Cuba Central News Brief: 10/26/2018

This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

Cuba says U.S. pursues ‘path of confrontation’

In a press conference Wednesday, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla accused the U.S. administration of increasing the level of hostile rhetoric towards the Cuban government. “We regret the U.S. government is advancing on a course of confrontation with Cuba,” said Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.

Last week, the U.S. delegation to the United Nations launched a campaign called “Jailed for What?,” highlighting the existence of political prisoners in Cuba. A launch event featured Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, and an outspoken critic of the Cuban government. During the event, members of the Cuban and Bolivian delegations to the UN and their supporters shouted and pounded on desks. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the conduct of the Cuban diplomats in a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced in a statement.

The campaign, protests, denouncements, and press conference occur in the weeks before a discussion at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) of a resolution presented annually by Cuba to condemn the U.S. embargo. Each year, the General Assembly approves the resolution overwhelmingly, and, traditionally, only the United States and Israel vote “no.” As we reported at the time, in 2016, in the midst of normalization efforts and in the wake of President Obama’s trip to Havana, the U.S. abstained. However, in 2017, following President Trump’s issuance of a National Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba, the U.S. again voted “no.”

U.S., Cuban marine biologists put an end to ‘academic embargo’

Last week, members of the U.S. scientific community attended MarCuba, a marine science conference in Havana, which ran from October 15-19. Experts from around the world recognize Cuba’s strong commitment to marine conservation. This year’s MarCuba conference highlighted research collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba in a featured edition of the respected Bulletin of Marine Science from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Joe Roman, a Research Associate Professor at the University of Vermont and the guest editor of the special Cuba edition, said that “science plays an excellent role in diplomacy,” reports the Miami Herald. For Dan Whittle, the Cuba program director at Environmental Defense Fund, “this research 90 miles to the south is relevant to Florida’s ecosystems too; we’re connected.”

The conference attendees celebrated the end of the “academic embargo;” for years, the journal editors at the University of Miami believed the U.S. embargo prevented them from publishing the work of Cuban researchers. A guide for publishing activities, produced by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, made clear that a Cuban scholar could collaborate with U.S. publications as long as he/she is “not acting on behalf of the Cuban government” and is “publishing in his or her personal capacity.”

IN CUBA

Cuba makes debt payment to Western nations, 10 debt swaps signed

This week, Cuba paid a third installment of its renegotiated $2.6 billion debt to Western creditor nations, reports Reuters. According to Reuters, Cuba also signed “10 investment deals as part of a debt swap with creditors,” and new infrastructure projects involving European Union and regional development banks are under discussion.

In January, the London Club offered a sizeable debt relief proposal to the nation, as we reported at that time.

Cuba fund first to be listed on London exchange

CEIBA Investments, the first Cuban business to be listed on the London Stock Exchange, raised $39 million on its first trading day, reports Reuters. The fund, founded in 2001 and worth around $172 million, will use the funds to continue expanding its business on Cuba, including the expansion and upgrading of existing properties and the construction of a new hotel in Trinidad.

CEIBA Investments is a stakeholder of several real estate’s properties in the country. Among those properties are four hotels in Varadero and Havana.

Climate change to impact Cuba by the end of the century, Cuban scientists predict

Climate change is already impacting the island’s ecosystems and human communities, and Cuban scientists have predicted several other impacts before the end of the century, Cuba’s state-run newspaper Granma reports. According to the report, one of the most affected provinces would be Pinar del Río, the westernmost region of Cuba, where forecasts indicate that by the end of the century “four towns will be completely inundated, and thousands of hectares of agricultural land will be affected by soil erosion and salinization.” The local government together with Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA) have already targeted seven municipalities were measures like reforestation of mangroves and woodland strips, sowing of corals, soil improvement, and actions to raise population awareness are a priority.

In April 2017, Cuba’s Council of Ministers approved “Tarea Vida” (Project Life), the government action plan to mitigate the effects of climate change on the island, which is being implemented by CITMA. In January this year, Science Magazine reported that the devastation left by hurricane Irma gave more urgency to the plan and quoted Orlando Rey Santos, head of the environment division at CITMA, who stated that “The government aims to spend at least $40 million on Project Life this year, and it has approached overseas donors for help.”

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

Cuba’s president to visit Russia, China, North Korea in early November

President Miguel Díaz-Canel will embark in his first official trip outside the Western Hemisphere since becoming Cuba’s head of state in April this year, reports Reuters. Cuba’s president will visit Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos, important allies of Cuba. The visit was announced in a press conference by Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla on Wednesday. In 2017, China was the second largest trading partner for Cuba after Venezuela with a bilateral trade of approximately two billion USD. Bilateral trade with Vietnam amounted to 286 million USD. Trade with North Korea and Laos is not significant, but Cuba nevertheless maintains strong bilateral ties with both countries.

South Africa to explore investment in Cuba

South Africa’s Department of Travel and Industry will lead a business delegation to Havana’s International Fair (FIHAV), the largest multisectorial trade fair in Latin America. South African companies will explore opportunities for trade and investment in Cuba. In 2017, South African trade with Cuba totaled approximately 20 million USD, compared to approximately 8 million USD in 2016, according to a report from Cuba’s National Statistics office.

RECOMMENDED READING

Si quieres que te vaya diferente no puedes hacer lo mismo, Arturo López-Levy, OnCuba News

In this piece, Mr. López-Levy opposes the U.S. government’s use of United Nations facilities to call the attention to human rights violations in Cuba. By the same token, he notes, the Cuban government is unlikely to achieve the end of the embargo by sabotaging the activities of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The author also analyses some of the internal barriers that the Cuban economy faces and that could impede economic development, even if the embargo is lifted.

10 of the best places to enjoy the dances and music of Cuba, Claire Boobbyer, The Guardian

While the city is getting ready for the 26th Havana Ballet Festival this month, The Guardian put together a remarkable compilation of renowned places in Cuba to dance and enjoy music performances, as well as classical ballet. The article recommends places where people will be able to appreciate the richness of Cuban culture, from Alicia Alonso’s world renowned ballet, to Afrocuban Conga, street carnivals, and modern music bands.

George Soros, the Multi Millionaire Jew, Phil Peters, The Cuban Triangle

The Cuban Triangle Blog details the oddities of a taxpayer funded TV Marti newscast, which smears philanthropist George Soros, featuring commentaries that assert Soros wields “lethal influence,” “legitimizes narcoterrorists,” and “is a non-practicing Jew of flexible morals.” Radio and TV Marti is a U.S. government-funded program operated out of the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Office of Cuba Broadcasting. The organization’s mission is to “promote freedom and democracy by providing the people of Cuba with objective news and information programming.”

EVENTS

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.

FIHAV 2018, October 29-November 2, Expocuba

The 37th edition of the International Fair of Havana is the most important gathering for those interested in doing business with Cuba. Representatives from public and private companies from virtually all of Latin America and the Caribbean participate in this annual event.

U.S.-Cuba Agriculture Business Conference, November 8-10, Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

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.

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 its 2018 conference in Cuba in December.

Blondie in Havana, March 10-14, 2019, Teatro Mella.

Blondie, one of America’s most renowned rock band is performing in Havana.

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