U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 06/07/2019

Dear Friends,

This week, the Trump administration released new regulations on U.S travel to Cuba. In sum, the new restrictions are two-fold: they eliminate group people-to-people educational travel AND cruise travel, both of which were popular avenues of U.S. travel to Cuba through which Americans and Cubans connected by way of cultural exchange. These measures remove an important source of revenue for Cuba’s growing private sector, which is in direct opposition to the administration’s stated goal of supporting the Cuban people. Read more in CDA’s press statement and policy memo on U.S. policy changes under the Trump Administration

Despite these changes, there are still legal avenues of travel to Cuba. Now more than ever, U.S. travel is important in order to foster collaboration and support for the Cuban people! See our updated Cuba Travel 101 guide.

CDA remains on the front lines of advocating for U.S. policies toward Cuba based on engagement, and we will continue to lead delegations to the island to foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and Cuba. Thank you to those who SUPPORT OUR IMPORTANT WORK.

Even in tough times, Cuba remains a global community—and it is coming to you! For our D.C.-area friends, SAVE THE DATE for a week of events and *shopping* with the owners and designers of Havana-based clothing store Clandestina. CDA will host the dynamic team in Washington, D.C. Monday, June 17 – Wednesday, June 19 for a series of events to feature a pop-up shop, customization workshops, and, of course, a party or two. For more information about events in D.C. (and New York!), see the events section below. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to stay updated!

This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

U.S. bans cruises to Cuba in bid to pressure the island’s government out of Venezuela, Rubio says travel restrictions to Cuba are fulfillment of Bolton’s promise

The possibility for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba via cruise ship ended abruptly on Tuesday after the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced additional travel restrictions. The new rules come on the heels of an April speech delivered by President Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, in which he announced the administration would take steps to “limit non-family travel” to Cuba. A June 4, 2019 Department of Commerce statement outlining the new sanctions states, “private and corporate aircraft, cruise ships, sailboats, fishing boats, and other similar aircraft and vessels generally will be prohibited from going to Cuba.”  Senator Marco Rubio (FL) tweeted his support for the administration’s decision on Wednesday by stating that the new travel bans to Cuba show a commitment to deliver on national security promises that were made during Bolton’s aforementioned speech in Miami-Dade county in April. Bolton’s remarks gave new life to the Monroe Doctrine and categorized Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua as a “troika of tyranny,” as was reported by CDA on April 19, 2019. Rubio also wrote, “regime insiders know [Maduro] can’t hang on much longer” in reference to his support for Trump’s bans that he sees as a direct response to the role that the Cuban government plays in support of Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro.

Cuba/US scientific cooperation declines under Trump

Despite the fact the Trump administration’s new regulations on U.S. travel to Cuba do not directly affect academic and professional travel categories, the administration’s overall Cuba policy has nevertheless made it increasingly difficult for scientists and academics to collaborate, AP reports. AP cites examples of difficulties, such as a stalled biomedical exchange program, a halt to trainings previously provided by Cuban cardiac nurses at universities in Georgia and Maryland, and visa complications which led one Cuban marine researcher to stop accepting invitations to events in the U.S. Additionally, more than 200 Cuban academics were denied visas to attend the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference in Boston this year, prompting the association to agree to meet elsewhere in the coming years. Due to the drawdown of staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana in response to still-unresolved health incidents, as was recently reported by CDA, Cubans must travel abroad to obtain visas. Many more academic visas are denied now than in the past, prompting researchers to avoid the hassle altogether. Scientific and environmental collaborations picked up pace after the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in fields such as health, biomedical research and marine-protected areas—the latter which is of importance due to endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico shared by U.S. and Cuba—but have recently dwindled.

Cruise line Carnival seeks dismissal of U.S. lawsuits over Cuba docks, Claims under Cuban seized-property law are fewer than expected

The first lawsuit since the Trump Administration allowed Title III of the Helms-Burton Act to come into effect was filed against Carnival Cruise Lines at the end of May, according to Reuters. Title III allows Americans to sue entities in U.S. court for “trafficking” in properties nationalized during the Cuban Revolution. The cruise line is attempting to challenge the suit on the basis that their cruises constitute as “lawful travel to Cuba” and also by contesting the property ownership of the claimants. Reuters reports the defining question will be whether or not the cruise line has facilitated tourism.

Overall, lawsuits filed under Title III have been fewer than expected, according to NBC News. Initially predicted to number in the hundreds of thousands, now experts predict that suits will number anywhere from a dozen to a few hundred due to the costs of litigation and the numerous eligibility factors, such as the value of the property when seized, how the property is being used, whether the company using it has significant assets in the U.S., and whether the claimant has original ownership documents. Even if fewer suits are filed than predicted, the litigation is still likely to send a signal to investors about the unpredictability of Cuba’s investment market, delivering a blow to foreign investment.

Report: Cuban spy documents target security at Miami’s airport. MIA says no breach.

Miami International Airport is investigating a possible breach of airport security codes that were published on the website CiberCuba and thought to be gathered by “Cuban intelligence services,” the Miami Herald reports. The operation that gathered the information supposedly took place from 2015 to 2017 and published codes granting access to restricted areas of the airport. According to the Miami-Dade County aviation director, the information leaked in the documents was not credible and did not pose a security threat, but the FBI would nevertheless look into the leak.

IN CUBA

Cuba presents femicide statistics for the first time

Havana Times reports that, for the first time in decades, Cuba’s government has provided femicide statistics. In their first national report to the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development about the implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Cuba’s government recognized that in 2016 there was a rate of 0.99 femicides per 100 Cuban females aged 15 and over. The national report also included the results of a National Survey on Gender Equality from 2016 that stated in the 12 months preceding the survey 26.7% of women suffered violence in an intimate relationship, while another 39.6% said that they had been a victim of violence in an intimate relationship at some point in their life. As reported by Havana Times, these acknowledgements by Cuba’s government demonstrate that it is listening to victims of gender-based violence and recognizing the problem, which is the first step towards providing support and finding a solution.

“Lower internet prices,” Cubans demand on Twitter

Hundreds of Cubans participated on Saturday in a “tweet protest” against the high Internet prices offered by the only telecommunications company in the country, ETECSA, OnCuba news reports. According to data gathered from 230 countries by Cable, a UK broadband company, Cuba is ranked the 185th most expensive country based on price of internet data. The report states that the average price of 1GB of internet in the island nation is $12.37. In Cuba, some internet package deals include 600MB for 7 CUC and 4GB of Internet for 30 CUC, which is equivalent to the average monthly salary of a professional working for the Cuban state. Cuba is a signatory to the Connect 2020 Agenda which states that “in developing countries, 50% of individuals should use the Internet” or “have access” to the Internet in their homes. Furthermore, as agreed to in the Agenda, “broadband services should not cost more than 5% of the average monthly income” of citizens in each country. The uproar on Twitter against Internet prices in Cuba brings to question whether or not Cuba will be able to achieve these goals by 2020. In response to this public conversation, the Inventory Project reported that at least 1,200 users generated more than 9,000 tweets through using the #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet (#LowerInternetPrices) hashtag. In recent months, Cubans have also turned to social networks such as WhatsApp and Telegram to organize groups to locate food and other products and convene marches such as those for animal protection and LGBTQ rights, both of which were recently reported by CDA here and here, respectively.

Cuban drug HeberFeron: eight times more effective against skin cancer

OnCuba News reports on HeberFeron, a drug produced by the Cuban Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. According to a recent study released during a scientific event in Holguin, this drug has proven to be eight times more effective than similar medicines used for the remission of basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. The application of this drug reduces tumoral mass of this cancer and allows patients to avoid complex surgeries on the nose, ears, and eyelids, areas where the cancer often appears. The use of HeberFeron is widespread across the country.

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

Trump’s Cuba gambit pushes Canadian Miner Sherritt to the brink

Bloomberg reports that Sherritt International Corporation, a Canadian mining company which gets all its revenue from assets in Cuba, is being hit on multiple fronts by the Trump administration’s policy toward Cuba, plunging nickel prices, and cost overruns. As the first company to be banned from the United States under the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, Sherritt executives and shareholders have deliberately avoided presence in the United States. Over the past two decades, Sherritt prospered as U.S. relations with Cuba thawed and commodity prices soared. Their revenue jumped to almost C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) a decade ago, while the stock traded as high as C$18 in 2007, Bloomberg reports. This progress has been recently overshadowed by tightening of Cuba policy under the Trump administration, as was reported by CDA. The increase of U.S. sanctions against Cuba this year has resulted in the island nation being unable to pay Sherritt for the energy it produces in foreign currency and has caused bondholders to sell the company’s debt. Since then, the company’s stock has dropped 99% amid a series of failed projects and heightened country risk. The company’s bonds are now trading at about 30 Canadian cents, according to multiple portfolio managers. Furthermore, concerns about global growth have knocked the price of nickel down 24% over the last year, reducing the amount of cash Sherritt receives from markets outside of Cuba. Given this situation, investors are starting to question the company’s viability.

EU: Cuba should respond to US pressure by opening economy

During a meeting of Cuban officials with diplomats and executives from European firms with operations in the country, Ambassador Alberto Navarro—the EU’s envoy to Cuba—offered advice on how to respond to the United States’ moves to tighten the embargo on the island. According to Agencia EFE, Ambassador Navarro stated the Cuban government should turn a negative into a positive by liberalizing the economy. He believes that beyond criticizing U.S. legislation and actions targeting Cuba, Cuba should take this opportunity “to improve the security of investments, to facilitate trade and investment. And on that, the European Union will be with [Cuba’s government].” This message comes after the EU threatened U.S. companies with asset seizures over the implementation of the Helms-Burton Act, as was recently reported by CDA. In response to this, Cuba’s Deputy Minister of External Trade and Foreign Investment, Antonio Luis Carricarte, said that Havana “appreciates and recognizes the commitment and support” of EU-based firms in the face of growing U.S. hostility. Collectively, the EU member-states are Cuba’s principal trading partner, with exchanges of 2.6 billion euros ($2.9 billion), as well as the largest source of direct foreign investment on the island.

Bolivia and Cuba sign agreements for food exports and agricultural cooperation (article in Spanish)

Representatives of Cuba and Bolivia’s government met in Cuba for the third meeting of the Working Group for Economic Complementarity, Cubadebate reports. During this meeting, Bolivian representatives agreed to export beef, chicken and powdered milk to Cuba, in addition to increase cooperation with Cuba in the agricultural sector. The representatives also signed another contract of more than $12 million agreeing to export wood, urea (an organic component of human urine) and fabric. The agreement established that Cuba’s Trading Company of Raw Materials and Intermediate Products would import hardwood stringers from Bolivia for crossbars in railway lines. Cuba would also import cotton for the Cuban sock factory Mediatex and urea for the Cuban Company exporter for Chemical Products. In a similar fashion, Bolivia would commercialize tubular polypropylene fabric from the Cuban Light Industry Importer Company.

Russia will provide assistance to Cuba as one of its main regional allies—official/ Russia, Cuba seek to strengthen cooperation in agriculture

On June 4, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and Vice President of the Cuban Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas met to discuss the difficulties posed by U.S. sanctions on Cuba and the continuation of Russian support for the island, reports TASS. Cuba is one of Russia’s closest allies in Latin America. Borisov pledged any and all of Russian support to Cuba during this time of bilateral tension between the United States and Cuba. Moscow supports certain energy and transport projects that are important for the Cuban economy. The meeting left the door open to discussing significant increases in trade turnover between Russia and Cuba. On Tuesday, in an indication that Cuban and Russia are open to furthering bilateral relations, Russian Minister of Agriculture, Dmitry Patrushev, and Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s Vice Minister, met to discuss strengthening cooperation and trade in the agricultural sector, Prensa Latina reports.

Angola’s FM pays official visit to Cuba

Angola’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Manuel Domingo Augusto paid an official visit to Cuba on Tuesday, according to Prensa Latina. During his time there, Augusto met with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez and visited the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Angola and Cuba established diplomatic relations during the Cold War. Over 800 Cuban health specialists currently serve in Angola. More than 2,000 Angolan students are currently being trained in Cuba and, since the establishment of their partnership, almost 8,000 Angolan students have graduated from Cuban institutions.

RECOMMENDED READINGS

Why Is Trump Assaulting Americans’ Freedom to Travel to Cuba?, Peter Kornbluh, The Nation

Peter Kornbluh analyzes the Trump administration’s new travel regulations, explaining how they reflect a backtracking to Cold War rhetoric, sacrifice the good of the U.S. and Cuban people for electoral politics, and infringe on the freedom of U.S. citizens.

The Fallout Of The Trump Administration’s New Restrictions On Travel To Cuba, Ari Shapiro interviews Collin Laverty and Camilo Condis, NPR

NPR interviews Collin Laverty of Cuba Educational Travel and Cuban private business owner Camilo Condis on the effects of the Trump Administration’s new travel regulations, specifically, how they will impact Cuba’s private sector.

Venezuela’s Two Presidents Collide, Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker

Juan Guaidó’s uprising, backed by the U.S., failed to depose Nicolás Maduro—but his supporters remain loyal. Will the country’s divisions lead to an international crisis? This article provides background on the political, social and economic strife in Venezuela. The Trump administration imposed the most recent restrictions on Cuba as a response to Cuba’s involvement in Venezuela. This article presents the case that countries like Russia and China have been supporting Maduro’s military regime, yet have not been punished as harshly by the U.S. government as has Cuba.

Under the Tent with the Cuban National Circus, André Chung, The Washington Post Magazine

André Chung was teaching photojournalism at a photography workshop in Matanzas, Cuba when he stumbled across an old theatre being used as practice space by circus performers. This led him to document the performers’ culture, not only in Matanzas, but also in Havana.

From Havana To Harvard: Producer Pablo D. Herrera Veitia On Connecting Cuba To The U.S. Through Hip-Hop, Micaela Kimball, WBUR

For the past year, produce Pablo D. Herrera Veitia has been spending his days and nights in Harvard’s Hip-hop Archive and Research Institute, making a place for Afro-Cuban hip-hop in the archive. Despite the decades-long embargo against Cuba and Cuba’s restriction on media access, Herrera Veitia is working to help hip-hop tell a story of cultural communication between the two nations.

Cuba is not intimidated by measures adopted to reinforce the blockade, Granma English

Granma publishes a Revolutionary Government Declaration that makes the assertion that Cuba will not be intimidated by the recent measures implemented by the U.S. to reinforce the embargo. The article makes the case that Cuba’s involvement in Venezuela is the newest excuse for the U.S. to reinvigorate the Monroe Doctrine to deny Cuba its sovereignty. It also highlights that people, industries and businesses not only in Cuba, but also the U.S., will be negatively affected by the new restrictions.

EVENTS

Actually, I’m in New York, Clandestina pop-up shop, June 4 – June 24, The Canvas by Querencia Studio, Brooklyn, NY

Cuba’s first independent clothing brand Clandestina will hold its first U.S. pop-up shop in New York.

Actually, I’m in Washington, DC, Clandestina pop-up shop, June 17-19, Dacha Loft, Washington, DC

Join CDA and Clandestina, Cuba’s first independent clothing brand, for a pop-up shop in Washington, DC! Shop Clandestina’s clothing and accessories collection Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (June 17, 18, and 19) afternoons/evening , bring your own shirt and silkscreen it with a Clandestina design or have Clandestina rebuild and customize it on the evening of the 18th, and join us for a closing event featuring live music by Cuban artists on the 19th. All events will be held at Dacha Loft. Follow CDA on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for event updates!

Bobby Ramirez CUBANJAM, June 12, Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, Miami, FL

CUBAOCHO Museum & Performing Art Center presents traditional music of Cuba hosted by Bobby Ramirez CUBANJAM band performing Mambo, Cha Cha Cha, Boloro, Rumba, Danzon, Charanga, Son Montuno, Guajira, Guaracha, Afro-Cuban celebrating the music of: Celia Cruz, Beny More, Arsenio Rodriguez, Jose Fajardo, Desi Arnaz, Perez Prado, Ernesto Lecuona, Ignacio Cervantes, Manuell Saumell, Miguel Matamoro, and other legends of traditional Cuban music. Musicians can join and jam with the band. Free admission!

Rafael Soriano: Cabezas (Heads) opening reception, June 20, Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC

The Art Museum of the Americas will host the traveling exhibition “Cabezas (Heads)” by Cuban-born artist Rafael Soriano, whose biomorphic, abstract, surrealist-like style is attributed to his exile from Cuba in the 1960’s.

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!

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