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Dear friends,

This week, in Cuba news…


Florida International University releases its 2018 Cuba Poll

On Thursday, FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs released a 2018 FIU Cuba Poll, the first such poll to have been conducted since President Trump assumed office. The poll shows that Cuban-American residents of Miami-Dade County are evenly split on their views about the U.S. embargo, and stands in slight contrast to the poll’s 2016 reports of majority support, 54 percent, for ending the embargo at that time. However, most respondents favor expanding or maintaining economic relations between companies in the United States and the island, and the lifting of travel restrictions for all Americans to Cuba.

The poll depicts an apparent shifting of views of those Cuban-Americans that immigrated before 1979. According to the poll, Cuban immigrants to the U.S. who arrived during the first 20 years of the Cuban Revolution increased their resistance to lifting the embargo by over 10 percentage points between the 2016 and 2018 polls.

Opposition to the embargo rises to 65 percent among young Cuban Americans (18-39 years old). Likewise, 60 percent of Cuban immigrants who arrived since 1995 oppose the embargo.

The poll also shows a strong preference of Republican representatives among Cuban-Americans, even though Democrat candidates won two of the congressional races in Miami-Dade County. 70 percent of those surveyed voted for Gov. Ron DeSantis and 69 percent for Sen. Rick Scott. According to the Certificate of County Canvassing Board, Rick Scott received 316,020 votes in Miami-Dade County, while then-Senator Bill Nelson received 485,496 votes. Andrew Gillum received 478, 958 votes in Miami-Dade County, while Ron DeSantis received 311,581 votes. The FIU Cuba poll shows 87 percent of registered voters turning out on Election Day among the surveyed individuals.

The 2018 FIU Cuba Poll was conducted by phone between Nov. 14 and Dec. 1, 2018, with a random sample of 1001 Cuban-Americans of Miami-Dade County. The margin of error is 3 percent.

Scientists say recording of sound heard by U.S. diplomats in Cuba matches crickets

In a report out this week and covered by numerous outlets, two biologists conclude the recording of the mysterious sound heard by U.S. embassy workers who fell ill in Cuba matches the chirp of a Caribbean cricket. In their paper, the scientists from the University of California Berkeley and UK’s University of Lincoln assert, “The fact that the sound on the recording was produced by a Caribbean cricket does not rule out the possibility that embassy personnel were victims of another form of attack.” As we have reported previously, U.S. personnel in Cuba and China experienced mysterious symptoms that prompted the U.S. State Department to order the return of non-essential personnel from Havana. In October, the AP published a recording of sounds some U.S. Embassy workers reportedly heard in Havana. The report by the U.S. and British biologists has not yet been peer-reviewed, CNN reports.

Senators Rubio and Menendez introduce Senate Resolution condemning Cuba’s Foreign Medical Missions

On Thursday, Senators Rubio (FL) and Menendez (NJ) introduced a Senate resolution “affirming that the Government of Cuba’s foreign medical missions constitutes human trafficking.” The resolution criticizes Cuba’s foreign medical missions “where [Cuban doctors] are subject to wage garnishing, restrictions on their movement, and constant surveillance by the Cuban regime,” and resolves that the State Department should downgrade Cuba to Tier 3 on the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, that the U.S. government should reinstate the Cuban Medical Parole Program, and that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the organization that facilitated the agreement between Cuba’s government and Brazil’s Mais Medicos program, should be more transparent. The State Department’s TIP report grades countries around the world on a 1-3 scale, according to the efforts the government is making to combat human trafficking, with a score of 3 being the worst. In January 2017, the Obama Administration abolished the Cuban Medical Parole Program, a program designed to incentivize Cuban doctors on medical missions abroad to defect to U.S. Embassies.


Cuba Cabinet Chiefs Ousted Amid Cash Crunch, Transportation Woes

On Tuesday, President Díaz-Canel replaced Cuba’s Transport and Finance ministers amid an ongoing transportation crisis on the island. This is the Cuban leader’s first high-level leadership reshuffle since assuming the presidency in April and structuring his government in July. In December, a new set of regulations took effect, including regulations governing the operation of private taxis, which require the taxi owners to adhere to pre-determined routes, prepay a certain amount of fuel per month, and pay a higher tax rate. Since the enactment of the regulations, many taxi drivers have refused to work or have turned in their licenses, leaving Cuban residents without viable transportation and worsening the already-difficult situation for transportation across the country. In a move that hopes to resolve the transportation deficiency, Cuba imported 450 microbuses from Russia, which arrived in Havana on Thursday, CubaDebate reports.

A Former Cuban Vice President and Bay of Pigs Commander Has Died at 95,

Gen. José Ramón Fernández, who successfully led the Cuban defenses at the Bay of Pigs died this week at the age of 95. In 1956, as a lieutenant, Fernández was one of the leaders of the failed “Movement of the Pure” faction of the Cuban army that attempted to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista for violations of the 1940 Constitution. Fernández, trained in artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, served in several roles in the Cuban government after 1959, notably as Vice Minister of Defense, Minister of Education and Vice President. He also chaired the Cuban Olympic Committee, the Associated Press reports.


Díaz-Canel in Venezuela for Maduro’s second term swearing-in ceremony

Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited Venezuela to assist in the swearing-in ceremony of Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro, celebrated yesterday. The ceremony is facing controversy after the Group of Lima (established following the Lima Declaration on August 2017, where representatives of 12 countries met to try to usher a peaceful end to the crisis in Venezuela), the U.S., and the European Union called Maduro’s new term “illegitimate;” Venezuela’s opposition was joined by many foreign governments in decrying fraud and lack of transparency in Venezuela’s most recent elections. While in Caracas, Díaz-Canel met with Turkey’s Vice President. In the meeting, both officials agreed to increase cooperation, especially in sectors such as biotech, tourism and renewable energy.



Cuba Central recommends (re)visiting a syllabus compiled by FIU History Professor Dr. Michael Bustamante. In this anthology, Dr. Bustamante “aims to inspire deep, creative reading and teaching about the island’s history” through his reading map of the Cuban Revolution. Proceeding chronologically and thematically, the materials cover the years leading up to the revolutionary takeover in 1959 through the present day.


Cuba Festival 2019January 9-20, Joyce Theater, New York

New York’s Joyce Theater Cuba Festival includes three vibrant dance companies from Havana, a city that has nurtured some of the best dancers in the world, and is now proving to be a hotbed of fresh choreographic talent. The Festival will feature Malpaso Dance Company, Los Hijos del Director, and Compañía Irene Rodríguez.

Cuban Visions film seriesProgram 1, Song of the Street, January 24, Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago

In 2010, famed Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez started an ongoing tour through the poorest neighborhoods of Havana. Song of the Street explores a largely invisible and silenced Cuba, the complexity of which is revealed through the voices of the film’s participants.

Post-screening discussion: Americas Media Initiative (AMI) Director Alexandra Halkin will moderate a post-screening discussion with Cuban journalist, Monica Rivero, who wrote the companion photo book with Alejandro Ramírez Anderson, “Por todo espacio, por este tiempo (For all space, for this time with Silvio Rodríguez in neighborhoods of Havana)” released with Song of the Street. Also joining will be Afro-Cuban scholar, Professor Odette Casamayor, Associate Professor of Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut. Professor Casamayor is currently working on a new book, “On Being Blacks: Challenging the Hegemonic Knowledge Through Racial Self-Identification Processes in Contemporary Cuban Cultural Production.”

This is the first of a year-long series of screenings, which will feature a range of Cuban films including animation, short fiction, and documentaries, and a unique opportunity for the audience to interact and engage with Cuban filmmakers, journalists, in timely cultural exchange through post-screening panel discussions.

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

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

José Martí and the Immigrant Communities of Florida: An NEH Summer InstituteJune 17-July 13 (registration deadline March 1), The University of Tampa, Florida.

José Martí and the Immigrant Communities of Florida in Cuban Independence and the Dawn of the American Century will present a novel approach to the study and teaching of the rise of the U.S. as a global power in the early 20th century as a consequence of its intervention in Cuba’s War of Independence.

One of Those Havana Nights, May 23rd to 27th, Teatro Bellas Artes and Teatro Mella, Havana, Cuba

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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