U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 08/30/2019

Dear Friends,

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

Federal judge’s ruling against Carnival on Cuba cruises leads to rash of similar lawsuits

A federal judge in Miami will allow a lawsuit brought against Carnival Cruise Line under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act (LIBERTAD Act) to advance, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday. The lawsuit was the first to be filed under Title III after the Trump administration allowed the Act to go into effect. Carnival sought to have the suit dismissed on the assertion that the company followed U.S. Department of Treasury guidelines for doing business with Cuba. Javier Garcia-Bengochea, who filed the lawsuit, filed additional lawsuits on Tuesday after the ruling, including ones against Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., Royal Caribbean International, and MSC cruises, according to the Miami Herald. In addition, Mikael Behn of Havana Docks Corp. filed lawsuits against Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Holdings Ltd. Although experts speculated that Helms-Burton lawsuits would be numerous, up until recently there have been few. Attorney Don Hayden of the law firm Mark Migdal & Hayden commented in June to Law.com’s Daily Business Review that “There are few, if any, clear precedents, and many are waiting on the sidelines to see how the courts will decide these cases.” If current suits make headway, progress may inspire others to file.

IN CUBA

Cuba starts process for parliament to elect new government

On Tuesday, the process of creating the committee which will present future candidates for the positions of Cuba’s president and vice president began with the presentation of members of the National Candidacy Commission, OnCuba reports. Before October, the National Assembly will elect the president and vice president of the Republic and the remaining members of the Council of State. The country’s electoral law, guided by Cuba’s new constitution, was presented in parliament in June and approved in July. The new constitution and electoral law dictate that, once the president is elected, he will designate the prime minister.

Zika Was Soaring Across Cuba. Few Outside the Country Knew

According to a recently published article in the peer reviewed scientific journal Cell, Cuba suffered from a previously unreported Zika outbreak in 2017, the New York Times reports. The outbreak occurred after the November 2016 World Health Organization announcement that Zika “was no longer a public health emergency.” Officials at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) told the New York Times that they failed to tally cases reported by Cuban officials due to a glitch that prevented information from being displayed on PAHO’s website. Experts previously thought that, while other Caribbean countries experienced widespread outbreaks in 2017, Cuba’s renowned public healthcare system had helped it avoid a similar fate. In fact, researchers now speculate that Cuba was able to avoid a large outbreak in 2016 while the disease reached its height elsewhere in the world, but that the numbers then climbed in 2017. Researchers pieced together the information by examining blood samples from global travelers to the island.

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

Cuba asks Canada to help end U.S. sanctions on Venezuela

On Wednesday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland. During the meeting he urged Canada to assist in eliminating U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, which he called coercive, Reuters reports. Cuba and Canada have long shared a close relationship, positioning Canada as a potential mediator in the Venezuela crisis. Vice President Mike Pence recently called for Canada to engage Cuba over its support for Maduro in Venezuela.

Austria donates garbage trucks for Havana

Austria recently donated 10 garbage trucks to Havana in honor of the city’s 500th anniversary, OnCuba reports. Earlier this year, Japan donated 48 garbage trucks, with 100 slated to reach the island by the end of last month. The city has struggled to keep up with solid waste collection, but the Japanese donation alone is expected to increase Cuba’s collection capacity to 90 percent of the city’s daily solid waste output.

RECOMMENDED READINGS, AND VIEWINGS

An island without fish? Cuba aims to tackle problem with law overhaul, Sarah Marsh, Reuters

In July, Cuba enacted reforms on fishing regulations in response to dwindling fish stocks “due to overfishing and environmental factors,” according to Reuters. Illegal fishing and overfishing has impacted the industry and shrunk the already miniscule fish market on the island. Much of what is caught in Cuba is exported, and government restrictions that permit private fishermen to sell only to the state pose difficulties. For these reasons, seafood consumption on the island is very low when compared to global figures, according to Reuters. Going forward, Cuba aims to curtail illegal fishing and put in place sustainable, resilient, science-based, practices that will ensure that fish populations increase over the long term. The reforms also aim to ensure that all fishing boats meet environmental standards, which could be a challenge for vessel owners given import restrictions.

In Cuba, gamers lament what they see as the end of the island’s underground network, Carmen Sesin and Orlano Matos, NBC News

Users of Cuba’s street network known as SNet, who recently convened outside of Cuba’s Ministry of Communications in response to new regulations announced in July, remain upset about the dim outlook for the network’s future. SNet is similar to the internet in that it connects users and allows them to interact and share data, but does not require an internet connection. Users do not consider the network political, and are careful not to talk about politics, religion, or pornography. New regulations allow Cubans to create and share private networks, but not those that require the scale of equipment that SNet requires. Thus, SNet users fear its network will be dismantled. Users had prepared for a second convening on August 17, but were dissuaded by security officers. Although Cuba’s government has offered its Youth Computer Club as an alternative, according to some SNet users, it “does not have the technological capacity to connect as many users as SNet.”

Cooperative in Cuba turns plastic waste into lumber, Luis Chirino, CGTN

In the province of Matanzas, cooperative A-3 is using plastic waste that members collect and recycle to create lumber. The plastic lumber then goes on to be used in the local community, to construct benches, trash cans, and walkways. Already in Varadero, one of Cuba’s most popular tourist beach resorts, plastic lumber benches are being installed where cement ones once were.

My fellow Americans, you should visit Cuba, John R. Bawden, Seattle Times

The author tells readers that, despite travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, it is still possible for U.S. travelers to visit Cuba. Precisely because of these restrictions, travelers are funneled not into resort hotels, but to Airbnb’s, where they stay in local homes and participate in themed experiences with guides who provide insight into daily life. Experiencing Cuba in this way also helps support Cuba’s burgeoning private sector.

From med school to megastar, Cimafunk’s Afro-Cuban rhythms go international, Kristina Puga, NBC News

Erik Iglesias Rodríguez, the face of the Afro-Cuban funk phenomenon Cimafunk, was a medical student before he began writing music. Since his first concert abroad, arranged by Colombian tourists who heard and loved his music, he’s grown into an internationally recognized name with tour dates spanning the globe. According to him, the message of his music is “just happiness and enjoying yourself.”

The hidden lives of Arabs in Cuba, Alex Ray, Middle East Eye

Arab migrants have been a part of Cuba all the way from colonization to the present day, and their clothing, dances, names, architecture, food, and other cultural aspects can be found throughout the island. At one point linked by shared anti-colonial sentiment, Cuba has historically offered a safe haven for those fleeing from unrest in the Arab world.

Are Cuban physicians human trafficking victims? No way, says Brandon doctor with Havana degree., Paul Guzzo, Tampa Bay Times

Dr. Graham Sowa, born in Grapevine, Texas, attended medical school at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana through a U.S.-Cuba agreement reached in 2000 that allowed low income U.S. students to attend the school. The Latin American School of Medicine expects its students, who are all international, to return to their countries and serve underserved communities. Sowa now works at Brandon Regional Hospital in Florida, where he cares for many patients who don’t have insurance. He offers his thoughts and experiences from the vantage point of someone who studied medicine and completed his residency in Cuba.

EVENTS

IN THE U.S.

US to play Cuba in new Nations League at Washington, DC, October 11, Audi Field, Washington, D.C.

This October the U.S. Men’s National Team will play against Cuba in the The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF ) Nations League at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

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.

IN LONDON

An unprecedented exhibition of original Cuban propaganda and iconic graphic design, September 27, 2019-19 January, 2020, House of Illustration, London, England

London’s House of Illustration will host an exhibition of art produced by the Cuban political movement the Organization of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL), which has been active since 1966. The group was founded to promote socialism, communism, and unity among “third world” countries, social movements, and leaders across the globe, including the Black Panthers. The work displayed in the exhibition was produced between 1965-1992 and showcases posters in a range of bold, colorful, styles.

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