U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 09/27/2019

Dear Friends,

This October the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team will face off against Cuba at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. Join Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) at Dacha Navy Yard for a watch party! Drink specials with $10 charitable donation to CDA.

This week, in Cuba news…


Public Designation of Raul Castro, Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human Rights

The U.S. State Department announced on Thursday measures against Raúl Castro, first Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, and his children, Alejandro Castro Espín, Deborah Castro Espín, Mariela Castro Espín, and Nilsa Castro Espín, rendering them ineligible to enter the U.S. According to a State Department press release, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserts the designation, which accuses Castro of involvement in gross human rights violations, was issued due to Castro’s role in overseeing “a system that arbitrarily detains thousands of Cubans and currently holds more than 100 political prisoners,” as well as Cuba’s support for Venezuela’s Maduro and associated “gross human rights violations and abuses” in that country.

The Castro family seldom travels to the United States. Raul Castro visited the United States to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2015, but such a visit would be protected under yesterday’s designation; the designation will not affect foreign travel to the United Nations (UN), which is protected under the UN Headquarters Agreement.

Mariela Castro, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), visited the U.S. in 2012, and spoke at events in San Francisco and New York, adressing LGBTQ rights, transgender health, and HIV/AIDS prevention. She also visited Philadelphia in 2013 at the invitation of Equality Forum, which presented her with an International Ally for LGBT Equality Award.

Alejandro Castro Espin, in his role as a colonel in Cuba’s interior ministry, was involved in the negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba surrounding the reestablishment of relations under the Obama administration, though those talks took place in locations other than the United States or Cuba.

Treasury Further Targets Entities and Vessels Moving Venezuelan Oil to Cuba; Venezuela doubles down on oil exports to Cuba despite U.S. sanctions -sources

On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced that it is sanctioning four vessels (Carlota C, Sandino, Petion, and Giralt) and four entities (Caroil Transport Marine Ltd., Trocana World Inc, Trovase Development Corp, and Bluelane Overseas SA)  involved in Venezuelan oil shipments to Cuba. OFAC also delisted several entities and vessels as a result of their compliance with past sanctions.

Despite this announcement, Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA announced on Wednesday that it intends to increase crude oil shipments to Cuba, Reuters reports. The increase is intended to help mitigate Cuba’s current fuel shortage, and will involve nine vessels, two of which will depart from Venezuela this week.

Amazon Hit with Lawsuit for Trafficking in Seized Cuban Property; American and LATAM Airlines Hit With Helms-Burton Lawsuit; Meliá admits “pressures” for working in Cuba

On Thursday, Daniel A. Gonzalez filed a Helms Burton Title III Act (LIBERTAD Act) lawsuit against Amazon for selling charcoal produced on land previously owned by his grandfather in Cuba’s Oriente province, PRNewswire reports. The act allows people in the U.S. to sue companies doing business in Cuba that are profiting off of land expropriated after the 1959 Cuba revolution. The artisanal charcoal, marabu charcoal, is made from an invasive weed, and was the first Cuban export to the U.S. Because the product is produced by worker-owned cooperatives in Cuba, 2016 U.S. regulatory changes permit its export to the U.S. The first shipment arrived in January 2017 as we reported. The suit also alleges trafficking by FOGO Charcoal, a Miami company who sold the charcoal. According to FOGO’s website, as of Thursday, marabu charcoal is no longer sold by the company. The suits against Amazon and FOGO bring the number of U.S. companies facing Title III suits up to four. The other U.S. companies facing suits are American Airlines and Carnival Cruise Line.

American Airlines and LATAM Airlines fell subject to Title III suits this week, American Lawyer Media reports. We reported last week that such a suit was being prepared. José Ramón López, one of the plaintiffs, claims that his father owned what is now Jose Martí International Airport in Havana. López is also a plaintiff in the class-action Title III suit against the Spanish hotel chain Meliá.

Gabriel Escarrer Julia, president of Meliá Hotels International, recently stated that “Meliá is currently facing pressures and uncertainty to keep its commitment to Cuba active, but I want to tell you, with pride, that Cuba is part of our DNA, and is undoubtedly intimately rooted in our history,” OnCuba reports. He reiterated this during the opening of the new Meliá Varadero International Hotel. Earlier this month, a Title III Helms-Burton Act (LIBERTAD Act) lawsuit against Meliá was shelved by Spanish courts based on the fact that Spanish courts lack jurisdiction related to resolve territorial disputes outside of Spain. Spain also passed a blocking statute against Helms-Burton actions. In U.S. courts, Meliá is involved in a class-action lawsuit in which around 40 plaintiffs allege that all 34 of Meliá’s hotels in Cuba belong to ancestors of the plaintiffs, and that Meliá is trafficking in the property.

Cuban stowaway granted political asylum in the United States

Yunier García Duarte, a 26 year old worker at Havana’s airport, stowed himself in the cargo compartment of a SwiftAir flight from Miami to Cuba in August. This Tuesday he was granted political asylum by an immigration judge, according to OnCuba, though he is being detained “pending an appeal process by the U.S. federal prosecutor.” Duarte fears retribution if returned to Cuba due to his prior position at the airport where he “worked in a sensitive area…with direct access to the aircrafts’ cargo holds.”

Former Miami mayor Tomás Regalado resigns as head of Radio and TV Martí

Tomás Regalado, head of the U.S.-based Office of Cuban Broadcasting (OCB), the parent agency of Radio and TV Martí, resigned last Friday, the Miami Herald reports. According to the OCB, Regalado “supported the creation of unique content on topics not typically covered in Cuban media, including LGBTQ rights, climate change and the contributions of the Cuban-American community.” The stations have been rocked by scandals in recent months, as well as budget problems, though Regalado’s resignation statement does not reference these internal issues. A report commissioned by the U.S. Agency for Global Media alleged that the stations produced “bad journalism” and “ineffective propaganda.” The U.S. government-funded office’s mission is to “provide the Cuban people with news and information without the censorship of the [Cuban] regime.” The stations have long been criticized for spreading propaganda.

Cuba-U.S. Telecommunications Business Forum

On September 10 at Cuba’s Hotel Nacional, foreign companies, including several from the United States, along with Cuban officials, met at a telecommunications conference, Granma reports. The companies discussed telecommunications market opportunities in Cuba. Cuba aims to continue its efforts at “computerizing” the country through developing its infrastructure. Vice President of Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce, Rubén Ramos Arrieta emphasized that computerization could “improve the population’s wellbeing and economic progress.” Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3), C&W Networks, Liberty Latin America, Akerman LLP, and TransferTo and Cuba’s telecommunications company, ETECSA, were the companies in attendance.


Cuba bets on telecommuting in face of “temporary” energy crisis

Cuba intends to utilize telecommuting as a temporary measure to preserve water, electricity, and fuel, as the country faces an energy crisis, OnCuba reports. Jesús Otamendiz, Employment Director at Cuba’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security, expounded on the benefits of telecommuting and claimed that “the costs associated with food, transportation, electricity, [and] water, among other services, [will be] reduced [for] employers.”

As we reported last week, Havana has seen long queues for public transportation due to fuel shortages, long lines at gas stations, and will begin trading out tractors for oxen and gas for wood fuel. The government has also asked some employees to stay home, and has limited production at some factories and closed others. Universities will adjust their schedules to take advantage of daylight hours and may also utilize computer technology to limit face-to-face time with instructors.


Honduras, Cuba to sign deal on deporting some Cuban migrants: Honduran president

On Sunday, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced that Honduras would sign an agreement with Cuba to “immediately” return Cubans entering the country “illegally,” Reuters reports.

Honduras also signed a safe third country agreement with the U.S. on Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, “allowing the U.S. to send some asylum seekers from third countries to Honduras” in light of the large numbers of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

First German investment in Mariel Special Development Zone

Germany entered into a joint venture with Cuba in Cuba’s Mariel Special Development Zone, OnCuba reports. The venture is Germany’s first in the zone, and will be dedicated to building a factory that will produce, assemble, maintain, and repair “industrial valves, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, dynamic equipment and its components.” The enterprise is reportedly authorized to operate for a period of 30 years.

Thomas Cook Passengers and Crew ‘Held To Ransom’ In Cuba; Thomas Cook Holidaymakers and Crew ‘Can Leave’ Cuba, Says CAA

Sixty British holidaymakers and eleven flight crew members were prevented from leaving Cuba until they paid more money to their hotels for their stay, The Independent reports. On Monday, Thomas Cook, one of the oldest travel companies in the world, collapsed and went into compulsory liquidation. This left over 150,000 travelers around the globe with no set plan for their return to the UK from holiday. With the help of the British Ambassador to Cuba, repatriation flights have been arranged and Cuban hotels have been instructed to allow customers to depart without paying additional charges, BBC reports. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, more than 95% of people were brought back on their original day of departure.

Cuba and Mexico strengthen ties in higher education

Mexico and Cuba signed an agreement on Tuesday to strengthen collaboration between universities in both countries, OnCuba reports. The agreement provides for “development of actions related to Information Technology and Communication, the economy and society in general,” and “exchange of experiences between institutions.”


Explainer: What is causing Cuba’s acute shortage of fuel?, Marianna Parraga, Sarah Marsh, Reuters

Cuba’s fuel shortage is affecting public transport, universities, factories, and more. Reuters explains what led to the crisis.

Why Is Twitter Censoring Raúl Castro?, Ellery Biddle, Slate

Two weeks ago Twitter suspended Cuban media accounts, including those of figures such as Raúl Castro, Mariela Castro, and state news outlets from CubaDebate to Granma. The company later reinstated the accounts, but Raúl Castro’s account remained suspended. Biddle explores the implications of suspending one of Cuba’s top political figures.

Fidel’s Cuba is long gone, Joseph J Gonzalez, The Conversation

Cuba has undergone significant changes in the past few years. Much of this change occurred after Fidel Castro left office, as his brother Raúl instituted economic reforms that bolstered the tourism sector and allowed Cubans to run their own businesses. Gonzalez urges readers to rethink their conceptions of Cuba and to take note of “Cuba’s capitalists.”

Russia, a lifesaver for Cuba?, Duber Luis Piñeiro González, OnCuba

Cuba and Russia met earlier this month in Moscow to discuss business and bilateral ties. Recent collaboration with Russia may help Cuba weather shortages that are due, in part, to U.S. sanctions.



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. Join CDA at Dacha Navy Yard for a watch party!

THE LURE OF CUBA: Reginald Marsh’s Tropical Watercolors, 1924-1930, William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, August 23-October 13

American painter Reginald Marsh is known for his paintings of bustling New York City scenes, but his Havana scenes are more serene, more devoid of human figures, more postcard-esque. This exhibition at the University of Connecticut features not only Marsh’s paintings of Havana, but also his paintings of Florida and Puerto Rico. Read more about the exhibit here.

“Cuba: A Journey to the Heart of the Caribbean” IMAX film screening

The film “Cuba: A Journey to the Heart of the Caribbean,” designed specifically for OMNIMAX screens and filmed in association with BBC Earth, will be shown in cities across the U.S. this spring. In addition to the screenings on the BBC’s website, the Robert D. Linder Family OMNIMAX Theater in Cincinnati Ohio is currently screening the film, and The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida will feature a screening in November.

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.


Aplatanado en La Habana photo exhibition, September 19-October, Galería Carmen Montilla, Plaza San Francisco de Asís, La Habana Vieja

A photo exhibition by Patrick Oppmann, CNN international correspondent and Havana Bureau Chief, will be on display in Old Havana through October.

Irish-American Traditional Musicians at Bilateral Celebration in Havana, October 17, Havana, Cuba

Mick Moloney and the Green Fields of America will be featured at the Teatro Marti in Havana on October 17 as part of the celebration of twenty years of bilateral relations between Ireland and Cuba.   The event is sponsored by Barbara Jones, the Irish Ambassador to Mexico, also accredited to Cuba, who previously served as Ireland’s General Consul in New York.  Leaders from Dublin are expected to participate.

The Fund for Reconciliation and Development which sponsored three previous tours to Cuba by Green Fields is offering a program from October 16 to 18 that will include the concert, an escorted Irish walking tour of Old Havana, and a visit to Tarara and Bacuranao beaches where New York’s Captain Dynamite Johnny O’Brien landed supplies and soldiers in 1897 for the final war of independence. For more information, click here.

Cuba Sabe Culinary Workshop, January 9-11 2020, Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel, Havana, Cuba

The culinary workshop Cuba Sabe, organized by Paradiso Cultural Tourism Agency, Cuba’s National Council of Cultural Heritage, and the Culinary Federation of Cuba, will be held in Havana in January 2020. The workshop is a continuation of last year’s Gastrocult Academic Workshop. Next year’s theme will be cuisine that showcases the blend in Cuban food of “tradition and avant gardism.” The workshop will also showcase the art of painting and the aesthetic aspect of cuisine by “propos[ing] a contest between culinary artists and painters based on the visual quality of what is brought to the table.”


The Rolling Stones Havana Moon, October 14-27, England

An immersive film screening of the Rolling Stones’ historic 2016 concert in Havana, playing in theaters across the UK. See schedule here.

An unprecedented exhibition of original Cuban propaganda and iconic graphic design, September 27, 2019-January 19, 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. Read more on the exhibition here.


The Cuban Revolution at 60 International Conference, October 31-November 2, Halifax, Canada

Canada will hold an international conference featuring forty Cuba scholars, policy-makers and policy analysts. The conference will be free and open to the public. Topics discussed will include the health incidents that affected Canadian and U.S. embassy personnel in Cuba, the Cuban economy, U.S.-Cuba relations, Cuba’s international relations, ecological change, and social change, including discussions on race, gender, sexual diversity and health.


Cuba: La singularidad del Diseño (Cuba: The singularity of Design), October 3-27,Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico is also showcasing Cuban industrial and design artists for its 11th Design Week Mexico event in October.

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