This week, after much debate and closed-door conference negotiations, Congress passed a Farm Bill including a provision to allow for the use of U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion dollars in Cuba. The provision represents the first pro-engagement piece of legislation to come out of Congress in over a decade. As we previously reported, Senator Heitkamp (ND) championed the provision, which was included in the Senate-passed version of the bill and ultimately included in the final conference negotiations. The Farm Bill is expected to be signed into law by President Trump next week.
On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported findings from a team of University of Miami specialists regarding the health of diplomats who previously served in Havana. The findings seem to refute theories from other specialists who, upon examining affected U.S. diplomats, assert they suffer from concussion-like symptoms. The specialists from the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine said that the 25 diplomats previously serving in Havana, who the specialists examined shortly after symptoms were reported, likely suffer from an “acquired neurosensory dysfunction.” Dr. Michael Hoffer and other colleagues found neurological, cognitive, and emotional symptoms that are distinct from those reported by others who have examined the diplomats. According to a paper published by Dr. Hoffer and other colleagues, the diplomats’ conditions are not the result of mass hysteria, reports The New York Times. Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-17), in a September 2018 House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on U.S.-Cuba relations, engaged in a line of questioning with U.S. government officials about Dr. Hoffer’s credibility.
ABC-10 News reports that members of a delegation to Cuba led by the Washington Office on Latin America were briefed by senior officials on Tuesday about U.S.-Cuba security cooperation. The group discussed bilateral engagement on topics including drug interdiction, terrorism, human trafficking, cybersecurity and money laundering. As we previously reported, bilateral law enforcement cooperation continues under the Trump administration. Recent examples of successful cooperation include U.S. and Cuban authorities working together to detain a U.S. fugitive from justice and collaborative efforts that resulted in the conviction of a Cuban national in Cuba for a murder committed in Florida.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Monday a permanent closure of its field office in Havana, effective that same day, according to a USCIS statement. The announcement is an administrative decision to transfer jurisdiction over U.S. immigration processes for Cuban residents to the USCIS field office in Mexico City. Since Consulate operations have been essentially paralyzed since November 2017, following the drawdown of U.S. Embassy staff, Monday’s announcement does not constitute any practical impact on the provision of consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, OnCuba reports. The U.S. Embassy in Havana issued a clarifying statement Wednesday, noting the Embassy remains open, U.S. citizens can still access a range of consular services at the Embassy, Cubans seeking non-immigrant visas must apply in any third country, and immigrant visa petitions for Cuban citizens should still be filed in Georgetown, Guyana.
This week, the week following Cuba’s rollout of 3G mobile internet access, Cuba’s Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas engaged in a lengthy Twitter exchange with citizens about a controversial Decree governing arts and culture. Vice Minister Rojas is considered the architect of the policy, which would require entities to only contract artists who retain membership in an official Cuban institution. As reported last week, the Decree was altered last week to appease its detractors, and officials noted that future discussions about the Decree and its implementation will include Cuban artists. President Díaz-Canel recently launched his own Twitter account and instructed his ministers and top officials to do the same.
Cuba will produce over 50,000 tonnes of nickel plus cobalt in 2018, on par with reported 2017 levels, reports Reuters. Cuba has one-third of the world’s known nickel reserves and during the first decade of the century, used to produce over 70,000 tonnes of nickel plus cobalt per year. However, of three processing plants in Cuba, one closed and a second operates with obsolete machinery. Sherritt International, a Canadian mining company, operates another plant with Cuba’s state-owned enterprise Cubaníquel.
Yuli, the biopic movie about world-renowned Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta has received five Goya Award nominations. The Goya Awards are Spain’s most prestigious annual film awards and considered the most important award in the Hispanic film industry. Carlos Acosta, who retired from the Royal Ballet in 2015, portrayed himself in the movie for which he has received a nomination for best revelation actor. In 2014, Mr. Acosta wasappointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS
Cuban entrepreneurs represent $2 billion of purchasing power in the global economy, according to a report out this week by AP. Local economies in countries like Russia, Haiti, Guyana, and previously Ecuador, that do not require visa for Cuban nationals, have moved to supply the demands of Cuba’s private sector. We reported previously that Panama, although the country requires a visa for Cuban nationals, is issuing tourist cards for entrepreneurs or those who have traveled before. The Panamanian Ambassador sat yesterday for an interview with ABC10 News to warn Cubans about possible scam operations that could threaten Cubans traveling to Panama on a tourist card.
On Friday, leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and six Caribbean islands will meet in Havana at an ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para Las Américas) summit to talk about improved regional cooperation. In August, Ecuador left the bloc after its government expressed frustration over Venezuelan president Maduro’s unwillingness to find a solution to the Venezuelan migration crisis that affects most of the South American countries.
In United States vs. Cuba, Russia is the big winner, Sara Egozi, MiamiHerald
The author writes that, since the U.S. government reduced its diplomatic presence in Havana, it has proven that isolating Cuba emboldens exile interests infringe on those of the U.S. It also empowers those in Cuba’s Communist Party who prefer hostility toward the United States.
Analysis: Activating Title III of Helms-Burton, Phil Peters, Cuba Standard
Amb. John Bolton, Pres. Trump’s National Security Advisor hinted in Miami that the administration is considering waiving Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. In his analysis, Mr. Peters considers that would be a short-sight policy that could backfire, hurting U.S. interests in not just Cuba, but around the world.
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 23rd to 27th, 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.
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