U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 09/06/2019

Dear Friends,

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

U.S. Treasury Department changes regulations on remittances to Cuba

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control took an additional step in the implementation of President Trump’s 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) Strengthening the Policy of the United States Towards Cuba by amending Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The regulations were previewed in an April speech by National Security Advisor John Bolton, and will place a $1,000 USD cap on family remittances to Cuba per quarter per individual remitter, and prohibit remittances to “close family members of prohibited Cuban officials and members of the Cuban Communist Party.” In the press release, OFAC notes it is adding a provision authorizing remittances to certain individuals and independent non-governmental organizations in Cuba “to support the operation of economic activity in the non-state sector by self-employed individuals, in light of the NSPM’s policy to encourage the growth of the Cuban private sector independent of government control.” The new regulations also prohibit donative remittances and “U-turn” transactions. “U-turn” transactions occur when a bank within U.S. jurisdiction is involved in a transaction that begins or is completed outside the U.S. In a press statement following the April announcement of these new measures, CDA’s Executive Director Emily Mendrala stated that “Capping remittances is mean-spirited, and can only be understood as the U.S. government’s attempt to create economic hardship among the Cuban people.”

More Cubans seek asylum in Mexico amid clampdown on legal path to US

The number of Cuban migrants that have turned to Mexico’s asylum system amid tighter U.S. asylum policies is growing, The Guardian reports. Cubans made up 10 percent of migrants seeking asylum in Mexico during the first half of 2019, compared to one percent in 2018. Like other migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, some Cubans are now subjected to lengthy stays in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as the “remain in Mexico policy”) as they await immigration proceedings. El Paso Times reports that thousands of Cuban migrants wait in Juarez, which has consistently ranked as one of the most violent cities in the world, awaiting their first crossing or living in hotels for extended amounts of time as they await their turn to appear before a U.S. immigration judge.

In the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, kidnappers take advantage of the vulnerable position of migrants as they await their U.S. immigration hearings in Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reports. Armed criminals have been known to watch at bus stations and migrant shelters specifically targeting Cuban migrants, Los Angeles Times reports, because Cuban migrants’ U.S. families will likely pay the high ransom payments.

Until 2017, Cuban migrants benefited from preferential immigration treatment through the Wet-Foot Dry-Foot policy that was terminated under the Obama administration. Even without a guaranteed path to citizenship upon arrival, Cuban migrants continue to show up at the U.S.-Mexico border and are doing so in increasing numbers, as we reported previously.

Another Florida judge rules against Carnival shipping company for cruises to Cuba

Last week, Miami Judge James Lawrence King ruled that a Title III Helms-Burton Act (LIBERTAD Act) lawsuit brought against Carnival Cruise Line by Javier Garcia-Bengochea, who has claims on Santiago de Cuba piers, could move forward, despite Carnival’s request that the case be dismissed. This week, Judge Beth Bloom, also a federal judge in Miami, ruled that a separate but similar suit against Carnival, brought by Havana Docks Corp, could also move forward, OnCuba reports. Carnival argued that Havana Docks Corp did not have a title to the property when the nationalization occurred, but according to Judge Bloom, “Havana Docks did not need to be in possession of the property’s management for the ‘trafficking’ to occur.”

On Wednesday, following the decisions by the two federal judges in Miami, five additional Title III lawsuits were filed against companies that facilitated cruise travel to the island. Like the other suits, they allege that the cruise companies used the disputed property and request compensation.

Lawsuit against Meliá for hotels in Cuba shelved

A Spanish court shelved a Title III Helms-Burton Act (LIBERTAD Act) lawsuit against the Spanish hotel chain Meliá Hotels International S.A. for allegedly trafficking in property that was expropriated in Cuba, OnCuba reports. According to the judge, “Spain does not have international jurisdiction for its courts to resolve lawsuits on properties located outside of its territory.” The judge added that the suit was not related to the agreement between Meliá and the Cuban company, Gaviota S.A. that owns the land that several Meliá hotels sit on, but rather, the legality of the property title that Cuba holds for the land. The defendants in the case are heirs of former sugar estate owner Rafael Lucas Sánchez Hill, who owned the land in Cuba before it was expropriated.

Díaz-Canel criticizes U.S. attacks against Cuban medical missions

Last weekend, Cuba’s president Miguel Díaz-Canel used social media to criticize attempts by the U.S. to undermine the reputation of its medical missions abroad, referring to the “honorable history,” of such missions. In January 2019, Senators Menendez and Rubio introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate that would qualify Cuba’s foreign medical missions as a form of human trafficking. In August, the U.S. announced it was imposing visa restrictions on Cuban officials involved in this program. Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released a request for proposals for organizations to collect data related to human rights violations of Cuban doctors working abroad. Cuba’s Foreign Ministry condemned the USAID program and the way the U.S. government attempts to pressure other governments involved in the program. The program is one of Cuba’s main sources of income.

IN CUBA

Cuba unveils tighter rules on cooperatives in clampdown on non-state sector; Economías diseñadas para el control no producen desarrollo (IN SPANISH)

Last Friday, Cuba announced new regulations on non-agricultural cooperatives, Reuters reports. The changes freeze the creation of new cooperatives, and, although the document states that, going forward,  prices will be determined by the market (supply and demand), it also gives the government control mechanisms over the amount that cooperatives can charge for some goods and services and pay their directors, and it establishes limits to the number of partners they can have. The new regulations also limit construction cooperatives to the provincial level but allow other types of service to be offered nationally, such as the repairing and restoration of machines for textile production, technology equipment, weighing equipment, equipment for refrigeration and climate control, and aluminum carpentry equipment. The new regulations are intended to cutdown on “irregularities,” such as hiring excess employees and conducting activities outside a cooperative’s mandate. Some economists suggest that through these changes, Cuba intends to assert more control over the island’s growing private sector; others, quoted by Progreso Semanal, criticized the government for ignoring the context in which these cooperatives have developed — with limited legal frameworks and an unsteady economy — that has caused some of the “irregularities” cited by the new regulations. Others suggest this could be an experiment to establish alternatives to small and mid-size enterprises in Cuba, which are not yet legal in Cuba.

Currently these non-agricultural cooperatives are considered experimental. According to official data published this week, there are more than 400 functioning across the island, compared to the initial 126 constituted in 2012. However, Progreso Semanal cites an analysis based on official data and published in February by the Inventory Project–an independent media outlet–that indicates how the freeze, albeit not official at the time, was already happening. The analysis shows that in 2018 only two non-agricultural cooperatives were approved and that the approval rates have declined since 2015.

Read the original publication here.

The archbishop of San Cristóbal de La Habana, new cardinal

Pope Francis announced on Sunday that Monsignor Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez, along with 13 others, will be named a Cardinalearly this October, OnCuba reports. He became the Archbishop of San Cristóbal de La Habana in 2016, replacing Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino who passed away earlier this year. He will be among 10 other new Cardinals under 80 years of age.

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

Cuba and the EU hold talks in Havana

Talks will be held by the EU-Cuba Joint Council on September 9 in Havana, Prensa Latina reports. Discussions will cover the Helms Burton Act (LIBERTAD ACT) and its effects, trade, investment, and the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Cuba, according to Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez.

Cuba sending doctors, educators to Bahamas after Dorian

Ismara Vargas, Cuba’s Ambassador to the Bahamas shared on Wednesday that Cuba has sent 60 workers, a mix of doctors and teachers, to the Bahamas to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Telesur English reports. They will assist with emergency relief and the rebuilding of medical and educational services in the Bahamas.

RECOMMENDED READINGS, AND VIEWINGS

Gail Reed of the journal MEDICC Review recently commented on the New York Times article “Zika was soaring across Cuba, few outside the country knew.” According to Reed, “the very title of the NY Times piece raises the false spectre of a ‘hidden’ Zika crisis in Cuba (and in the process provides one more reason US people should avoid travel there)….They speculated on no information, a lack of any contact or collaboration with Cuban or Latin American researchers, or even an attempt to clarify with [the Pan American Health Organization] PAHO. As clarified, the cases were indeed reported…and nowhere near the up to 20K+ that the CELL [journal’s] authors’ modeling supposed might…but never…happened.”

5 Food Thoughts: From Cuba to Utah with Adalberto Diaz, Salt Lake’s baker extraordinaire, Court Mann, Deseret News

Adalberto Diaz, the Cuban-born baker and founder and head of the Utah bakery Fillings & Emulsions, whose culinary creations have garnered attention from The Food Network, originally began baking in Cuba when he was 9 years old. It was there that he learned from his two grandmothers how to make do without a stove; he has cooked cakes and even eclairs in a pressure cooker. For five years in his 20’s he ran a bakery in Cuba, quietly taking orders because private businesses were still not permitted at the time. Diaz initially came to the U.S. seeking asylum, and spent time at an immigration processing center, of which he says “the conditions were horrible.” His experience was likely what prompted him to partner with the non-profit Texas Civil Rights Project, to raise money at bake sales to assist separated families. Now he runs a thriving business, with a menu featuring Cuban-inspired desserts.

Trump opens door to restitution claims on art seized by Cuba, David D’Arcy, The Art Newspaper

Under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act (LIBERTAD Act), claimants can sue not only for property, but also for art confiscated during the Revolution, though lawsuits of this nature have yet to be filed, The Art Newspaper reports. Collectors have expressed interest in recovering artwork and penalizing those trading the confiscated pieces. The Fanjul family, who owned sugar plantations on the island that were seized along with artwork, attempted to use Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act to enact visa penalties on Sotheby’s, a multinational art dealer company, when they discovered that the company sought to authenticate one of the family’s missing pieces. Auschwitz survivor Olga Lengyel, and later the foundation that inherited her estate, filed claims with the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the U.S. Justice Department hoping to recover the art she once owned while living in Havana, including works by Picasso, Degas, and Van Gogh. Nothing became of these claims, however. Guillermo Marmol, whose family owned works by Diego Rivera, meanwhile, chose to cooperate with Sotheby’s and another firm that dealt his family’s art rather than file a lawsuit. He doesn’t believe it is likely that Title III claims on artwork will result in the recovery of pieces.

Backstreet Boys wants to give concert in Cuba, OnCuba

In a Youtube video, the 90’s pop group the Backstreet Boys shared that they are interested in performing in Cuba, OnCuba reports. Two of the group’s members visited Cuba in 2002, where they were surprised to learn of their popularity among Cubans. They also mentioned their interest in playing in Cuba at the time.

Trip to Cuba reveals a paradise for photojournalism class, Celia Raney, Albuquerque Journal

Students from the University of New Mexico enrolled in the photojournalism class “Camera, Culture and Cuba” traveled to Cuba, where they experienced the island in all its beauty and contradictions, grappling with limited wifi, water shortages, crumbling infrastructure right alongside newly built tourist hotels, the lively street life, Cuban healthcare, and more as they documented their view of the island.

EVENTS

IN THE U.S.

Weaponizing Justice: Rule of Law and Cuba’s New Constitution, September 11, The Inter-American Dialogue Washington, D.C.

The Inter-American Dialogue will host an event exploring the administration of justice in Cuba, with a particular focus on Cuba’s new constitution and rights and rule of law on the island. Speakers include past Center for Democracy in the Americas fellow Luis Carlos Battista, and Caitlin Kelly of the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights.

Baseball Dreams, September 13-14, Seminole Theatre, Homestead, Florida

The short story “Baseball Dreams” by Cuban American Ana Menendez will come alive onstage via “dramatic curation,” including “spoken word, drama, music, movement and video,” through What If Works, a non-profit community arts organization.

Amigo Skate Film Screening, September 22, Roxie Theater, San Francisco, California

Amigo Skate, the film, documents Amigo Skate, the organization, which is a collective that works to provide skateboards and skateboard repair to Cubans, particularly youth. They also opened Cuba’s first Skateboard School, and generally work to empower youth and seek government recognition for skateboarding as a sport, which remains illegal on the island.

Screening & Discussion: Viva El Vedado, September 24, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, City University of New York, New York, New York

The film “Viva El Vedado” traces the architectural history of the Vedado neighborhood in Havana from the 19th century to the Revolution.

Cuba and Beyond Series: Cuba and China: The Trouble with Trust, September 24, Columbia University, New York, New York

The Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University will present a talk by Professor Adrian H. Hearn of the University of Melbourne on Cuba-China relations and his book “Diaspora and Trust: Cuba, Mexico, and the Rise of China,” which can be downloaded for free here.

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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