U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 05/20/2022

Dear Friends,

This week, the Biden-Harris administration announced that it would reverse some sanctions on Cuba and restore some areas of engagement. CDA encourages the Administration to utilize creative and active diplomacy in partnership with marginalized communities and civil society to deliver robust support for human rights, Cuba’s growing private sector, and Cuban American families. Read CDA’s statement on the announcement here.

CDA is celebrating 15 years! In celebration of CDA’s 15th anniversary, we are hosting an online auction. Our items include books, artwork, front-row tickets to a Jackson Browne concert, a subscription to an at-home Miami-inspired dance-cardio class, a Fender American Acoustasonic guitar, and more. Plus, new items are being added weekly. Place your bids to support CDA’s work advocating for a U.S.-Cuba policy based on engagement!

This week, in Cuba news…

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

Biden Administration Lifting Some Trump-Era Restrictions on Cuba

On Monday, the U.S. State Department announced that it would restore some areas of engagement with Cuba, The New York Times reports. The measures include restarting the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (CFRP) and continuing to increase visa processing at the U.S. Embassy in Havana; reauthorizing charter flights to fly to cities in Cuba other than Havana; reinstating group people-to-people educational travel; increasing support for private entrepreneurs in Cuba; and lifting the cap on $1,000 of remittances per quarter per person and reauthorizing donative remittances. Other measures promise the expansion of Cubans’ access to cloud technology, ecommerce, and electronic payment platforms, and expanding other categories of group travel. The decision follows an over one-year review of U.S.-Cuba policy and comes on the heels of bilateral migration talks between the US and Cuba to discuss the increasing number of Cuban migrants and asylum seekers at U.S. borders.

In response to the announcement, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) released a statement calling the move a “timid but very welcome step,” and stating “Only by collaborating on issues of common interest does it become possible to make progress on issues of strong disagreement, like the unjust imprisonment of Cuban dissidents.” Representative Jim McGovern (MA-2) tweeted that he is “encouraged” by the move and that he “applaud[s] this move towards a smarter strategy of engagement and diplomacy.” Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) released a statement that the changes “will bring real, impactful help to people and families both in Cuba and the U.S. But our work toward normalizing relations cannot end here. We must do more to rectify the decades of harmful, counterproductive policies and, instead, support engagement and opportunity on the island.” Representative Gregory Meeks (NY-5), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also released a statement praising the announcement and calling on the Administration to take further action, including removing Cuba from State Sponsors of Terrorism List (SSOT). Representative Charlie Crist (FL-13) and Representative Joaquin Castro (TX-20) also applauded the move.

In a joint statement from the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (ID), Marco Rubio (FL), Rick Scott (FL), Bill Cassidy (LA), and Ted Cruz (TX), and U.S. Representatives Mario Díaz-Balart (FL-25), Michael McCaul (TX-10), Mark Green (TN-7), María Elvira Salazar (FL-27), and Carlos Giménez (FL-26), criticized the announcement, stating that “the Biden White House is rewarding the Western Hemisphere’s longest ruling communist dictatorship with high level talks, easing sanctions, increased travel, and access to U.S. financial institutions.” U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez (NJ) released a statement that the move “risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons” and equating group people-to-people travel with tourism.

Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) released a statement calling the announcement “one limited step in the right direction,” noting that the measures fail to address all economic and travel restrictions or remove the embargo entirely, and also noting the U.S. government’s failure to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List. Despite this, MINREX reiterated the willingness of Cuba’s government to “establish a respectful dialogue.”

Read CDA’s press release responding to the announcement and our recommendations for the Biden-Harris administration here.

Since taking office, the Biden-Harris administration has been slow to act on Cuba policy. During the campaign, then President-elect Biden stated that he would return to Obama-era Cuba policies, however, once in office, stated that Cuba policy was not a priority. The Administration has maintained Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List and the list of countries not in compliance with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Following the July 11, 2021 demonstrations in Cuba, the Administration called monitoring the situation in Cuba a “top priority” and ordered a review of remittance policy, embassy restaffing, and the facilitation of internet services for Cubans on the island. The Administration also put in-place several rounds of sanctions on Cuban officials involved in the crackdowns on July 11 demonstrators. In September 2021, the U.S. Department of State set the stage for restaffing the U.S. Embassy in Havana by announcing that it would become a partially accompanied post, allowing diplomats to be accompanied by some adult family members. In March 2022, the Administration announced it would gradually restaff the Embassy in Havana and restore some immigrant visa processing services. Two weeks ago, the Embassy began issuing immigrant visas for the first time in four years.

US Official: Biden Mulls Cuba Invitation for Americas Summit;US Accuses Cuba of Using Americas Summit Controversy as Propaganda Ploy

An unidentified U.S. official said today that President Biden is considering extending an invite to a representative from Cuba to the upcoming Ninth Summit of the Americas following threats to boycott the Summit by multiple leaders from the region, AP News reports. According to the U.S. official, the invite would not be sent to Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, nor for Cuba’s representative to attend as a full participant, but instead would be sent to someone else in Cuba’s Foreign Ministry to attend as an observer. The official added that it was unclear whether Cuba would accept the invitation. Shortly after the news of Cuba’s possible invitation was reported, an unidentified U.S. official shared that the Biden-Harris administration had begun to send out invitations for the June 6–10 summit, however, the list of invited countries – and the status of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela’s invitations – has not been released.

In the weeks leading up to the Summit, Cuba has accused the US of excluding the island, along with Nicaragua and Venezuela, from the Summit in its capacity as host country, and of politicizing the invite list by only inviting allies that will not challenge the US’s agenda. The Biden-Harris administration has repeatedly shared, as reiterated last week by the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, that “countries that, by their own actions, do not respect democracy, are not going to receive invitations.” Mr. Nichols also previously said in April that it was “unlikely” that Cuba would be invited. In response, a growing number of leaders from the region including Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Bolivia’s President Luis Arce, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, and leaders of CARICOM have threatened to boycott if invitations are not extended to Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Leaders from the region have argued that the Summit should be inclusive of all countries in the region given that the scope of the event is to discuss the region’s most pressing issues. On Monday, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel also criticized the US for potentially excluding countries from the Summit, stating, “a country incapable of accommodating everyone should be disqualified from serving as host.”

On Thursday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Kerri Hannan, accused Cuba of stoking controversy around the upcoming summit in an attempt to distract from alleged human rights violations on the island and paint the US as a “bad guy.” Deputy Assistant Secretary Hannan encouraged those who have threatened to boycott the Summit to attend, arguing that they would miss out on a valuable opportunity to engage with the US. Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Carlos Fernández de Cossio, who led Cuba’s delegation at last month’s bilateral U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks, responded to Deputy Assistant Secretary Hannan’s comments in a written statement to Reuters, stating that the US’s “desperate effort” to impose its will on the region by excluding countries from the Summit was “a reflection of American contempt for our region,” before adding that the event “is [for] all of the Americas.” Cuba’s Deputy Director for U.S. Affairs in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Johana Tablada, also responded to Ms. Hannan’s comments, tweeting that Cuba “has no need to distract from attention” or “interfere in the internal politics of other countries.”

In addition to arguing that the Summit should be inclusive of all countries in the region, both Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister and Minister of Foreign Relations, among other Cuban officials, have argued that Cuba attended the previous two Summits in 2015 and 2018, and that excluding the country now was contradictory to the recent migration talks held between U.S. and Cuba officials. Cuba’s Foreign Minister added that maintaining U.S. sanctions harms Cuba’s economy and thus, incentivizes Cuban emigration, which is also contradictory to the efforts of the Summit to address migration surges in the region by adopting the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, as the US recently announced in Panama. In April, U.S. and Cuban officials met in Washington, D.C. to discuss the re-implementation of U.S.-Cuba migration accords in response to rising numbers of Cuban migrants attempting to enter the US, which have surpassed those of the three previous years combined, as well as those from the 1994 Balsero rafting crisis, when over 35,000 Cubans crossed the Florida Straits on makeshift rafts. The migration talks were the highest-level formal talks between the US and Cuba since the Biden-Harris administration entered office. Read CDA’s press release on the Bilateral U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks here.

U.S. says Cuba not Cooperating Fully Against Terrorism, Inflaming Tensions

Today, the Biden-Harris administration announced that Cuba will remain on the list of countries  “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts under Section 40A(a) of the Arms Export Control Act, Reuters reports. The list also includes Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran. The designation bans the U.S. government from exporting arms and defensive weapons, restricts U.S. foreign assistance, and imposes other financial and miscellaneous restrictions on the listed countries, though has little effect on the already highly sanctioned Cuba. In response to a draft of the document released on Thursday, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, called the decision slanderous and deemed it “one more lie” from the Biden-Harris administration.

The island was added to the list by the Trump administration in 2020 – a precursor to the Trump administration’s addition of Cuba to the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) list in January of 2021 – and recertified by the Biden-Harris administration in May 2021 as one of the first actions taken by the Administration on Cuba policy. Policy experts have questioned the recertification given Cuba’s status on the SSOT. In response to last year’s recertification, William LeoGrande, a professor of government in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington D.C., stated that the recertification by the Administration “is odd since Cuba is already on the state supporter of terrorism list, which is obviously a more severe designation than non-cooperating.”

The US Authorizes for the First Time in Six Decades an Investment in a Private Business in Cuba (Spanish)

Last Tuesday, John Kavulich, President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, announced that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had approved a license authorizing his company to finance and invest in a private Cuban business, the first such authorization of a U.S. entity since 1960, OnCuba News reports. The authorization allows for direct equity investment of up to $25,000, as well as direct financing. Though the license application was submitted June 10, 2021, OFAC did not give its approval until May 10, 2022. According to Mr. Kavulich, the Administration “gave [him] contradictory statements and communications in the past two months that broke all [his] optimism.” Neither the US nor Cuban business have been named, though according to Mr. Kavulich, the Cuban business, which he initially found via Facebook, is within the service sector and has seen continuous growth over the past five years. According to Mr. Kavulich, the authorization sets an important precedent for future U.S. investment into private Cuban businesses and grants newfound agency to U.S. businesses. Mr. Kavulich still requires Cuba’s approval to move forward, though remains optimistic. Bob Muse, a D.C.-based attorney who worked with Mr. Kavulich and the Cuban business on the license application, shared Mr. Kavulich’s optimism that Cuba’s government would grant approval for the U.S. investment into Cuba’s private sector, a move which Mr. Muse called a “significant step.”

Co-founder and host of the El Enjambre podcast and Cuban entrepreneur, Camilo Condis, shared excitement about the prospect of Cuban entrepreneurs gaining access to U.S. investors. According to Mr. Condis, Cuba’s private sector has faced immense obstacles for decades due to both Cuba’s government and the U.S. embargo. Now, “the ball is in the Cuban government’s court,” according to Mr. Condis, to decide whether to allow foreign direct investment into Cuba’s private sector which “would open opportunities for Cuban entrepreneurs” or to reject such an authorization and “continue to limit [the development of Cuba’s private sector].”

Record Number of Cubans Continue to Cross the Southern Border; Coast Guard Repatriates 48 People to Cuba

According to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), nearly 115,000 Cubans have been processed at the U.S.-Mexico border in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, Miami-based local news station Local 10 reports. Cuban migration through the U.S.-Mexico border has seen a notable increase in recent months, reaching a 22-year high in CBP arrests along the US’s southern border. Patrick Oppman, CNN’s Bureau Chief in Havana, tweeted “113,735 Cubans have been taken into US custody along the border with Mexico so far this fiscal year,” before putting that number into context and adding, “which is about 1% of the island’s total population.” This group makes up a recent exodus by land and sea of Cubans that could, by the end of FY 2022, rival that of the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when approximately 125,000 Cubans arrived in the U.S., and already has surpassed figures of the Balsero Crisis of 1994, where over 35,000 Cubans crossed the Florida Straits on makeshift rafts. In April alone, CBP processed just over 35,000 Cuban migrants and asylum seekers, effectively surpassing the previous month’s numbers of a total 32,141 Cubans in March. For reference, CBP processed around 6,000 Cubans in October 2021.

According to updates from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), over the past week, a total of 103 Cuban migrants were repatriated to Cuba by the USCG following interdictions at sea. On Tuesday, the USCG repatriated 55 Cuban migrants following six interdictions over a five day period. Later in the week on Thursday, the USCG repatriated an additional 48 Cuban migrants following five interdictions off the coast of the Florida Keys. So far in FY 2022, 1,910 Cuban migrants have been interdicted at sea by the Coast Guard. In fiscal year 2021, the Coast Guard interdicted 838 Cuban migrants, compared to 49 Cuban migrants in fiscal year 2020 and 313 interdictions in fiscal year 2019.

IN CUBA

Cuban Lawmakers Pass New Penal Code Critiqued By Rights, Media Groups

On Sunday, Cuba’s Parliament unanimously approved the country’s updated Penal Code, Reuters reports. In line with the island’s new Constitution approved by referendum in 2019, the Code is replacing a 30-year-old predecessor and will go into effect 90 days after going to a drafting commission. The Code, which defines 37 new crimes and increases penalties for violence against women, discrimination, environmental infractions and more, has faced scrutiny for its inclusion of enhanced penalties for crimes against the state, which are seen as a response to the July 11 protests and subsequent trials. Namely, the Code criminalizes receiving financial support for conduct against the State and engaging in public disorder when done by groups or individuals and applies the death penalty for crimes against the security of the State. The Code also reinforces penalties for corruption.

With regards to crimes against the State, the Code introduces new crimes labeled “other acts against the security of the State,” which dictate that any person found to be the recipient of “funding” from a foreign or domestic entity that can be used to “defray activities against the State and its constitutional order” can receive up to ten years in prison. What exactly constitutes financing is also vaguely described within the legislation, using verbs such as “support,” “encourage,” and “provide,” which suggest that mere encouragement could be considered a financing effort. According to Cuban prosecutor José Luis Reyes Blanco, “gifts, stimulus, and other compensation for completing an action [against the government],” would be considered punishable financing efforts. Those laws do not impact remittances received from abroad. Similarly, those who “incite” against the socialist order or insult officials and or civilians doing their “citizens’ duty” may receive sentences for up to five years. Sentencing for the aforementioned crimes may increase to up to ten years in prison when executed through social media.

The new Code also increases, by ten-fold, the number of crimes punishable with life in prison and establishes that this option may be considered in any case where the death penalty is also considered. The crimes punishable by the death penalty, with the exception of murder, apply almost exclusively for crimes against the security of the State such as giving information to international organizations, associations, or unauthorized entities. As of the year 2000, Cuba has had a moratorium on the death penalty despite legislation maintaining it as an option. In 2003, Cuban authorities bypassed this moratorium and sentenced and executed three individuals within a week for hijacking a boat in an attempt to reach the US. This was the last recorded use of the death penalty in Cuba. Several attempts have been made by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, of which Cuba is a member, to pass a universal moratorium on the death penalty.

The Penal Code defines the age of criminal responsibility at age 16. For individuals under 18, jail time is limited except in instances of “serious crimes due to their social or economic connotation, or [those] that threaten the security of the State.” On May 12, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted allegations that Cuba has imprisoned children under the age of 16. Cuba’s government has repeatedly denied such allegations.

With regards to matters beyond crimes against the State, the new Penal Code also addresses gender-based violence. While the Code does not explicitly make femicide a crime as was suggested by Mariela Castro Espín, Director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) and daughter of Cuba’s former President Raúl Castro, it does, as noted by reporter Alina Herrera Fuentes, include the term “gender-based violence,” removes a “differentiation between men and women in the crimes of rape and pederasty with violence, among others,” and replaces the word “rape” with “sexual assault.” Additionally, the Code criminalizes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other suspect classes (a class of individuals that have been historically subjected to discrimination) that generally accompany discriminatory acts and crimes against the right to equality. The criminalization of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was one such crime advocated for by LGBTQI+ activists to be included in the new Penal Code.

During discussion of the Code’s draft proposal, and since it has been codified, activists, journalists, and others have expressed concerns over the Code’s criminalization of activism in particular. LGBTQI+ activist and defender of women’s rights in Cuba, Lidia Moreno Romero, shared such concerns, along with various other perspectives on the new Penal Code treatment of LGBTQI+ Cubans in an interview with CDA, stating that LGBTQI+ Cubans “are concerned about the criminalization of activism that is projected in articles 143, 274.1 and 275.1.”

Animal Rights Activists have noted that they see nothing addressing animal abuse in the new Penal Code proposal. Independent activist Freddie del Sol notes in an article in El Toque that the only fines related to animal mistreatment apply to “exchanges between” animals such as in “illegal games” (sports like cockfighting are popular in Cuba).

83 Small Businesses receive approval from authorities in Cuba (Spanish)

This Thursday, Cuba’s Ministry of Economy and Planning (MEP), announced the approval of 82 additional small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs or PYMEs in Spanish) and one new agricultural cooperative, OnCuba News reports. According to MEP, “55% are reconversions of pre-existing businesses and 45% correspond to new ventures.” Following this round of approvals, there are now 3,356 private SMEs authorized to operate in the country, 51 state SMEs, and 51 cooperatives. The move is expected to provide a job boost amidst a severe economic crisis.

Cuba legalized SMEs in August 2021 and the law went into effect in  September 2021, a long awaited move that economists advocated for as a way to boost the island’s economy. Prior to the legalization, without a framework for SMEs, those in Cuba’s private sector had to register as individuals and acquire a license as individual entrepreneurs, rather than registering as and/or licensing a business. Market-oriented reforms have been underway in Cuba for years, but the pace of implementation has been sluggish, and the scope of the reforms has been limited. In March, Cuban officials announced temporary relaxations on regulations for the import and export of commercial goods, which afforded private businesses incentives already enjoyed by state enterprises and granted private SMEs much needed access to foreign currency.

Cuba Sees Hints Of Recovery, Announces “Audacious” Measures To Tame Inflation

Last Saturday, Cuba’s Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, announced that Cuba will set the exchange rate for foreign currency between the current official rate and the black market rate for a limited number of state and private businesses, Reuters reports. The move is intended to combat the rising unofficial exchange rate and to increase the production of high demand products as the country begins to see modest recovery from a severe economic crisis. In the first quarter of 2022 despite a 38 percent increase in the country’s exports, the value of Cuba’s imports outpaced that of its exports. Mr. Gil also stated that the island’s government is working toward allowing citizens to exchange pesos for dollars.

CUBA’S FOREIGN RELATIONS

Cuban Government Supports Chinese Global Security Initiative (Spanish)

On Thursday, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, offered support to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Global Security Initiative, which is President Jinping’s vision for future international order based on the principle of “indivisible security,” OnCuba News reports. Indivisible security is a principle which states that no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others and has been repeatedly invoked by Russia in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Cuba’s Foreign Minister tweeted Cuba’s backing of the initiative, stating that there is “need for a vision of cooperative and sustainable security, based on respect for the Charter of the United Nations and contrary to unilateralism.” In similar rhetoric to Cuba’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Jinping has argued for countries to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others, while recognizing the “legitimate” security concerns of nations; following the invasion, Cuba has expressed support for Russia and defended Russia’s right to self-defense, but has stopped short of explicitly mentioning or endorsing Russian advances into Ukraine. President Jinping announced the initiative at the Boao Asia Forum, a periodic meeting of Asian leaders focused on economic integration and regional development, in April. Details of the initiative and its implementation are unclear.

China and Cuba have forged stronger political and economic ties in recent years. In March, Cuba reaffirmed that strengthening relations with China is a high-priority for the island and said that the countries have agreed to promote “the comprehensive development of bilateral ties, including inter-party relations.” China has also been Cuba’s largest trading partner since 2020 and invested in various parts of Cuba’s infrastructure under China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since 2018. According to the initial agreement signed in 2018 and solidified in December 2021, the countries’ cooperation under the BRI aims to advance Cuba’s short, medium, and long term economic and social development objectives with support from China as a strategic partner and investor. The Chinese government and Chinese company Yotung have also made multiple donations of rice to Cuba, as rice production levels in Cuba are severely reduced due to the country’s current economic crisis.

RECOMMENDED READINGS & VIEWINGS

Biden Finally Moves to Thaw Cuba-US Relations William M. LeoGrande, World Politics Review

In this article, William LeoGrande, a professor of government in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington D.C., assesses the Biden-Harris administration’s announcement to remove some sanctions on Cuba. According to Professor LeoGrande, while the announcement is a positive step, there remains more to be done, and urges the Administration to pick up where the Obama administration left off by engaging diplomatically with Cuba on issues of mutual interest, particularly migration.

Biden is Finally Moving Toward Engagement with Cuba, Peter Kornbluh, The Nation

In this article, Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archives Senior Analyst and director for the Archives’ Chile and Cuba Documentation projects, writes that the Biden-Harris administration’s announcement to remove some sanctions on Cuba indicates that the Administration “has tacitly acknowledged that the wreak-havoc policies they inherited are inimical to US security, diplomatic and humanitarian concerns.” He also notes that while the moves are positive, there remain contradictions, such as restoring group people-to-people educational travel but not removing Trump-era restrictions on U.S. travelers staying at government-owned hotels and removing the remittance cap but failing to remove FINCIMEX, Cuba’s remittance receiver, from the list of entities U.S. businesses cannot engage in transactions with. Mr. Kornbluh also suggests that the Administration’s slow pace on Cuba policy is a result of political considerations in South Florida and in Congress and notes the Summit of the Americas boycott over the exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela from the event.

The Biden administration is relaxing the rules on Cuba. Can it help immigration to the US?, Tim Padgett, WLRN

In this article, WLRN’s Americas Editor, Tim Padgett, answers questions about the Biden-Harris administration’s announcement to remove some sanctions on Cuba, including the impact on Cuban American families, migration, Cubans on the island, and more.

U.S. Policies Toward Cuba Must be Compassionate, But Not Complicit (Spanish), Lennier López, El Toque

In this opinion piece, author Lennier López analyzes the Biden-Harris administration’s announcement to remove some sanctions on Cuba. Mr. López shares that he feels an overall reservation toward the measures. While restoring the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and travel to provinces outside of Havana are positive, humanitarian aspects of the announcement, he states, at the same time, that the removal of the cap on remittances still leaves doubts “about how they will reach the hands of the recipient.” Mr. López further suggests that some measures, such as direct financing for small and medium enterprises, are dependent on Cuba’s regulations, such as those related to foreign investment. The author also expresses dismay at the timing of the release of the measures, which came on the heels of the approval of Cuba’s new penal code with harsher sentencing for acts against the government.

Destiny of an Island: Cuba and the Meltdown 2.0 (Spanish), El Estornudo

This article by Cuban independent media source El Estornudo analyzes the Biden-Harris administration’s announcement to remove some sanctions on Cuba and why what the article calls “the new thaw,” is different was the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba due to new nature of Cuba’s civil society and activism, including increased activism, activism around an increased number of topics, increased access to information, stronger ties with the diaspora, and more.

Political Rights for Cubans Should Not Start with a Marriage Equality Referendum, Juan Pappier and Cristian Gonzalez Cabrera, The Miami Herald

This article suggests that while allowing Cubans the chance to vote in a public referendum is positive and promotes democracy, putting up the new Families Code for popular referendum and therefore using marriage equality as one of those chances harms LGBTQI+ Cubans by leaving their right to not be discriminated against up to a popular vote and island-wide debate. The rights of minorities, the article argues, should be one thing that doesn’t rest on a popular vote.

Biden’s Cuba and Venezuela Policy Shifts Leave Florida Democrats Dismayed, Sabrina Rodriguez and Matt Dixon, Politico

In this article, the authors argue that President Biden’s announcement this week to remove some sanctions on Cuba, as well as his decision to ease sanctions on Venezuela, signal that the Administration has given up on appealing to Hispanic voters in South Florida. According to the article, it seems that President Biden has “ripped the Band-Aid off” of facing eventual losses during the midterm elections.

Savvy Biden Knows that Putting Money in the Hands of Everyday Cubans Means Business, Tim Padgett, The Miami Herald; and Patria y Vida…y Business. Why Biden’s Policy Change is New Wind for Change in Cuba, Tim Padgett, WLRN

In this opinion piece (published in both The Miami Herald and WLRN), Tim Padgett responds to an editorial from The Miami Herald’s published on Wednesday which stated that this week’s announcement by the Biden-Harris administration that the US will remove some sanctions on Cuba “knocked the wind out of the Patria y Vida movement.” According to Mr. Padgett, it was not U.S.-policies that knocked the wind out of the movement, but instead Cuba’s government. Additionally, according to Mr. Padgett, the best way to support a “dissident movement” is through economic means, not political policies. Therefore, the best support to the Patria y Vida movement is afforded by paving the way for increased economic engagement with everyday Cubans and investment in Cuban entrepreneurs, which can only be facilitated through policies of engagement such as President Biden’s changes announced this week.

EVENTS

Cities across the US,Cimafunk U.S. Tour, April 30-May 13

Afro-Cuban funk sensation Cimafunk will perform at festivals and venues in Los Angeles, Texas, Florida, and California as a part of the group’s U.S. leg of its latest international tour. Cimafunk works at the intersection of contemporary Cuban music, Afro-Latin identity, and black cultures, and released their second album, El Alimento, in October 2021. The album received recognition from Rolling Stone and NPR.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, 13th Annual Minnesota Cuban Film Festival, May 26-June 30

The Minnesota Cuba Committee will host its 13th Annual Minnesota Cuba Film Festival where it will screen 6 Cuban-made films as a way to share Cuban culture with Minnesotans and raise awareness around the effects of the U.S. embargo. The screenings will be held in-person at MSP Film at the Main Theatre, 15 SE Main St, Minneapolis.


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