U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 08/21/2020

August 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

In lieu of our news round-up, this week we’ve compiled a list of music, podcasts, and recommended readings for you to enjoy. We will resume delivering the latest Cuba news and analysis to your inbox on September 4.

Cuba experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with 581 positive COVID-19 cases at the time of publication. For a graph of case numbers since March, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website. Cuba’s government announced they will begin clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine, “Soberana 01” (Sovereign 01), next week.

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief 08/07/2020

August 17, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy. We are delighted to highlight the work of some friends of CDA. 90Miles, a new podcast, will air bimonthly episodes featuring stories from Cuban tech, culture and the arts. The first episode, released Thursday, features Founder and CEO of Cuban tech company TostoneT, Liber Puente, and an analysis by Ambassador (ret.) Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

Before this week’s news, an interview with a committed advocate for U.S.-Cuba engagement and a longtime friend of CDA, Carlos Lazo, who just concluded his cross-country bicycle trip, cycling to bring attention to the cause of ending the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

CDA: Tell us a little about yourself and your experience advocating for engagement between the U.S. and Cuba. What kinds of advocacy have you found most effective?

Carlos: My name is Carlos Lazo, I’m a Cuban American, and I have been advocating for improving the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. for the last two decades. I’m a U.S. veteran, I participated in the Iraq war as a combat medic, and when I came back from Iraq in 2005, I found that I couldn’t visit my children in Cuba because the Bush administration put in place restrictions that prevented Cuban Americans from going there. The decision [made by the Administration] was that Cuban Americans could only visit Cuba once every three years. [It was then that] I started fighting for change in that restriction and those policies. I found visits to the representatives, to elected officials in congress, to be very effective because they can hear first hand the experiences of Americans and Cuban Americans.

CDA: Why bicycling? How is this different from other forms of advocacy you have done?

Carlos: Why bicycling? Some friends would say that it’s difficult. The first thing that came to my mind [was a letter and petition]. A few months ago we started a petition in Change.org for the Trump administration to lift restrictions and sanctions because of coronavirus. We got more than 20,000 signatures and we sent the petition to the White House but they didn’t answer. My first idea in May when I sent several letters to the White House and they didn’t answer was to go there and ask to meet with elected officials, but I wanted to do it in a way that would call the attention of the American people. The first thing that I thought about was running from Seattle, but my children said that would take a long time, so we decided to go bicycling. [By bicycling] we could also go to different communities, talk to Americans from all backgrounds and from all political spectrums about the sanctions against Cuba, and how in this time of coronavirus it is very inhumane to keep this embargo and these restrictions against the Cuban people. This is different from what I have done before. Before, I visited congressional offices. This time I wasn’t just visiting congressional offices because I was talking to elected officials along the way, but I was also talking to the American people about the need to lift the embargo, and that was very effective. Many Americans are not aware of what the embargo is. It was different and I think it was very effective.

To continue reading the full interview with Carlos Lazo, go to the “U.S.-Cuba Relations” section of our news brief.

Cuba saw an increase in COVID-19 cases this week, particularly in Havana. The island reports  310 positive COVID-19 cases at the time of publication. For a visualization of cases, see here.

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 08/14/2020

August 14, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy. This week marks the anniversary of the flag raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Five years ago, then Secretary of State John Kerry presided over a ceremony to mark the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

We invite you all to listen to the second episode of the newly launched 90 Miles Podcast. This week’s episode is hosted by CDA friend Collin Laverty and features an interview with Marta Deus, co-founder of the Havana delivery service Mandao and analysis by Amb. Jeffrey DeLaurentis. Check it out here!

Be sure to check out Alien Cuba’s new line of t-shirts called “Solo es cuestión de amor” (it’s only a matter of love) celebrating LGBTQ+ pride. Profits from t-shirt sales will be used to support 11M Cuba, an online community which focuses on the rights, public policies, social initiatives, and challenges of the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba.

We’ll be taking a break from our news blast for the next couple of weeks and will resume on September 4 to deliver the latest Cuba news and analysis to your inbox.

For the past few weeks we have been featuring Cuban and Cuban-American economists and engagement advocates in our news blast. This week we interviewed Adriana Heredia Sánchez, a Cuban economist and professor at the University of Havana. Adriana is also an entrepreneur and is co-founder and CEO of Havana-based business Beyond Roots.

Before this week’s news, an interview with Adriana Heredia Sánchez

CDA: How would you describe your business, Beyond Roots? What inspired you to create Beyond Roots?

Adriana: Beyond Roots is an enterprise focused on promoting Afro-Cuban culture from different perspectives. We work in three main ways: organizing educational experiences where visitors are immersed in Afro-Cuban culture, managing the first and only Afro-style store in Cuba which sells everything from hair care products to accessories to clothing items, and organizing educational events promoting love and respect for Afro-Cuban traditions.

We founded Beyond Roots in 2016 in a context marked by the increase in the arrival of tourists to the island, mainly from the United States. We identified that people who came from the U.S. were interested in learning about the culture of the country they visit, as well as achieving a true connection with its people. This motivated us to do something different. We are from a community where Afro-Cuban traditions are deeply rooted, and we decided to show the world the importance of these traditions for us and how they are an indissoluble part of Cuban identity. This is how the idea of starting to offer experiences on Afro-Cuban culture with the support of our community of neighbors arose. What began as the dream of two people, today has become the commitment of 35.

CDA: How do you partner with other Afro-Cuban/Black businesses and organizations in Cuba/around the world? How would you like to expand Beyond Roots in the future?

Adriana: Our development as a business has been largely driven by the alliances we have managed to establish. From the beginning, many American travel agencies which wanted to show their clients Cuba’s connection to African culture as an Afro-diasporic country began to be interested in our work and decided to choose Beyond Roots as their partner in Cuba for this purpose. Our value proposition was just what they were looking for. In Cuba, we have had a similar experience. Since the store opened we began to weave together a whole network that connects a growing number of projects, businesses, and organizations that also advocate to defend and highlight the African heritage on the island.

In the future, we hope to expand our field of action to the entire island, not only in relation to tourist experiences but also expanding the store. However, the current situation the world is going through has led to an abrupt reduction in tourism, as well as the interruption of supply chains, and Cuba has not been oblivious to this reality which is further exacerbated by the intensification of U.S. sanctions against the island. This has forced us to completely rethink our business model which is highly dependent on American tourism. That is why we are working on the launch of an online sales platform of our Afro t-shirts in order to maintain the connection with the community that follows and supports us from the United States. If they can’t come to us, then we’ll go to them.

To continue reading the full interview with Adriana Heredia Sánchez, visit the “In Cuba” section. 

Cuba experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with 558 positive COVID-19 cases at the time of publication. Yesterday, Cuba recorded one death, bringing its total deaths since March to 89. For a graph of case numbers since March, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.

This week, in Cuba news…

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