U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 10/04/2019

Dear friends,


U.S. denies Cuba health minister visa to attend health meeting in Washington; U.S. says Cuban medical missions are trafficking doctors

On Monday, the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. claimed that the Trump administration denied Cuba’s Minister of Public Health, Jose Angel Portal Miranda, a visa to attend a Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) meeting in the U.S. capital, Reuters reports. According to the U.S. administration, visa restrictions are to be imposed on Cuban officials who U.S. officials believe are exploiting its country’s professionals. Cuba’s medical professionals program–one of the country’s most valuable sources of income–sends doctors and other health professionals to help other nations respond to crises or provide healthcare to people in the developing world. In September, the U.S. Department of State characterized such programs as a form of human trafficking, calling on all nations to stop contracting Cuba’s medical missions, Reuters reports. Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected such allegations, also denouncing the visa restrictions as a violation of the United States role and obligations as a host country for international organizations and events, Cuba’s state-owned media Granma reports.

At UN, Cuba slams US ‘criminal’ practices undermining country’s development

Cuban foreign minister: Warming with US is irreversible

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez stated on Tuesday that in U.S.-Cuba relations, “there’s a historical trend that’s irreversible,” and that relations would not regress back to the way they were in the pre-Obama years, before rapprochement, the Washington Post reports. Rodríguez referenced majority support for engagement among Cuban Americans in Florida, particularly the younger generation, and reiterated that Cuba has no military presence in Venezuela. According to a 2018 Florida International University poll, Cuban American residents of Miami-Dade County Florida are equally split between supporting and not supporting the embargo, with less support registering among Cuban Americans ages 18-59. 66 percent of Cuban Americans ages 18 to 39 oppose the continuation of the embargo, and 51 percent of Cuban Americans ages 40-59 oppose continuation.

GE to pay $2.7 million over Cuba sanctions

On Tuesday, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, General Electric Company (GE) agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle allegations that one of its subsidiaries violated the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the Wall Street Journal reports. The subsidiary, among other things, reportedly sold water-treatment equipment to Sherritt International, a mining company based in Canada that, as of 2016, owns 50 percent of the Canadian-Cuban joint venture Cobalt Refinery Co., or Corefco. Corefco has been on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN), a list of entities with whom U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing, since 1995. While invoices from the GE subsidiary were sent to Sherritt, portions of payment came from Corefco. GE discovered and reported the violations after a compliance system audit.

Castro government seized his family home in Varadero beach. Now he is suing Expedia

On Friday, Miami resident Diego Trinidad filed a Helms Burton Act (LIBERTAD Act) Title III suit against the travel technology company Expedia, Miami Herald reports, because Expedia offered bookings at a Varadero hotel which sits on land that Trinidad claims belonged to his parents before its expropriation by Cuba’s government after the 1959 revolution. The suit could set a precedent due to the fact that it is the first Title III suit that deals with real estate. This is the second Title III suit against Expedia; the first was filed against Expedia’s subsidiary, Trivago, for benefiting off of its listing of a Melía hotel in Cienfuegos that formerly belonged to the family of the plaintiff in that case.

Former Cuban political prisoner living in US for decades denied citizenship

Francisco Verona, a former Cuban political prisoner that has been living in Florida for decades, was denied citizenship by the Trump administration, ABC News reports. Verona left Cuba 43 years ago, when he was sentenced to spend 12 years in prison for allegedly sabotaging the Cuban state. He was released when the U.S. government held mediation talks with the late Fidel Castro during the Carter presidency. The denial letter Verona received from U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services states that the 82-year-old did not submit “sufficient documentation to establish that you meet the Good Moral Character requirement.” According to ABC News, Verona and his family will seek assistance from their congressional representatives, including Rep. Mario-Diaz Balart (FL-25) and Senator Marco Rubio (FL), to try and reverse the decision.

In Cuba, he ran a prison. In Miami, he’s going to one; Cuban security officer jailed in U.S. and ordered back to Cuba

On Monday, a former lieutenant colonel in Cuba’s Department of State Security was sentenced to spend six months in a federal prison and to be deported to Cuba for lying on U.S. immigration forms and defrauding the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the Miami Herald reports. According to federal prosecutors, Santos Ferro failed to disclose his association with the Cuban government when he applied for permanent U.S. residence in 2012, after arriving in 2010 on a tourist visa. U.S. District Court Judge Darrin P. Gayles also ordered Ferro to pay a fine of twelve thousand dollars. In addition to this fine, Ferro and his wife must reimburse the Social Security Administration for years of fraudulently-obtained benefits totaling twenty-eight thousand dollars. Ferro pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements in an immigration document and theft of U.S. government funds.


Cuba: Deputies will vote for the president and other positions on October 10

On October 10, Cuba’s Council of State will elect the President, Vice President, and Secretary of the National Assembly of People’s Power, and the President and Vice President of the Republic, OnCuba reports. The Prime Minister will be proposed by the President and then designated by the National Assembly of People’s Power later this year. The elections will occur in accordance to the country’s new constitution, ratified in April.

Cuba battles plague of giant snails

Cuba is currently facing an invasion of the invasive Giant African land snail (one of the 100 most invasive species in the world), ABC News reports. The snails can grow up to seven inches long and can harbor a parasite that can cause a brain infection called eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, resulting in some parents keeping their children indoors to avoid transmission. However, Cuba has not confirmed any cases of this type of meningitis caused by the snail. The snail was initially detected on the island in 2014 and can now be found in most provinces. Authorities have instructed Cubans to catch and destroy the snails but to avoid touching them and to destroy them in sealed containers. Isbel Díaz, a biologist at an NGO in Havana, says, however, that while “many people [are] doing their best to help…without proper training or equipment [they are] not collecting or destroying the snails safely.” According to Dr. Antonio Vázquez of the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana, although dangerous when raw, the snails are edible if cooked well, OnCuba reports.


Russia PM visit shows support for Cuba amid U.S. hostility

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, visited Havana this Thursday and Friday to continue strengthening Russia’s “commercial, military, and political ties with Cuba,” Reuters reports. This week’s trip included a deal between the Russian Export Center (REC) and Cuba’s Aviaimport, a cargo airline company on technical assistance for Russian-designed aircraft, and REC and Banco Exterior de Cuba to finance the upgrade of a factory that produces steel bars and wire, increasing Cuba’s steel production. The two also signed agreements on transportation, biotechnology, agriculture, industry, and energy, and digital technology, according to Cuba’s state-run media outlet Granma, and signed a deal to upgrade Cuba’s railways and create an irradiation center (to enhance food safety) in Cuba. Russia will also assist Cuba in developing its oil and natural gas and decrease the island’s dependence on energy imports, according to oilprice.com.

Two weeks ago, Russia and Cuba established their first construction material joint venture, and celebrated the tenth session of a joint Business Committee meeting in Moscow, designed to boost collaboration between the two countries.

While Russia “is wary of becoming a bankroller again” as he asserts it was for Cuba prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, “they want to show they are loyal allies to Cuba,” says Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba and Boston University Professor.

Cuba, Iran sign multiple MOUs to strengthen relations

A delegation that included members of Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health visited Iran this week, where the two countries signed memoranda of understanding expanding cooperation in the production of medical equipment, teleSUR English reports.

Díaz-Canel receives king of Eswatini

Mswati III, king of Eswatini (former Swaziland) visited Havana on Monday, where he met with Cuba’s president Miguel Díaz-Canel and discussed bilateral cooperation and international events, OnCuba reports. The king also toured Old Havana and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB).


Cuba is slowly losing a lifeline as Venezuela collapses,Mimi Whitefield, LA Times

Cuba is struggling with fuel shortages that affect everything from public transportation to university schedules. Mimi Whitefield takes stock of the current situation.

7 Things You Need to Know About Going to Cuba Now, Amy Virshup, New York Times

Thinking about going to Cuba soon? Here are seven things you ought to know about visiting Cuba right now, as some policies have changed under the current administration.

Discovering Cuba, an island of music, Shannon Sims, New York Times

On a road trip across Cuba, Shannon Sims finds music is everywhere, and describes how each region moves to its own defining rhythm. Read the story of an author and a photographer following the rising Cuban band, Cimafunk, across the island.

Jane Bunnett: Cuban Music’s Canadian Connection, Felix Contreras, NPR

Jane Bunnett is a Canadian who has traveled to Cuba off and on for years. She even has an all female Cuban band, Maqueque. In this show, NPR sat down with Bunnett to learn more about her fascination with Cuban music.

Crypto in Cuba Faces Challenges Despite Growing Adoption, Overview, Samuel Hai, Cointelegraph

Cryptocurrency acts as a way for Cubans to subvert the U.S. embargo and carry out financial transactions online, and its use is growing. Cuba’s government has considered the use of cryptocurrency, and businessman and computer programmer John McAfee has offered to help. Despite this, the currency is not regulated in Cuba, and without recognition by Cuba’s Central Bank, transactions could be seen as illicit financial activity. Hai takes an in-depth look at cryptocurrency in Cuba.

Political Stigmata: Arrest and Expenditure in the Art of Carlos Martiel, Jill Lane, Multimedio

Professor Jill Lane of New York University writes about the art of Cuban artist Carlos Martiel. See Martiel’s art at the exhibition Afrosyncretic.

Cimafunk: “My thing is still an experiment,” Michel Hernández, OnCuba

Cimafunk, the Afro-Cuban phenomenon that has rapidly gained fame in Cuba, the U.S., and Europe, talks about his journey as he records the song “Portaje” in a studio in Havana.



INTERSECTIONS: LOS CARPINTEROS, October 10 2019-January 12 2020, The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

The Cuban artist collective Los Carpinteros is known around the world for its merging of various art forms, including sculpture, architecture, drawing, and design into pieces that reflect social transformations and offer “critical commentary of dominant ideologies and power structures.” The Phillips Collection will present two films and several LED sculptural portraits. An artist talk will open the exhibit on October 10 at 6:00 PM.

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.

Official Book Launch of La paloma y la ley by Lisette Poole, October 17, Retro Report Inc, New York, New York

Photojournalist Lisette Poole will release her bilingual (English and Spanish) book “La paloma y la ley” (The dove and the law) in New York this month. Poole followed along on the journey of two Cuban women who migrated from Havana to the U.S., documenting their trip in photographs and writing and providing an intimate and powerful portrait of them and their experiences.

Cuban Visions Film Series: Cuban Animation from the 1960’s to Today: Revolutionary Aspirations, Where Are We Now?, October 19, Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago, Illinois

America’s Media Initiative (AMI) will host a screening of Cuban animations and a post screening discussion as a part of their Cuban Visions film series. The screening will include animated films from the state-run Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), as well as independent animated films. The post screening discussion will feature a Cuban animator and the former Deputy Director of the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema (Havana Film Festival), who curated the project. Read more and purchase tickets 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.

Cuba And Beyond Series, September 24th-December 5th, International Affairs Building, New York, New York

Columbia University’s Institute of Latin American Studies is holding a series of conferences and seminars aimed at increasing scholarly exchange between scholars from the U.S. and Cuba, as well as other experts. Upcoming events cover a variety of topics, from Cuban foreign policy to Cuban-American music.

Afrosyncretic, November 8-February 28, KJCC Auditorium, New York, New York

The Latinx Project NYU will present its second exhibit “Afrosyncretic,” curated by Yelaine Rodriguez and featuring work by nine artists “foregrounding the African roots of the Latinx diaspora” and “center[ing on] the vibrancy of diasporic blackness within Latinx culture urging viewers to confront dominant narratives of what it means to be Latinx.” Cuban artist Carlos Martiel is among the featured artists. Read a review of his work here.

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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