U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 10/11/2019

Dear Friends,

For those of you in the Washington, DC area, join CDA TONIGHT, Friday, October 11 at 7PM at Dacha Navy Yard to watch the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team will face off against Cuba’s National Team! Enjoy drink specials with an on-site $10 charitable donation to CDA.

This week, in Cuba news…


Exclusive: As Trump grows frustrated on Venezuela, U.S. to ‘squeeze’ Cuba, scrutinize Russia

The Trump administration is expected to announce new sanctions against Cuba in the coming weeks to target the island’s oil imports and its tourism sector, Reuters reports. Reuters sat for an interview with U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, who asserts U.S. sanctions on Cuba are designed to undermine its support for Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro. According to Abrams, the Administration will also take a closer look at Russia’s role in Maduro’s staying power. An anonymous senior Administration official added that the Administration sees the lifelines provided by Cuba and Russia as the reason for the failure of President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to unseat Maduro.

Tougher U.S. sanctions make Cuba ever more difficult for Western firms

U.S. sanctions against Cuba have made overseas investors wary of business prospects on the island, Reuters reports. Only a few years ago, lured by Cuba’s commitment to market reforms and a detente pursued by the Obama administration, foreign businesses rushed to find investment opportunities in Cuba. Yet, two dozen executives, consultants, and diplomats interviewed by Reuters said that the Trump administration’s hostility toward Cuba has soured the business climate. On top of the decades-old embargo, President Trump has sanctioned nearly 200 Cuban military-run companies and hotels. The Administration also activated Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, allowing U.S. citizens to sue companies for allegedly profiting from property that was confiscated after Cuba’s 1959 revolution. Now, facing the threat of being sued under Helms-Burton, complications with sanctions, and hefty fines, some Western companies assess international investment in Cuba is no longer a viable option.

McGovern concludes congressional delegation to Cuba

This week, Representative Jim McGovern (MA-02) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) concluded a five-day congressional delegation to Havana. While in Cuba, Rep. McGovern and Rep. DeLauro met with Cuban and U.S. Embassy officials. Members of Congress also attended meetings with leaders from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) and the New England Council, who sponsored a separate delegation of business, academic, and medical leaders.

According to McGovern, “For over five decades, America’s economic blockade against Cuba has been a failure.Not only does it hurt the Cuban people, it hurts America, too. There are lifesaving medicines that have been developed and produced in Cuba that are not available here because of our embargo. Our businesses want to trade with Cuba, but they can’t because of our sanctions. And the American people are the best ambassadors our country has to offer, yet they have to jump through hoops to travel to Cuba.

One Cuban soccer player is able to chase his pro dream in the U.S. — without defecting

Cuban soccer player Luis Paradela currently plays for a club in Nevada, but instead of defecting to the U.S. in order to join that U.S. team, as Cuban athletes have done even in periods of positive relations, Paradela applied for a visa that allows him to remain in the U.S. until the end of the season, the Washington Post reports. The visa also allows Paradela to remain in good standing with Cuba’s national team, preserving the opportunity for a future spot with the team should he return to the island. Paradela’s U.S. team, Reno 1868 FC, acquired him on loan not from Cuba, but from a Guatemalan club. It took three months for the player’s visa to be approved, but the Reno team manager Robert Pitchie says Paradela “really expressed a strong desire not to follow in [the] way” of players who defect.


Cuba’s Historical Generation Leaves Top Legislative Body

On Thursday, Cuba’s National Assembly voted for Miguel Díaz-Canel to remain in place as president of Cuba, the Miami Herald reports. However, to reflect that he will serve as head of state, instead of the head of government, his title has changed from “President of the Council of State” to “President of the Republic.” The functions that Díaz-Canel had as President of the Council of the State will be taken over by the prime minister – a new position that Díaz-Canel will appoint within three months. The legislative body also voted to keep Esteban Lazo and Ana María Machado as president and vice president, respectively, of the National Assembly.

With these changes in the government’s structure, the historical generation of former rebels no longer hold seats in the legislature. Ramiro Valdés, one of the commanders that accompanied Castro in the battles leading up to the Cuban Revolution, will no longer serve as one of Cuba’s vice presidents. Guillermo García Frías, another of the historical commanders, was not reelected to the Council of State.

Amnesty calls for release of leading Cuban dissident

On Tuesday, Amnesty International called on the government of Cuba to release the leader of the country’s largest opposition group from jail, Reuters reports. Jose Daniel Ferrer, who is the head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was detained on October 1 when police raided his home, which also serves as the headquarters of UNPACU. In 2003, Ferrer was one of the 75 dissidents arrested in a nationwide crackdown known as the “The Black Spring”. Ferrer formed UNPACU when he was released in 2011.

19 independent Cuban media outlets publish joint declaration demanding more protection and respect for the press from government

On Monday, 19 independent media outlets in Cuba published a joint statement demanding that Cuba’s government put an end to journalist suppression, Journalism in the Americas reports. According to their statement, 183 acts of aggression against journalists have been documented in Cuba since 2018. These attacks include “arbitrary detentions, interrogations, psychological intimidation, verbal aggressions, house raids, bans on leaving the country, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, defamation, provocations in public and confiscation of work equipment, among others,” the complaint states. In a separate move last month, a group of 55 journalists, researchers, bloggers, activists, professors, and others launched a petition calling for freedom of the press. Since its launch on September 18th, the petition has gained over a thousand signatures.


Venezuela can’t sell its oil and storage tanks are full — so it’s giving it away to Cuba

To avoid losing oil-production capacity amid U.S. imposed sanctions, Venezuela will be shipping crude oil to Cuba for free, the Miami Herald reports. Cuba, which has depended on Venezuela’s oil exports for years, began to suffer fuel shortages shortly after the Trump administration announced sanctions on Venezuela earlier this year. At the moment, it is unclear whether the shipment of three million barrels is a gift to Cuba, or part of a transshipment plan to bypass U.S. sanctions. The move will free up storage space for Venezuela to continue its oil production. Due to U.S. sanctions, international distribution of Venezuela’s oil has become increasingly difficult, forcing the country to consider halting production altogether to avoid over-filling their oil storage tanks.

EU and Cuba agree to collaborate more in favor of women’s rights and access to internet

On Thursday, Cuba and the European Union held a second annual meeting in Brussels to discuss human rights in Cuba and the EU, OnCuba reports. During the talks, the two parties agreed to collaborate on strengthening women’s rights, fighting violence against women, and increasing internet access within Cuba. They also discussed freedom of expression, freedom of access to information, and the right to participate in public affairs. The EU expressed interest in working with a wider variety of Cuban civil society organizations. The meeting comes on the heels of the second annual EU-Cuba Joint Council meeting held last month in Havana, during which the EU expressed its commitment to helping Cuba develop its economy.

While the EU and U.S. both improved relations with Cuba around the same time, and share the goal of improving human rights conditions on the island, they have taken starkly different approaches in their policy toward Cuba in recent years. The U.S. is ramping up sanctions and regulations on travel to and trade with the island as the EU continues to engage in a number of dialogues with Cuba and is committed to playing a constructive role in improving the economy and human rights there.


CIMAFUNK – Electrifying Havana with Afro-Cuban Funk [DOCUMENTARY], James Patridge

Erik Iglesias Rodríguez, also known as Cimafunk, has garnered fans across the world, and was referred to by Billboard as “Cuba’s 2018 revelation of the year.” In this short documentary by James Patridge, the Afro-Cuban funk artist visits family in Pinar del Rio and talks about his roots and his music. Shot in 2018, the documentary captures Cimafunk on the cusp of fame.

An Energy Crisis Is Putting Cuba’s Post-Castro Leadership to Its First Test, William M. LeoGrande, World Politics Review

As Cuba faces an energy crisis and food shortages that many in the country fear will develop into a second Special Period, Cuba is seeking new sources of oil. With Venezuela facing domestic political turmoil, Cuba has turned to Russia. The two countries signed agreements that will see Russia assist the island with energy development, including infrastructure modernization and deep-water exploration of offshore oil reserves. Meanwhile, a sharp decline in U.S. travel due to sanctions from the Trump administration has compounded the island’s struggles. Less U.S. travel means fewer U.S. dollars, and less income for private entrepreneurs and for the economy as a whole. Cuba has long-term goals to increase domestic oil production with the aid of foreign investors, as well as to increase its use of renewable energy. The current crisis has made it increasingly difficult for Cuba’s new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, elected in April 2018, to introduce economic reforms. According to LeoGande, the political ramifications of the crisis will be “the first major test” of the new president.

Cuba’s Abandoned Nuclear City Is a 90s Time Capsule, Yuri Segalerba, Vice

In 1976, Cuba and the USSR agreed to build several nuclear power plants in Jaraguar, Cuba. The first reactor was built in 1982, and along with it came the Ciudad Nuclear (Nuclear City), which was modeled after the city built next to Chernobyl, Pripyat. Upon completion, thirty-thousand residents moved to the Ciudad Nuclear with hopes of joining what had been called “the project of a century.” However, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, the project was terminated and the only completed reactor was abandoned. Today, with less than seven-thousand inhabitants, the area stands as a semi-abandoned city suspended in time.

In its fight with Venezuela, the Trump administration takes aim at Cuba , Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker

Cuba is struggling with severe fuel shortages that have been largely overlooked in the U.S., writes Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker. Anderson explores the situation in Cuba and its relation to Venezuela, noting that sanctions have not been an effective approach in bringing about regime change in the region, as former national security advisor John Bolton once asserted. Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Obama, and one of his top aides, was involved in negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba leading up to the normalization of relations. According to Rhodes, the Cubans are open to pragmatic, diplomatic negotiations, which would be much more effective than sanctions in dealing with Cuba’s government. Phil Gunson, a Venezuela expert at the International Crisis Group, adds that efforts to target Cuba in regime change policies, in addition to Venezuela, disincentives the island from withdrawing its support for or assisting in negotiations with Venezuela. Meanwhile, Russia is cozying up to the island as Cuba reels from a significant drop in U.S. tourism, pending Helms-Burton lawsuits, a skeleton U.S. embassy that makes it difficult for Cubans to get visas, and as Cuba invokes greater austerity measures to stave off blackouts and further shortages.

Traveling to the rhythm of Cuba, and trying to keep up, Shannon Sims and Todd Heisler, New York Times

A pair of journalists set out to capture unique photographs and videos of Cuba’s music scene, hoping to showcase something different from the usual Havana street scenes. Shannon Sims and Todd Heisler, who created the dynamic New York Times piece “Discovering Cuba, an Island of Music,” explain why they chose to focus on Cuba, how they planned which artists to cover, and how, in a country where shows are advertised primarily by word of mouth, they put together an itinerary for a 12 day cross-country musical “tour.”

Salsa music and Cohibas in a Mexican border town: Cubans stake their claim in Juárez, Lauren Villagran, El Paso Times

As a result of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “remain in Mexico policy,” roughly 7,000 Cubans are currently awaiting their U.S. asylum hearings in Juarez, Mexico. In Juarez, Cubans can acquire temporary work visas, and many have found jobs, particularly in restaurants. Some have decided to stay and open their own establishments rather than risk deportation if their asylum claims are denied in the U.S. Many patrons of these new establishments are other Cubans in limbo, awaiting hearings in the U.S.

Veteran diplomat to Trump administration: Cuba policy must change, Neil Cotiaux, Upstate Business Journal

Despite the Trump administration’s goal of supporting Cuba’s private sector, Vicki Huddleston, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana during the Bush administration, explains that current policies actually do more harm than good. Instead of supporting the increased degree of independence afforded to private businesses on the island as a result of domestic policies, the U.S. Administration is using a “big-stick approach” that hurts Cuban entrepreneurs and U.S. businesses interests alike. If the Obama administration’s efforts toward engagement and reconciliation were allowed to continue, Huddleston believes that Cuba could play a role in brokering the conflict in Venezuela.



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 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!

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.

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 poloma 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.


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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