U.S.-Cuba News Brief 05/21/2021

May 21, 2021

Dear Friends, 

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…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief 05/14/2021

May 14, 2021

Dear Friends,

Reports of additional cases of health incidents similar to those experienced by U.S. personnel in Cuba and China continue to emerge, some even allegedly occurring in Washington, DC. 

Members of Congress and many of the diplomats and intelligence officers affected are pushing for more transparency in the investigation, but answers remain elusive. Cuba unfortunately continues to bear the brunt of the consequences, singled out as the only country to have the U.S. embassy drawn down and consular services suspended. Opponents of engagement utilized the incidents, which were originally called “sonic attacks,” to push the Trump Administration to roll back President Obama’s Cuba opening. The incidents are now reported to have happened across the globe, including close to the White House, but the Cuban people continue to suffer the consequences. 

U.S. sanctions continue to affect companies operating in good faith, as is the case with Biomin America, the latest company to be hit with fines by OFAC. COVID-19 continues to spread in Cuba with over 1,000 new cases daily as the government pushes forward with mass vaccination with Cuban vaccines. Meanwhile, some innovative Cubans have taken to using cryptocurrency, which given its decentralized nature and independence from government regulation, offer a way to carry out transactions complicated by the U.S. embargo. 

Independent activists held virtual events to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the first independently organized LGBTQI+ march in Cuba. Independent groups and government organizations are keeping a close eye on the development of Cuba’s new Family Code, which is expected to address the question of same-sex marriage in Cuba, and which will be presented to the legislature in July.

All this and more in this week’s Cuba News Blast…

Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,277 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 6,453 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana, reported the largest numbers of new cases by far compared to other provinces at 657. The total number of deaths since last March is 785. 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 numbers, Cuba’s government has begun a mass vaccination campaign despite the fact that the vaccines’ Phase III clinical trials have not concluded. 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 05/07/2021

May 7, 2021

Dear Friends,

This week, several U.S. senators spoke out about increased domestic reports of health incidents like those that affected U.S. personnel in Cuba in 2016-2017, Cuban authorities ended a week-long hunger strike by dissident artist-activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and Cuba announced the members of the commission in charge of drafting a new Family Code for the island that will likely offer greater clarification on the legality of same sex marriage.

Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,162 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 5,631 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island. Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Artemisa reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 684, 91, and 47 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 713, but most fatalities have come over the last three months. For a graph of case numbers since March, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.

According to Global Health Partners, Cuba currently faces a shortage of 20 million syringes that will be needed to vaccinate the island’s population against COVID-19. Global Health Partners and the Saving Lives Campaign are currently accepting donations to send medical syringes to Cuba for use in COVID-19 vaccination.

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief 04/30/2021

April 30, 2021

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,046 new cases of COVID-19, and on Wednesday Cuba recorded a record 18 deaths in one day. There are currently 5,404 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, and Havana continues to be the epicenter of new cases. The total number of deaths since last March is 644, but most fatalities have come over the last three months. 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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U.S.-Cuba News Brief 04/23/2021

April 23, 2021

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,241 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 5,623 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana, Matanzas, and Holguín reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 727, 140, and 100 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 569. 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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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 04/16/2021

April 16, 2021

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,040 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 4,750 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, a slight increase from the previous day. Havana, Matanzas, and Santiago de Cuba reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 567, 158, and 86 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 500. 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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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 04/09/2021

April 9, 2021

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,017 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 5,112 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana, Matanzas, and Granma reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 484, 153, and 86 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 448. For a graph of case numbers since March, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.

This week we interviewed Guillermo Grenier, professor of sociology and chair of the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University, about his thoughts on recent polling of Cuban American political opinion, how the Biden-Harris administration can engage the Cuban American community, and what the priorities should be for U.S.-Cuba policy. 

To read this week’s interview with Professor Grenier, visit the “U.S.-Cuba Relations” section.

This week, in Cuba news…

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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 04/02/2021

April 2, 2021

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Cuba reported 1,077 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 4,517 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, an increase from the previous day. Havana, Granma, and Matanzas reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 516, 116, and 98 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 429. 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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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 03/26/2021

March 26, 2021

Dear Friends,

CDA is hiring a Fellow! CDA seeks a uniquely qualified applicant for the 12-month Fellowship with a special interest in all things Cuba, a thirst for activism, and an interest in pursuing a professional career in the foreign policy NGO community. More information on the Fellowship is available here. 

Yesterday, Cuba reported 832 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 3,318 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, a slight decrease from the previous day. Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Camagüey reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 514, 74, and 51 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 413. 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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U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 03/19/2021

March 19, 2021

Dear Friends,

The Fund for Reconciliation and Development is circulating an online petition in support of the restoration of President Obama’s Cuba Policy by the Biden-Harris administration. The petition is available for signing here.

CDA is hiring a Fellow! CDA seeks a uniquely qualified applicant for the 12-month Fellowship with a special interest in all things Cuba, a thirst for activism, and an interest in pursuing a professional career in the foreign policy NGO community. More information on the Fellowship is available here. 

Yesterday, Cuba reported 735 new cases of COVID-19. There are currently 3,575 total active cases of COVID-19 on the island, a slight decrease from the previous day. Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Granma, reported the largest numbers of new cases, with 396, 93, and 62 new cases reported respectively in each province. The total number of deaths since last March is 387. 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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