U.S.-Cuba News Brief 07/31/2020

July 31, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy.

The beloved Havana City Historian, Eusebio Leal Spengler died this morning at 77 after a long battle with cancer. For decades, he advocated for and oversaw the restoration of Old Havana, transforming the city; in 1982, he helped make Old Havana a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Eusebio will be missed in Havana and throughout the island and the world. Our sincerest condolences to his family.

This week we are continuing our interview series with Cuban experts and their reactions to the recently announced economic reform measures in Cuba. This week we are interviewing Oniel Díaz Castellanos. He is a co-founder of AUGE, a Cuban business development and communications team. Throughout his career, he has held executive positions in political organizations, state-owned companies, private companies, and international firms in the biotechnology, consultancy, and communication sectors. He has an M.A. in International Relations from Cuba’s Higher Institute of International Relations.

Before this week’s news, an interview with Cuban Oniel Díaz Castellanos

CDA: In May, AUGE, in collaboration with Cuban economist Ricardo Torres, put together a set of recommendations to support Cuba’s private sector during the pandemic. In the report, you concluded that the pandemic is the greatest threat that Cuban entrepreneurs have faced since the government authorized their activity in 2010. Moreover, the report recommended similar measures to those announced by the government two weeks ago. What was your initial reaction to the reforms announcement?

Oniel: My initial reaction was satisfaction and joy. Together with several colleagues, we have spent a lot of time since 2015 insisting on the need to undertake reforms in the directions announced by the Cuban government. Therefore, listening to the authorities talk about opening up more space for the private sector in the national economy and finally implementing several measures that had been pending approval for years makes us feel that the effort to make our voices heard has not been in vain.

However, the details of how expanding self-employment and allowing the creation of private small and medium-sized companies will be implemented are still unknown. In the coming weeks, the new regulations will surely be published and we will be able to have a much clearer vision of how profound the announced transformations will be. For now, at AUGE, we are working hard to visualize the future scenario and define how we can take advantage of what is coming.

CDA: In an interview last week, Dr. Torres noted that the lack of domestic demand and scarcity of inputs will inhibit the robust growth of the sector. What other factors may inhibit the growth of private businesses despite these proposed changes? What additional actions would you recommend?

Oniel: The truth is that these measures have taken place at the worst possible moment, during an unprecedented global crisis that is going to sink the Cuban economy much more. But on the other hand, this same crisis seems to be the decisive element for the government to mobilize to implement many of the changes that have been urgently needed for years.

The fall in remittances to Cuba, the tourist crisis that the entire world is suffering from, and the regulations still in place for the sector are difficulties that represent immense obstacles not only for the growth but for the survival of thousands of businesses. Some of them have already reopened their doors and a level of consumption is resuming, but it will take a couple of months to understand how the market is reacting.

To continue reading the full interview with Oniel Díaz Castellanos, go to the “In Cuba” section of our news brief.

Cuba experienced an increase in COVID-19 infections this week, reaching 163 active cases at the time of publication. The island seems to have contained deaths, reporting no COVID-19 related losses in almost three weeks. 

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. 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, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief 07/24/2020

July 24, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy. This week, we are bringing you a new look for our news brief and our recently revamped website. We invite you to visit it and learn about all things CDA!

Before this week’s news, an interview with Cuban economist Ricardo Torres 

Last Thursday, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel and the Council of Ministers announced a series of economic reforms to confront the severe economic crisis the island is currently facing. The measures aim to prioritize domestic food production, reduce imports, legally recognize micro, small, and medium-sized companies, legalize non-agricultural cooperatives, and expand self-employment. In general, there is a move to grant greater autonomy to private and state enterprises and foster a partnership between both sectors. The Council of Ministers stated that they will provide more details in the future. 

In the coming weeks, CDA will be interviewing Cuban experts to hear their initial reactions. This week, we interviewed Ricardo Torres Pérez, Professor of Economics and Deputy Director of the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy (CEEC) at the University of Havana. Below are excerpts from our interview with Ricardo. The full interview is available under the “In Cuba” section.

CDA: What are the main takeaways from Cuba’s announcement on Thursday? Why was the announcement made now? What is unique about the current moment?

Ricardo: There are two main processes that will gain traction in the near future. On one hand, a further advancing of dollarization, which is expected given the dire state of Cuba’s external finances. On the other hand, the expansion of the private and cooperative sectors. It has to be seen whether this time dollarization is used as a mere revenue source or as a vehicle for structural transformation of the economy. The expansion of the private and cooperatives sectors is in line with meaningful economic restructuring.

The pandemic exacerbated economic problems to a point something radical had to be done. These difficulties made possible otherwise politically unfeasible reforms, like many other times in the past. And the government can well say it’s only fulfilling the mandate from the VII Party Congress. 

It’s good to hear that they want to do as much as possible simultaneously. The situation is very serious, the world economy is also in trouble, society is not as homogenous as it was back in the nineties, and the government does not take its legitimacy for granted. The only way out: looking inwards and dealing with its domestic mess. 

To continue reading the full interview with Ricardo Torres, go to the “In Cuba” section of our news brief.

Cuba reports 55 active COVID-19 cases at the time of publication. There have been no COVID-19 related deaths in almost two weeks. 

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. 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, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief 07/17/2020

July 17, 2020

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday! We hope you and yours are safe and healthy and that you take advantage of the weekend to recharge.

If you are looking to brighten up your weekend, Rondo alla Mambo will get you dancing. This Cuban style interpretation of Mozart’s famous piece features an enjoyable and unexpected classical musical experience by the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. Watch the full performance in Havana here.

We invite you all to attend the virtual Living Away Fest 2020 next week! This event was created by a group of Cubans living in Chile and the U.S. The festival features over 30 artists of 10 different nationalities, most of them womxn. Living Away Fest is an opportunity to understand how art can be a healing and transformational force for society. To access the program and purchase tickets, visit the Living Away Fest website.

Cuba experienced a slight increase in the number of active COVID-19 cases, with 55 patients at the time of publication. New cases are found only in Havana and Mayabeque provinces; the rest of the island has not detected new cases in over 28 days. Next Monday, with the exception of Havana and Mayabeque, Cuba will enter the last phase of the three-part post-COVID-19 recovery plan, but borders will remain closed for the time being.

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns.

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief 07/10/2020

July 10, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy.  

Cuba reports 76 active cases COVID-19, with only two of those in critical condition by the time of publication. There have been no deaths in over a week, and the country started reopening on June 18

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns. 

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 07/02/2020

July 2, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy. We are delivering our news brief early this week because the CDA office will be closed on Friday, July 3, in observance of Independence Day. This weekend be sure to check out Cimafunk’s new online store which offers shirts, hats, and a vinyl of his album, Terapia.

Cuba continues to experience a decrease in the number of COVID-19 patients, with only 44 active cases at the time of publication. Cuba announced that tomorrow, July 3, Havana will enter phase one of the country’s three-phase reopening plan. Havana will partially reopen bars, restaurants, and beaches. Most of Cuba entered phase one on June 18; Matanzas entered phase one on June 23. All provinces, except for Matanzas and Havana, will enter phase two tomorrow.  

CDA is seeking two fall interns! Interns work in three key areas: Policy and Advocacy; Communications and Social Media; and Nonprofit Development. Visit our website to learn more about the internship and to read reflections from past interns.

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief 06/26/2020

June 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you have been enjoying the first days of summer and staying safe and healthy. We are celebrating Pride Month throughout June and invite you to check out our posts on CDA’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages. In Cuba, a group of artists, musicians, writers, and over 2,377 others including Cimafunk, Daymé Arocena, and Haydée Milanés have signed a petition to create awareness about, reflect on, and increase solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba. The petition may be accessed here.

Cuba experienced a significant decrease in the number of active COVID-19 cases, with only 58 patients at the time of publication. This week, Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health released a document with detailed plans for the three post-COVID-19 recovery phases. Most of Cuba entered the first phase last Thursday.

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief 06/18/2020

June 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy.

We’re delivering our weekly news roundup a bit early this week because the CDA office will be closed Friday, June 19 in observance of Juneteenth, an annual holiday which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the U.S. This year, CDA will reflect on this pivotal moment in U.S. history while recognizing that the fight for freedom of Black people in our country is an ongoing one.

This week marked the three year anniversary of President Trump’s announcement in Miami of a National Security Presidential Memorandum restricting travel to and trade with Cuba. In a press statement, CDA Executive Director Emily Mendrala said “It has been three years since President Trump began dismantling U.S. policies of engagement with Cuba. Today, travel, trade, and diplomatic engagement with Cuba are exponentially more difficult than they were three years ago.” She also remarked that these policies are especially cruel during the COVID-19 pandemic and out of touch with the reality of the island. Read the full statement here.

Cuba experienced a decrease in COVID-19 cases, with 188 active positive cases at the time of publication. Today, the whole country, except for Havana and Matanzas provinces, entered the first phase of post-COVID-19 recovery, according to an informative note by the Council of Ministers in Cuba.

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 06/12/2020

June 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy.

This week, we are featuring Nancy Morejón’s poem “Príncipe Negro Para George Floyd” honoring George Floyd. Nancy Morejón is a winner of Cuba’s National Prize for Literature (2001) and the former director of the Caribbean Studies Center at Casa de las Américas in Havana. The poem in the original Spanish and an English translation by Ivette Romero may be accessed on the Repeating Islands website.

Cuba experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases this week, and, as of the time of publication, the country currently has 245 active cases. There have been no reported deaths in over a week. Yesterday, Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel announced a three-phase reopening plan for the island.

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief 06/05/2020

June 5, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you and yours are safe and healthy, and are taking time to care for one another this week.

CDA condemns the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and of the many other Black persons whose lives have been tragically taken by racism, hatred and police brutality in the United States. CDA expresses its solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter and #LasVidasNegrasImportan and with those who continue standing up against injustice in the United States, in the Americas, and throughout the world. You may read our full statement in English and Spanish here.

CDA friends El Club del Espendrú, a Cuban collective of artists, intellectuals, and Black activists, released a statement today in support of the activists in the U.S. and across the world fighting for racial justice calling the fight against racism “one of the great battles faced by humanity, as it cuts across every society and shares all forms of exploitation.” The statement also denounced sanctions that deny basic resources to the Cuban people, which compound challenges.

As El Club del Espendrú notes, the deep socioeconomic inequalities that have historically and disproportionately faced Black persons in the U.S. and around the world have only been exacerbated during COVID-19 times.

Cuba experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases this week, and, as of the time of publication, the country currently has 200 active cases and saw one death.

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 05/29/2020

May 29, 2020

Dear Friends,

We wish you and your loved ones a safe and healthy transition as some areas move into the early phases of reopening. This week, we are featuring New World en La Habana’s new single, No Se Que Pasará, and an inspiring cover of Jorge Drexel’s Creo que he visto una luz, by Cimafunk and Kamankola y Nam San Fong.

Cuba experienced a continuing downward trend of new COVID-19 cases this week with only 161 active cases and one new death as of the time of publication.

This week, in Cuba news…

Read the rest of this entry »