U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 07/30/2021

July 30, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday!

Yesterday, CDA and 37 civil society organizations, foundations, and academics sent a joint letter to President Biden urging the Administration to prioritize policies to relieve the humanitarian crisis currently affecting the Cuban people. Read our press release here.

There’s one week left to apply for CDA’s fall internship! CDA is seeking two fall interns. Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Applications must be submitted by August 5. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns.

Yesterday, Cuba reported 8,736 COVID-19 cases. There are currently 43,161 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana reported a record number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 1,736. The total number of deaths since March of 2020 is 2,693. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 07/23/2021

July 23, 2021

Dear Friends,

This week, in the wake of the July 11 protests in Cuba and following six months of inaction on the Cuba policy front, the Biden-Harris administration announced reviews of remittance channels, the reestablishment of consular services and the restaffing of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and a review on how to facilitate “safe and secure” internet access throughout the island.

In Cuba, civil society, churches, and international organizations have begun efforts to locate and advocate for those currently detained following the demonstrations that took place on July 11. Groups on and off the island have begun collecting donations as Cuba continues to grapple with food and goods shortages and high COVID-19 rates, which were conditions that, in part, drove the protests.

  • The Give to Cuba campaign is collecting donations to help Cuban families access food, medicine, and hygiene products. The campaign, launched by a group of Cuban Americans, “highlights vetted organizations with a long track record of helping families in Cuba” access scarce resources.
  • Global Community X Matanzas, launched by Cuba’s first independent fashion brand Clandestina in partnership with charter airline Evelop and Cuban companies Negolucion and Madao, allows individuals to donate medicines and supplies in Madrid, Spain which will then be shipped to Havana and distributed in Matanzas.
  • MANDAO X DADOR, launched by Cuban lifestyle and fashion brand Dador, allows individuals to donate money to “make it possible for a Cuban family to receive a basket of locally produced food.”
  • ReglaSoul’s donation campaign allows individuals to donate via Venmo to support the purchase of materials needed to construct a community garden in the Regla municipality of Havana, which will provide an alternative source of “food and medicinal resources” for black families. ReglaSoul is a “Cuba based project that promotes an alternative holistic lifestyle” and that “advocates for better access to wellness resources for Afro descendants in Cuba through plant based and holistic healing events and workshops.”

There are two weeks left to apply for CDA’s fall internship! CDA is seeking two fall interns who will work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Internships may be completed remotely or in-person. The deadline to apply is August 5. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns.

Yesterday, Cuba reported a record number of COVID-19 cases at 7,784. There are currently 37,435 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Matanzas reported the largest number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 1,603. The total number of deaths since March 2020 is 2,203. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 07/16/2021

July 16, 2021

Special Edition: Historic Protests in Cuba

Dear Friends,

In response to the historic protests in Cuba this past week, CDA released a statement urging the Biden-Harris administration to adopt policies of engagement with Cuba that empower the Cuban people to determine their own future. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE), and The Cuba Study Group also released statements in support of the Cuban people and called for policies of engagement with Cuba.

In separate news, on Thursday, the founder of Detrás del Muro (Behind the Wall), Juanito Delgado, passed away due to COVID-19 complications. The artist founded the project in 2012 to reflect the meaning of the sea for Cubans. Following his recent death, the project will be renamed “Juanito Delgado Cultural Project” to honor the late artist.

Yesterday, Cuba reported 6,460 COVID-19 cases. There are currently 43,434 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Matanzas reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases on the island, reaching 1,888. The total number of deaths since March of 2020 is 1,791. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 07/09/2021

July 9, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday!

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Internships may be completed remotely or in-person. The deadline to apply is August 5. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns. 

This week, tropical storm Elsa prompted evacuations throughout Cuba’s southern coast. While the island credits itself in taking preventative measures amidst potential flood warnings, the evacuations have prompted concern surrounding the spread of COVID-19 given recent increases in COVID-19 cases throughout the Matanzas province. 

Meanwhile, Cuba’s national soccer team was disqualified from the Gold Cup preliminary matches after facing U.S. visa complications in Nicaragua. The team was scheduled to compete in the tournament against French Guiana on July 3 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is the second time this year a Cuban sports team has faced visa complications. Earlier this year Cuba’s national baseball team, scheduled to attend the Americas’ Olympic qualifying tournament in Florida, had to travel to Mexico, Panama, and Guyana before the U.S. Embassy in Havana made a special exception for the team and processed their visa applications in Havana. Cubans on the island, including sports teams, continue to suffer the effects of severed U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations and a lack of consular services. 

Yesterday, Cuba reported 6,422 COVID-19 cases. There are currently 24,330 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Matanzas reported a record number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 3,559. The total number of deaths since March of 2020 is 1,451. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 07/02/2021

July 2, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday! We hope you and yours are staying safe and cool during this heat wave. 

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Internships may be completed remotely or in-person. The deadline to apply is August 5. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns. 

This week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and U.S. National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere, Juan González, spoke in interviews on the status of U.S.-Cuba relations. Both officials confirmed that the Biden-Harris administration continues to review Cuba policy while noting once again that it has not been a priority for the Administration these past five months. The officials noted the Administration’s human rights concerns and suggested that consular services and remittances may be restored. The interview comes after many were left questioning the prospect of engagement under the Biden-Harris administration following the U.S.’s vote against an annual resolution condemning the embargo on Cuba last week at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly. 

Meanwhile, healthcare professionals in Havana have begun efforts encouraging Cuban residents to receive either the Abdala or Soberana 02 vaccines. As healthcare workers visit individuals in Havana, the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has reportedly reached the nation’s capital. Being about 64 times more infectious than the already present Alpha variant, the healthcare sector continues to compete against rising COVID-19 cases and a lack of available syringes.

Yesterday, Cuba reported a record number of COVID-19 cases at 3,308. There are currently 17,434 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Matanzas reported the largest number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 916. The total number of deaths since March 2020 is 1,322. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 06/25/2021

June 25, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday! We hope you and yours are well.

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Internships may be completed remotely or in-person. The deadline to apply is August 5. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns. 

This week, Cuba’s state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma announced the efficacy levels of the Soberana 02 and Abdala vaccine candidates following the final stages of clinical trials. The two vaccines have proved to be tremendously effective, with two out of three Soberana 02 doses reaching 62 percent efficiency levels and three Abdala doses reaching 92.28 percent. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. once again voted against an annual resolution condemning the economic and trade embargo imposed against Cuba during a meeting at the 75th United Nations General Assembly in New York City. While the vote is not legally-binding, it signals the U.S.’s and the international community’s position on the embargo. The resolution typically receives nearly unanimous support. The U.S. traditionally votes no, but abstained from voting on the resolution for the first time in 2016 during the Obama administration’s rapprochement with the island. Had the Biden-Harris administration abstained, it could have signaled an openness to engagement. Instead, the “no” vote could signal a continuation of harmful travel and trade restrictions enacted under the Trump administration. Following the vote this week, the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE), MEDICC, and Oxfam Cuba released a joint statement denouncing the U.S.’s vote and approach to Cuba. Read the full statement here. 

Yesterday, Cuba reported 177,253 cases of COVID-19. There are currently 10,367 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Matanzas reported the largest number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 452. The total number of deaths since March 2020 is 1,219. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 06/18/2021

June 18, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday! We hope you and yours are well.

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Internships may be completed remotely or in-person. The deadline to apply is August 5. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns. 

This week the Biden-Harris administration announced the composition of two panels made up of experts inside and outside of the White House to investigate the health incidents affecting U.S. personnel abroad and more recently in the U.S. For the latest information and a detailed timeline concerning the health incidents, refer to our recently updated memorandum.

Next Tuesday, June 22, CDA, Oxfam, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) will host a webinar discussing Oxfam’s recent report on the impacts of U.S. sanctions on women in Cuba and vulnerable populations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will be live-streamed in English via Zoom on Tuesday, June 22 from 9:30 AM-10:30 AM EST. To join, register here and for additional information contact Stephanie Burgos at stephanie.burgos@oxfam.org 

Yesterday, Cuba reported 164,896 cases of COVID-19. There are currently 7,748 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana reported the largest number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 328. The total number of deaths since March 2020 is 1,132. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 06/11/2021

June 11, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday! We hope you and yours are well.

This week, Cuba’s government made multiple efforts aimed at improving Cuba’s economy. On Thursday, it was announced that the island will no longer be accepting USD cash bank deposits given difficulties faced by the island when trying to deposit USD abroad. It was also clarified this week that recently announced prepaid USD cards are to be used by Cuban tourists and emigrants, not by the general Cuban population. The prepaid cards were introduced as a response to the current lack of liquidity faced by the Cuban peso in the island’s financial market. While the island adopted policies to ease economic turmoil domestically, Cuba’s Deputy Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas traveled to France on Thursday to renegotiate a 2015 debt forgiveness and payment plan agreement with the Paris Club. Cuba failed to meet payment obligations in 2019 and 2020 due to economic hardships allegedly frustrated by U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo Osorbo, a member of the San Isidro Movement (MSI) and one of the two Cuba-based singers featured in the viral song Patria y Vida (“Fatherland and Life”), remains under state custody while facing charges of public disorder and evasion of authority. While state authorities claim that Mr. Osorbo has been offered legal representation and maintains contact with his family, independent organizations in Cuba have questioned the validity of his arrest and demanded his immediate release. Cuba was again mentioned in international headlines over suspicions that an Iranian warship thought to be carrying weapons potentially destined for Venezuela may also dock in Cuba. The concern sparked warnings from the Biden-Harris administration that such a shipment would be seen as a provocation and could be met with deterrence measures.

In news pertaining to COVID-19 in Cuba, the island’s vaccination campaign in Havana continues to expand, along with plans to eventually bring the island’s domestically produced vaccines to the international market. The island has also had a significant increase in intensive care unit (ICU) patients. As of last Thursday, Cuba reached the highest number of patients in ICUs since March of 2020 with a total of 161. Yesterday, Cuba reported 154,866 cases of COVID-19. There are currently 6,192 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana reported the largest number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 460. The total number of deaths since March 2020 is 1,065. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 06/04/2021

June 4, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday! We hope you and yours are well.

For your weekend reading list, be sure to check out Cuba’s Digital Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy written by Ted A. Henken and Sara García Santamaria. This collection of essays explores the evolution of internet access in Cuba and the impact that increased levels of access have had on Cuba’s cultural, economic, social, and political spheres.

Public health authorities have released Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, artist and leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), from Havana’s General Calixto Garcia University Hospital after nearly four weeks at the facility with limited communication. Mr. Otero intends to share his experience with the public and emphasized that the struggles against state censorship on the island are not over. Last week, Amnesty International declared Mr. Otero a “prisoner of conscience” while local artists in Havana asked the Museum of Fine Arts to remove their work until authorities released the activist and government surveillance ended.

After struggling to obtain visas to travel to the U.S. to participate in the Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Cuba’s international baseball team made it to the U.S., but will not be competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, the team was eliminated from the tournament after losing games against Venezuela and Canada this week. While playing against Venezuela, protesters surrounded the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches stadium in West Palm Beach, Florida. The protesters stood outside of the stadium during the game and held Cuban and Venezuelan flags while demanding reforms in both countries.

Health authorities have opened a total of 473 vaccination sites in Havana to administer the Abdala vaccine. As Cuba extends its vaccination campaign throughout the island, Argentina has expressed interest in collaborating with the production of the Abdala and Soberana II vaccines. In response to economic shortages on the island, Cubans and others abroad have begun campaigns to collect needles and syringes. The Saving Lives Campaign and Global Health Partners have founded an online initiative to provide the island with much needed medical supplies. Without donations, the shortages have the potential to halt vaccination efforts.

Yesterday, Cuba reported 146,696 cases of COVID-19. There are currently 5,798 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana reported the largest number of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 455. The total number of deaths since last March is 992. For a graph of case numbers since March 2020, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website. In response to rising COVID-19 numbers, Cuba’s government has begun a mass vaccination campaign. Cuba’s struggling economy is also suffering in the face of the pandemic.

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief 05/28/2021

May 28, 2021

Dear Friends,

We wish you and yours a safe and healthy holiday weekend.

For your weekend reading list, be sure to check out Oxfam America’s new report Right to Live Without a Blockade: The Impact of U.S. Sanctions on the Cuban Population and Women’s Lives. The report advocates for a policy of engagement between the U.S. and Cuba, including lifting U.S. sanctions against the island as Cuba faces one of its most dire economic crises since the fall of the Soviet Union. 

After just over three months in office, the Biden-Harris administration’s Cuba policy continues to look much like that of the Trump administration’s path on Cuba. This week the U.S. State Department announced that Cuba would remain on the list of countries not fully cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The decision comes despite the fact that President-Elect Joseph Biden pledged during his campaign to reverse a portion of the former Administration’s policies concerning Cuba. It’s not clear if the Biden-Harris administration maintained the status quo because it has not finished its policy review on Cuba, or if it was a clear signal that it will continue to follow the Trump administration’s path on Cuba. 

Amnesty International has declared Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, artist and leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), a “prisoner of conscience.” The organization demands the immediate release of the young activist, who has remained at Havana’s General Calixto Garcia University Hospital since May 2. While organizations like Amnesty International protest Mr. Otero’s detention, local artists in Havana have requested to withdraw their art from the Museum of Fine Arts until government officials release Mr. Otero. 

Since the beginning of 2021, tourism in Cuba has decreased by 94 percent compared to the first four months of 2020. This massive decrease implies a tremendous financial loss for the island as tourism remains one of its greatest sources of income. 

Yesterday, Cuba reported 138,899 cases of COVID-19. There are currently 6,449 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana reported the largest number new cases by far compared to other provinces at 536. The total number of deaths since last March is 933. For a graph of case numbers since March, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website. In response to rising COVID-19 numbers, Cuba’s government has begun a mass vaccination campaign. Cuba’s struggling economy is also suffering in the face of the pandemic. 

This week, in Cuba news…

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