This week, in Cuba news…
The Rolling Stones Magazine reports country music star Tim McGraw will travel to Cuba in May 2019 as part of a cultural exchange program that will span four days, include two acoustic concerts, and feature local stars such as Carlos Varela and Grammy Award winners Los Van Van. “Cubans have such an intimate relationship with music, I’m happy we’ll get to share that together,” McGraw said in a statement accompanying his announced trip.
On Thursday, Cuba’s state-owned telephone monopoly ETECSA started implementing 3G internet on mobile phones, TIME reports. President Díaz-Canel used Twitter to foreshadow the roll-out on Tuesday, and Cuba’s Communications Minister appeared on television shortly thereafter to describe details of the plan. Internet connectivity in Cuba has increased steadily in recent years. In 2014, ETECSA installed 237 wifi hotspots in the country, mainly in parks and public plazas. Today, there are 830 wifi hotspots, according to ETECSA. This week’s roll-out is likely to lead to a dramatic increase in the island’s connectivity.
As Cuba’s population becomes more connected, the people will have greater access to its leaders. Cuba’s president recently opened a Twitter account and has instructed his ministers to do the same. Cuba’s leaders are likely using social media as a way to reach the population and to increase trust among citizens.
Al-Jazeera reports that, while it has been a long-held dream for Cubans to have mobile data, the cost may be prohibitive for many Cubans. The announced price, approximately $30 for 4 GB of data, is a price that, for the average Cuban, represents a month of salary. Although some websites are censored, such as U.S. taxpayer-funded Noticias Martí, most of the foreign press is available online.
On Wednesday, Cuban authorities announced a softening of new private sector regulations set to be implemented today, Al-Jazeera reports. The measures, approved in July, created a wave of criticism among members of the private sector, as we previously reported. The regulations as originally written required entrepreneurs with multiple business licenses to surrender all but one license, as the government strives to tamp down on the accumulation of wealth. However, this week’s announcement reversed the provision in question, and individuals will still be able to hold more than one license. As entrepreneur and community leader Camilo Condis told Reuters, “I can go back to dreaming now and being creative again because I now know it will be legal to have more than one enterprise.”
Additionally, there will no longer be a limit on the number of seats in private restaurants, as was projected in the prior iteration of new regulations. Cuba’s Minister of Labor acknowledged that authorities had listened to feedback from entrepreneurs and experts when making the decision to modify the regulations. President Díaz-Canel tweeted that the government believes in “collective decision-making.” In Cuba, the government has issued a list of authorized business activities in which entrepreneurs can engage. There is no Enterprise Law in Cuba, so individuals must register themselves as entrepreneurs and acquire a license, rather than registering and/or licensing a business.
Today, Decree 349 is set to come into effect, the Financial Times reports. The new regulation from Cuba’s Council of Ministers has been heavily criticized by artists who interpret it as a way to censor artistic production on the island. The Decree establishes that entities must only contract artists who retain membership in an official Cuban institution and that failure to adhere to this requirement (i.e.payments to non-official artists) will result in an infraction.
The original draft of the Decree would have permitted inspectors to review public cultural events and to close any show, from painting exhibitions to concerts to restaurants, if they assessed the event was not in compliance.
However, similar to the aforementioned private sector regulations, the Decree was softened somewhat this week, officials announced to AP. With the modifications, government inspectors will not conduct inspections at random but will respond to complaints at public venues. Furthermore, inspectors will not regularly close venues or implement infractions; they will refer problematic cases to senior officials at the Ministry of Culture.
Reuters reports that this week, Tania Bruguera, a prominent artist who has produced art critical of Cuba’s government, was detained on her way to a protest against the Decree. Even Silvio Rodríguez, a very influential folk musician spoke against the Decree, saying “it was cooked among very few.”
CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS
Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse visited Cuba this week, Prensa Latina reports. President Díaz-Canel received Mr. Moïse on Monday along with top officials; the two reportedly discussed a possible forthcoming agreement regarding water management in Haiti. More than 600 Cuban doctors work in Haiti’s healthcare sector. Additionally, Cuba advises Haiti’s government on the construction of dams for water services and energy generation.
Halt speculation on U.S. Embassy in Cuba, Mitchell Joseph Valdes-Sosa and Kenneth R. Foster, Science Magazine
In this article, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a prominent Cuban neurologist and University of Pennsylvania Bioengineering professor team up tourge that science lead the way in the resolution of the mysterious healthincidents among embassy personnel in Havana.
It’s time for a policy change on Cuba, Doug Bandow, The National Interest
For the author, a major obstacle to reform in Cuba is the current U.S. Administration and allied Cuban-American elected leaders that insist on maintaining a sixty-year-old failed policy of embargo and aggressive rhetoric. The author suggests President Trump recall his willingness to dialogue with regimes such as North Korea, and employ a similar strategy with Cuba, in addition to supporting the nascentprivate sector.
Cuba’s slow rebirth, Ruth Behar, The New York Times
In a touching piece, Ms. Behar writes about new hopes in Cuba among members of the private sector, but also about the struggle of a younger generation of Cubans as they, the children and grandchildren of the Revolution, grapple with experiences very different from their older relatives.
How Havana is collapsing, building by building, Tracey Eaton andKatherine Lewin, USA TODAY
In Cuba, almost three thousand people live in buildings at-risk of collapsing, according to the authors. The piece brings a voice to those who live with the pressure of losing their homes or their lives at any moment.
Blondie in Havana, March 10-14, 2019, Teatro Mella.
Blondie, one of America’s most renowned rock bands is performing in Havana.
One of Those Havana Nights, May 23 to 27, Teatro Bellas Artes and Teatro Mella
Tim McGraw will be in Havana for the first time ever! The Grammy Award-winning superstar will perform two unique acoustic shows during the trip at Teatro Bellas Artes and at renowned Teatro Mella. Tim will be joined by some amazing Cuban artists, including Carlos Varela, Tradicionales de los 50, and the GRAMMY® Award-winning Cuban music legends Los Van Van.
So many thanks to all of you who donated during CDA’s #GivingTuesday campaign and to all of CDA’s valued supporters. We are thrilled to report, thanks to YOU, we exceeded our day-of #GivingTuesday goal! We are also thrilled to announce we have extended our Facebook fundraiser until December 31. This giving season, we invite you to consider the value of CDA’s work and contribute to our mission. We thank you!
Support CDA: Click here to support CDA’s work bringing you the Cuba Central News Brief each week and promoting a U.S. policy toward Cuba based on engagement and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty. Make your 100% tax-deductible gift now!