Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Senator Jerry Moran (Kansas), and Senator Leahy (VT) introduced the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act. The bill aims to lift travel and trade restrictions for Americans looking to do business with Cuba. Specifically, the bill advocates to increase American exports to the island. According to Senator Klobuchar, “Coming off the pandemic, we have to look for new markets for our (agricultural) products, and this is one big market of 11 million people, with potential for tourism.” Allowing U.S. businesses and companies to engage with Cuba is a smart move on both the economic and humanitarian front. Lifting restrictions on trade with Cuba’s burgeoning non-state sector and with state enterprises producing goods and services benefitting the Cuban people will help bolster Cuba’s civil society, provide humanitarian relief to Cubans bearing the effects of the pandemic and the island’s struggling economy, and allow U.S. businesses to compete in a market that they have a competitive advantage in due to proximity and cultural ties.
After struggling to obtain visas to travel to the U.S. Olympic qualifying tournament scheduled for May 31 to June 5, on Wednesday the U.S. Embassy in Havana started processing visa applications for Cuba’s national baseball team. The move comes despite the fact that consular services in Havana have been suspended for four years following still unexplained health incidents suffered by U.S. personnel that now appear to be more widespread – occurring in countries in Europe, Asia, and even in the U.S. Although the fact that the decision to process the team’s visas is a positive step, it highlights a disparity in treatment between the team and everyday Cubans. For the past three years, many Cubans have struggled to attain U.S. visas due to the requirement that they make the sometimes cost-prohibitive trip to the U.S. Embassy in Guyana. Even Cuban animator Víctor Alfonso Cedeño, whose form of cancer required a treatment only available outside of Cuba, struggled to receive a humanitarian visa to travel to the U.S. to participate in a clinical trial at a Florida hospital. The difficulties have unnecessarily separated families across the Florida Straits, and likely have contributed to the rise in sea interdictions this fiscal year.
The number of reported cases of health incidents similar to those experienced by U.S. personnel abroad continues to rise. An additional case has been reported near the White House in Washington D.C. A National Security official reported experiencing symptoms near the entrance to the grounds. Thus far, including the aforementioned case, there have been two known cases of these health incidents on White House grounds.
Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,197 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 6,874 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Matanzas reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 647, 111, and 31 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 849. 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…Read the rest of this entry »