U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 08/09/2019

Dear Friends,

This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

The Cuban government will fight Exxon over an expropriation case in a U.S. courtroom

U.S. multinational oil company ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit in May of 2019 under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act (the LIBERTAD Act) seeking compensation for an oil refinery expropriated by Cuba’s government in 1960, the Miami Herald reports. Exxon is seeking $280 million according to France 24. Cuba’s government announced that it will defend itself against the suit in U.S. federal court; the firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lierman, which is based in New York, will represent the two Cuban state oil companies being sued, CIMEX S.A. and the Cuba Petroleum Union (CUPET). ExxonMobil was the first U.S.-based company to sue Cuba under the Helms-Burton Act, Reuters reports, and it is among a total of nine suits overall filed under the Act so far, according to the Miami Herald.

Miami’s biggest new wave of immigrants looks a lot like its previous ones

Miami continues to boast a booming population of Cuban migrants, the Miami Herald reports. In 2017, Cuban migrants accounted for 25.7 percent of the county’s population, up from 23.5 percent in 2010. The Obama-era end of the U.S.’s Wet-Foot Dry-Foot migration policy for Cubans has not led to a significant decrease of Cubans arriving in Miami, though it has led to a drop in the number of Cubans arriving by sea. Miami remains the top destination for Cubans in the U.S., and Cuban migrants are more often approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if their case is adjudicated there, according to Miami Immigration lawyer Wilfredo Allen. Additionally, despite the end of Wet-Foot Dry-Foot, the Cuban Adjustment Act still allows for Cubans to apply for residency after residing in the U.S. for one year. Major Cuban migration to the U.S. isn’t new, but, according to the article, migrants arriving today are more representative of Cuba’s population as a whole than those who arrived in prior eras.

IN CUBA

Cuba reveals health, hotel, other service earnings

Last Friday, Cuba released information on its foreign exchange revenue from certain service sectors such as telecommunications and hotels, Reuters reports. Cuba’s government has previously failed to release this information, which irked creditors and made it difficult for foreign businesses to assess the risks of partnering with Cuba in these areas. Cuba’s largest revenue producing export in 2018 were services, with health services at the top of the list, valued at $6.4 billion dollars. Overall, foreign exchange earnings are declining, likely as a result of stricter U.S. sanctions and the crisis in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s top allies. The Cuban government already estimated that tourism to Cuba will drop 8.5 percent from 2018 to 2019.

Higher tariffs for landing and parking of airplanes in Havana

On Monday, the Cuban Ministry of Transportation raised the cost of certain aeronautical services–such as parking and landing–in Havana to correspond with those in the international arena, Havana Live reports. Flights that enter into Cuban airspace will be subject to the new rates, with the exception of those “that have signed reciprocity agreements that grant equal benefit to the Cuban aircraft.”

Wind power in Cuba: Wind turbines towers will be manufactured in Las Tunas

A company in Las Tunas will soon be equipped to manufacture towers for wind turbines, among other materials such as “tanks, ducts, chimneys, and silos,” according to Reve. The Paco Cabrera Metallic structures Company (METUNAS) was able to achieve this manufacturing capacity through cooperation with China. Wind turbines could help supplement Cuba’s energy supply, which is currently struggling from aging infrastructure, the impact of U.S. sanctions, and the crisis in Venezuela. Fuel shortages and electrical outages have sparked concern of a second Special Period among the Cuban people. The Special Period in Times of Peace was announced in the 1990’s as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union; Cuba’s GDP dropped by 35 percent, and the economic downturn resulted in severe shortages of food, fuel, and other necessities, as well as blackouts. Cuba’s former president, Raúl Castro announced in April of this year that Cuba would face shortages, but that the country would not be entering another Special Period.

Varadero wagers on more Russian tourism

Russia’s Royal Flight airline will begin service every ten days beginning on August 10 to Cuba’s Varadero airport, OnCuba reports, providing Russian tourists with direct access to Cuba’s famed Varadero beach and resorts. Russians make up the second greatest volume of visitors to Varadero, with Canadians making up the greatest. Of Cuba’s foreign tourism markets, its Russian market has been one of the most rapidly growing markets over the past few years.

RECOMMENDED READINGS, AND VIEWINGS

Cuba vs. Venezuela: Not all sanctions are created equal, Nora Gámez Torres, Antonio Maria Delgado, and Jim Wyss, Miami Herald

While some experts and outlets refer to new sanctions on business dealings with the Venezuelan government as an embargo, this Miami Herald article makes the case that measures against Venezuela do not constitute an embargo. The article explains the differences between the embargo on Cuba, one of the most well-known U.S. embargos, and the Venezuela sanctions.

How Have External Factors Hurt Cuba’s Energy Sector?, The Inter-American Dialogue

The Inter-American Dialogue features a Q&A with experts about Cuba’s energy sector, including the causes of recent electricity outages, fuel shortages, and the impact of Venezuela’s crisis and U.S. sanctions on Cuba’s ability to update its infrastructure, import oil, and become more energy efficient.

Building Ag Trade With Cuba is a Long Road, Dave Kurns, Successful Farming Magazine

Paul Johnson, chair of the United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba sees opportunities in Cuba for U.S. farmers, Successful Farming Magazine reports. Rice, frozen chicken, wheat, corn, soy, and even chicken feed make up the list of U.S. commodities that Johnson says might have a market in Cuba. Cuba imports $2 billion dollars worth of food each year, and currently the U.S. only accounts for 10 percent of that. The U.S. is able to provide high quality goods more quickly due to its geological proximity, making the products cheaper for consumers. Currently, the fact that Cuba cannot purchase goods on credit from the U.S. due to the U.S. embargo is a significant obstacle, states the author. While there are currently agricultural projects in-progress between the two countries, including one to increase potato production and an attempt to bring Holstein cows to the island to increase dairy production, Johnson still sees more opportunity and criticizes the embargo.

No red carpet for Cuban migrants to U.S., Peter McKenna, Winnipeg Free Press

In an Op-ed in the Winnipeg Free Press, Professor Peter McKenna of the University of Prince Edward Island explains that the focus on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border has mainly been on Central American migrants, but that another growing cohort of migrants has been arriving: Cubans. He argues that the combination of the Obama-era end of Wet-Foot Dry-Foot policy for Cubans, coupled with the Trump administration’s Cuba policies restricting trade and travel have led to a dramatic reversal in the kind of welcome that Cubans can expect at the U.S. border. Where Cubans were previously granted preferential treatment allowing them to gain citizenship more quickly than other migrants, now they are treated like any other migrant arriving at the border; many are deported or forced to await their immigration hearings in Mexico. As Cubans react to the country’s economic crisis by, in some cases, migrating to the U.S. through Mexico, this shift in how they are welcomed to the U.S. has caused frustration.

Magic grannies are stopping Cuba going hungry, Anastasia Miari, 1843 Magazine

Despite food shortages and long lines for rationed foods such as pork, the older generation of women in Cuba has managed to make do with a varying variety of available ingredients, 1843 Magazine reports. These women hope that their grandchildren will have enough to eat, but do fear the repercussions of U.S. sanctions and the crisis in Venezuela and what this will mean for food availability.

You can still plan and operate tours to Cuba, Mark Pestronk, Travel Weekly

Travel Weekly features a Q&A explaining how U.S. citizens can still travel to Cuba through the “Support for the Cuban People” category, including what kinds of activities and schedule one should keep.

Havana’s first carnival at sea, Otmaro Rodríguez Díaz, OnCuba

Last Saturday, in celebration of the city’s 500th anniversary, Havana held its first “aquatic carnival,” OnCuba reports. Small, decorated boats with dancers onboard sailed through the bay and various cultural activities were held. The celebration came before Havana’s regular carnival which will be held later this month.

Despite the bad press, Havana remains safe for diplomats

Cuba’s ambassador to the U.S., José R. Cabañas, writes in a letter to the editor published in the Washington Post that Havana is still a safe city for U.S. diplomats and travelers despite fears surrounding the health incidents that affected U.S. and Canadian embassy personnel in the island’s capital beginning in 2017. Cabañas explains that the U.S. has yet to establish that the symptoms experienced are attributed to anything outside pre-existing conditions. He urges the U.S. “to stop using this issue as a pretext to impose more unilateral measures against Cuba’s integrity, economy, and people.”

EVENTS

Carmen: To Havana & Back, July 5-August 10, Public Arts 215 Chystie St. New York, NY

New York’s hottest new immersive show, Carmen: To Havana & Back, reimagines the Bizet opera as set inside a 1950s evening at Havana’s famous Tropicana Club, according to the Forbes article, “Party like it’s 1950s Cuba in New York’s New Immersive Show: Carmen, To Havana & Back.” The show is the brainchild of Kaitana Magno, who conceived the idea while on a trip to Cuba.

FREE Cimafunk Concert, August 22, Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT

Don’t miss Cuba’s hottest music phenomenon, Afro-Cuban funk band Cimafunk, perform for free at Real Art Ways in Connecticut this August. Cimafunk has made waves internationally and was named as one of Billboard’s “10 Latin Artists to watch in 2019.”

Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities, March 16, 2019-Sep 1, 2019, HistoryMiami Museum, Miami, FL

Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities, a new exhibition at the History Miami Museum tied to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, traces Miami’s LGBTQ history from 1890 to present, according to the New York Times article “Gay, Cuban and in love.” Within this exhibition, Casimiro González and Manuel Rodríguez’s story is brought to life. As Cuban immigrants who left the island during the Mariel boatlift fleeing the Castro regime’s persecution of queers, their story illustrates one of the many forms that Cuban immigrants shaped the city of Miami.

Iconic Cuban Illustrator Gets First Exhibition in Miami, Over 50 Years After Death, June 7, 2019-Feb 2, 2020, Miami, Florida

The Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach has opened its doors to an exhibition titled Cuban Caricature and Culture: The Art of Massaguer. The show will go on until February 2, 2020. This will be the first time that Conrado Wilson Massaguer’s artwork will be shown in the United States since 1931. His illustrations helped to cement the image of Cuba as a tropical paradise in the minds of American tourists in the first half of the 20th century.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band Announces ‘A Tuba to Cuba’ Tour, Nov 29-Dec 1, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, Maryland

Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be embarking on a Tuba to Cuba tour this coming fall. It will feature a soundtrack they created for their documentary of the same name, A Tuba to Cuba. Both their soundtrack and documentary are based on a trip they took to Cuba in 2015 to learn more about the origins of New Orleans Jazz.

Incubator of mid-century modernism, Cranbrook unites, diverse art of Detroit, Cuba, Italy, South Korea, Greece exploring decades of shared strife, June 22-Oct 6, 2019, Landlord Colors: On Art, Economy and Materiality, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

A dozen Cubans spent three months working with Reynier Leyva Novo, one of Cuba’s leading conceptual artists, to assemble garment fragments from about 80 immigrants, many remnants of the clothes worn while crossing the border, to create a brilliantly colorful rag carpet. Novo’s creation entitled Untitled (Immigrants) 2019 is an engaging artistic rendition of a Cuban cultural tradition that becomes political when put into the context of the immigration crisis.

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