction in the number of visitors during the first half of the year. According to the Minister, in 2018 Cuba plans to add around 5,350 new hotel rooms to the current 69,286 rooms available on the island. In early August, we reported that an increasing number of U.S. visitors are traveling to Cuba by cruise.

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel interviewed by TeleSur

Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel sat for an extensive interview with TeleSur, which was broadcast on Sunday. Cuba is a shareholder of the multinational news company. In the interview, Díaz-Canel spoke in favor of including marriage equality in Cuba’s new Constitution, the public comment period for which is ongoing, and he expressed that U.S.-Cuba relations are in decline under President Trump. According to the Cuban President, “We [Cubans] still maintain channels of dialogue [with the U.S. Government] and our position is that we do not reject the possibility of dialogue at any time, but it must be between equals.” President Díaz-Canel also added that the U.S. embargo against Cuba is “the main obstacle to the development of the country.”

Cuba’s President Díaz-Canel to attend UN General Assembly, meet with Spain’s PM

Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel plans to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City next week. In addition to the assembly meeting itself, Díaz-Canel will conduct a number of meetings on the margins. Among those, El País reports he will meet with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on September 25.

Spain has a large business presence in Cuba and is a leader in Cuba’s tourism industry. El País reports the possibility that Their Majesties King Felipe and Queen Leticia of Spain could travel to Havana to celebrate the 500 anniversary of the city in 2019. The socialist Spanish government is trying to normalize ties with the Cuban government after the relative inaction of former PM Rajoy’s government. After the U.S. and Cuba established relations, several European leaders visited Havana, and former PM Rajoy was criticized by some in Spain for not taking a leading role.

The President of the Central Bank of Cuba’s successful visit to Italy

Irma Martínez Castrillón, Minister-President of Cuba’s Central Bank, met in Italy with several representatives of financial institutions, entrepreneurs, and government officials. During her visit, as reported by Cuban provincial radio, she also met with members of the Cuba-Italia Business Committee, accompanied by Cuba’s Ambassador to Italy and several embassy staff. Ms. Martínez Castrillón spoke about the obstacles that the U.S. embargo imposes on Cuban businesses and the island’s financial sector.

RECOMMENDED READING

As Cuba backs gay marriage, churches oppose the government’s plan, María Isabel Alfonso, The Conversation

The public debate over Cuba’s new Constitution has sparked controversies among religious groups within the Cuban civil society. The strong opposition displayed by some churches in Cuba have shocked some in a country where, for the last decades, churches have avoided expressing political views in public.

Cuba’s Stalled Revolution, Richard E. Feinberg and Ted Piccone, Foreign Affairs

The new government in Cuba has a paradoxical promise of continuity and change, which curtails its ability to achieve economic progress for the island, say the experts. On the other hand, the current U.S. administration is returning to a Cold War rhetoric of hostility and isolation. For the authors, President Díaz-Canel’s public remarks “have been less about programmatic innovation than about maintaining party unity,” which may not be enough to convince Cuba’s educated youth to remain in the island.

EVENTS

Harold López-Nussa in Washington, DC, October 3, Blues Alley, Washington, D.C.

Harold López-Nussa, a renowned Cuban pianist and composer will be in Washington, DC on October 3 to present his latest album Un día cualquiera. The album represents a defiance to borders and obstacles, and clearly reflects Lopez-Nussa’s strong connection with Havana.

Hatuey: Memory of Fire, September 20-23, Alexander Kasser Theater, Montclair State University

Based on the real story of Asher Penn, a Yiddish poet, journalist, and editor who published an epic poem about Cuba’s first hero Hatuey in 1931. The opera is a vibrant fusion between Afro-Cuban and Yiddish culture set in the 1930s Cuba when the country was fighting the corrupt Machado regime.

Manuel Mendive’s exhibition Nature, Spirit, and Body, Now-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. Early Bird deadline extended to September 24!

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