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Economy

Ivan Garcia, 19 June 2017 — “Impotence.” This is the word that a performer in the Guiñol Theater (located in the basement of the FOCSA building in Havana’s Vedado district) uses when asked her opinion of the new Trump Doctrine regarding Cuba. On a day of African heat, a group of eight waits to navigate the Internet … Continue reading "Cubans Feel Like Hostages to Both Castro and Trump / Iván García" Continue reading
… reforms and favored the Cuban regime over the Cuban people.  President Trump … of the Cuban economy.  American capitalism should never support Cuban communism, and … employee-employer relationship which exists in Cuba remains singularly between the state … Continue reading
The true face of GAESA in Havana's Historic Quarter
ROLANDO MARTÍNEZ | La Habana | 22 de Junio de 2017 - 11:27 CEST.

"What has the change from Habaguanex to GAESA been like?"

"Disastrous."

"Why?"

"Because the military management is inept. They demand too much and want
to intimidate us. Imagine: if you refuse to work with them, or ask for
leave, they threaten to seize your passport for a year."

So says Roberto, 41, a founded clerk at Habaguanex S.A. He says that
they worked very hard in the Historic Center. "We built something that
we can touch with our hands. We don't need repressors, but better salaries."

Almost a year after a commercial conglomerate of the Havana Historian's
Office was absorbed by the military consortium GAESA, many workers at
the 20 hotels, 56 bars and cafes, 39 restaurants and more than 200 shops
- among them boutiques, perfumeries, florists, pharmacies, opticians,
jewelers, liquor stores and food establishments - feel uncomfortable
with their new bosses, and some are even considering leaving the entity.

"They are so bungling," says Osmani, a 38-year-old worker, "that the new
management of the Santa Isabel hostel in the Plaza de Armas closed the
service entrance, so maintenance and other employees now have to pass
through the lobby on their way to their jobs."

"Eusebio [Leal] made arrangements with families so that they could
manage some hostels and businesses, an experiment that yielded excellent
results," says Mikhail, a 43-year-old custodian. "But at the Hostal
Valencia, for example, Gaviota already fired them."

"Now there are more shortages than before," says Yoslaine, 32, a cashier
at a grocery store. "There is also apathy, a lack of staff, and fewer
searches. There are long lines to pay, and the bosses couldn't care less
if the customers complain."

Even at the Puerto Carenas building, an entity that was not transferred
to GAESA, but is headed up by a brigade general, those in charge of the
restoration complain about a lack of materials and their bosses'
ignorance: "Instead of importing the required materials, we are ordered
to use common sand and cement, or any old pigment to restore frescos
that are more than 300 years old," says worker Carlos, age 48.

The vast majority of those consulted believe that "the lesser evil"
would be for civilians to run the commercial conglomerate again, and for
the General Controller of the Republic to do its work, tackling
corruption. "The disaster of the paramilitary economy was demonstrated
in the change from Habaguanex to GAESA," said one of them.

Cement, brick and corruption: the background of the military "occupation"

At the beginning of the 'rescue' of the Historic Quarter —Carlos
recalled— three construction companies were created: Puerto Carenas,
Restauradora del Malecón and Restauradora de Monumentos. The latter was
overseen by the architect Perla Rosales Aguirreurreta, Eusebio Leal's
second-in-command today.

Years later the three companies were merged under the name Puerto
Carenas, headed by Rogelio Milián Lária, a former member of the Unión de
Empresas Constructoras Caribe (UNECA), which in mid-2012 was embroiled
in a major corruption scandal. Among other shady dealings, Milián
charged commissions for the purchase of construction materials from a
Spanish supplier (his son-in-law).

Milián was replaced by Brigadier General Conrado Echeverría, former head
of the General Staff of the Matanzas military region, who later headed
up a housing program for FAR (Armed Forces) officers attached to GAESA's
Unión de Construcciones Militares (UCM).

The militarization of Puerto Carenas did not prevent corruption.
Instead, it prompted the exodus of a number of skilled workers to
non-agricultural cooperatives, where they reportedly receive "better
incentives."

Jorge, a 58-year-old freelance civil engineer, says that in the Historic
Center tenders are awarded to "construction cooperatives." The
professionals who run them operate as figureheads for some bigwigs who
benefit from the profits from these contracts. "Perla Rosales —daughter
of General Ulises Rosales del Toro— is part of that 'gallery'," he says.

Once upon a time in Habaguanex

The festival of corruption at the Office of the Historian reached its
peak "when Meici Weiss rose from the administrator of the Hotel Ambos
Mundos to the general manager of Habaguanex S.A.," says a 62-year-old
former worker at the conglomerate, who requested anonymity and said she
had been a "victim of said administration."

Weiss set up a bureaucratic model that functioned as a criminal
organization and "crushed" employees who refused to get involved in the
"shenanigans." The manager surrounded himself with subordinates that
many called "the untouchables." The bosses enjoyed impunity as they sold
their influence for personal gain, and obtained Schengen visas.

According to previous investigations, in mid-2012 Yoagniel Pérez Ramos,
then manager of the Cervecería Factoría, located in the Plaza Vieja of
the Historic Centre, was arrested right out on the street on suspicion
of "illicit enrichment", among other crimes, unleashing a wave of
arrests that rolled through other divisions of Habaguanex.

Weiss and his entourage were dismissed and subjected to investigations
by the General Controller of the Republic and the Criminal
Investigations Division (DIC). "But shit was found at levels so high
that the process had to be swept under the rug," according to an auditor
who asked not to be identified.

An old case was immediately dusted off against Yoagniel Pérez, for
embezzlement, after the carrying out of an audit - four years earlier -
at the facilities of Habaguanex S.A. (the former military headquarters
of San Ambrosio), where he was second in command.

According to Ruling number 47 of 2014, issued by the People's Provincial
Court of Havana, in case 214/2013, Yoagniel was prosecuted for the crime
of bribery, for paying to obtain a dismissal of the case based on a
"lack of evidence" in case 635/2008.

The lawyers bribed with payments of between 2.000 and 200 CUC, other
favors, and gifts at Factoría, were Osvaldo Fernández Guerra, deputy
director of the Dirección de Bufetes Colectivos (Directorate of
Collective Law Firms) in the capital; Lucía Pérez Fernández, provincial
coordinator of the Centro de Desarrollo de Bufetes Colectivos (Center
for the Development of Collective Law Firms); Mildreda Planas Durruthy,
chief prosecutor of Old Havana; and Marisol García Castillo, prosecutor
of the Old Havana municipal prosecutor's office.

Along with Yoagniel, those involved were sentenced to between 5 and 15
years in prison, property seizures, suspension of their professional
activity, and the retention of their passports until their sanctions
expire. Today Yoagniel is the only one who remains behind bars.

"If Yoagniel, a simple culinary manager, was able to bribe a group of
justice system officials, then what could have been achieved by others
with better positions? People like Meici Weiss, also the mother of Meici
Bolaños Weiss, Deputy Minister of Finance and Prices?" asks Ricardo, 54,
a former clerk at Habaguanex.

The official press refrained from informing the public about the
fissures in the justice system and the corruption at Habaguanex. Ten
months later, Eusebio Leal Spengler, incredibly untouched by the
scandal, ceded control of the commercial conglomerate to the Council of
Ministers, via Decree/Law 325/2014.

Two years after the handover, the real estate company Fenix ​​S.A. -
under the command of the military - took charge of the administration of
the San José Cultural Center, where, according to complaints by the
self-employed artisans there, there were irregularities in the sale of
stands, with prices ranging from 8,000 to 120.000 CUC.

Lázaro, age 42, a former worker at the store at Neptuno and Águila,
cites another example of the corruption at the commercial conglomerate,
where Communist Party higher-ups looked the other way and let the
mischief continue, at the same time taking on roles as "sales agents,"
demanding from management the purchase of a bust of José Martí for 240
CUC, to erect a corner honoring the historic figure in each unit (more
than 315), for a total investment of 76.000 CUC. The purchase was to be
made at the store of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of
Cuba, located at Belascoaín and Desagüe, in the center of Havana.

"There are no surprises," Lázaro says. "When GAESA applies coercive
measures against those who serve drinks at bars, make up the rooms at
hostels, charge customers at markets, and shovel concrete at building
sites, it is because that is the nature of the system: taking advantage
of the weakest and then turning a blind eye to the worst offenders, who
are daddy's boys, crooks dressed up fancy, and card-carrying members of
the Party."

Source: The true face of GAESA in Havana's Historic Quarter | Diario de
Cuba - http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1498122564_32035.html Continue reading
… to these accumulated challenges, the Cuban government has initiated a process … papers authored by Cuban and international economists in Cuba’s Economic Change … to produce expected outcomes, the Cuban government should recognize the interrelated … University of Havana’s Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy … Continue reading
How to get off the eaten track in Santiago de Cuba
A trip to Santiago de Cuba should start with dinner at a paladar
(family-run restaurant) and end with drinks on the roof of the Hotel
Casa Granda.
By JENNIFER BAIN Travel Editor
Wed., June 21, 2017

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, CUBA-Ramon Guilarte welcomes us to his home and
restaurant with a cocktail full of vitamin R. Will it be a Cuba Libre,
rum and cola, or Estacazo, rum and lemonade? Rum is ridiculously cheap here.

Esta Caso seems more fun, thanks to our host's animated explanation
(some of it lost in translation) about how drinking this is like getting
whacked with a stick. As we dig into platters of mango, papaya and
pineapple, Guilarte opens a bottle of rum and pours a little on the
ground as an offering to the saints for good luck, and then asks us each
how big a "stick" we want in our drinks.

"Don't expect a common restaurant," he warns with a theatrical flourish.
"Everybody that comes to the restaurant is a friend. I think it's
important that you feel like home — and these are not empty words."

La Fondita de Compay Ramon is a paladar, a family-run restaurant that
boosts the economy and gives tourists and locals the chance to connect.
At this farm-themed paladar we sit in cowhide "taburete" chairs found in
typical farms and our host is dressed like a traditional farmer.

In between a stunning red kidney bean soup and unpretentious platters
full of rice, pork, cabbage, shrimp, chicken and plantains, we learn
that Guilarte is a painter and empty nester with two daughters and two
grandchildren.

"Painting, and the life of a painter, is very lonely. Painting is
totally opposite to this business." He opened Compay Ramon in 2012 in
the Ferrerido neighbourhood of Cuba's second largest city. His
neighbours don't mind the nightly commotion, maybe because they often
get to share the leftovers.

"Best food in Cuba," according to "the Intrepid Group" in one of the
many accolades scrawled artfully on the wall and dated Dec. 16, just
weeks after Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro died and weeks before my
first visit to Canada's favourite Caribbean island.

You'll find plenty of online accolades for our enthusiastic host. "Ramon
is a character," allows our Cubatur guide and translator Ricardo
Zaldivar Rodriguez, "but this is not a show."

I duck down the hall into the tiny kitchen to meet Guilarte's smiling
wife Mayra Gayoso Romaguera and her helper, who is washing dishes by
hand. I peek at a modest bedroom.

My first night in Cuba ends with a stewed green papaya dessert and
Guilarte showing how to roast coffee beans and brew coffee the
traditional way and then sharing a cigar.

Santiago de Cuba, with half a million people, is often described as "the
hottest city in Cuba" because of its temperature and charm.

We cram a lot into a whirlwind day — historic sites like the Santa
Ifgenia cemetery, where Castro's ashes are marked by a large rock from
the Sierra Maestra mountains, and where national hero/poet Jose Marti
has an elaborate mausoleum. People bring them red and white roses
respectively.

We hit Antonio Maceo Revolution Square, a former fort/prison called
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, and a Catholic church with a sacred
Virgin of Charity statue called El Cobre near a copper mine. I buy a
bundle of copper-tinged rocks from a guy in the parking lot.

Cubans make the most of what they are given. There is virtually no waste
here — public garbage cans are nearly always empty.

I'm more curious about the present than the past and so relish the
chance to wander down Calle Enramada, a pedestrian street where I don't
have time to join the lineup for hot churros.

"If you don't mention this street name," says Rodriguez, "it might be
said that you have never been to Santiago de Cuba."

At La Barrita Ron Caney, a bar by a rum factory, I sample seven-year-old
rum, smelling it with closed eyes, tilting the glass to see the body and
holding a sip in my throat while the house band plays traditional Cuban
music.

There is music everywhere, in Plaza de Dolores, in Casa de la Trova Pepe
Sanchez, and at Tropicana, an outpost of Havana's famed cabaret.

"When we hear music, we start dancing," says Rodriguez, who sings and
dances throughout our week together.

At Restaurante Matamoros, the chef pops out of the kitchen to join the
band while we enjoy a soupy meat and vegetable stew called ajiaco. After
dinner we have coffee nearby at Café Constantin, where my Bembito Bomban
is a cheeky reference to Afro-Cuban women and combines coffee, cacao
liqueur and cinnamon.

Cuba is changing, so you will mix and match old and new.

Melia Santiago de Cuba is new, glitzy and a short drive from the
historic centre, with decent Wi-Fi (a very big deal), a pool, and a
breakfast buffet, where I wrapped thin slices of cheese around chunks of
guava paste.

In the heart of downtown, Hotel Casa Granda oozes colonial charm, with a
breezy rooftop restaurant and sweeping city views. For my last meal, I
had a Cuban sandwich (an American invention) and a local spin on
pepperoni pizza (forgive me).

It was no Fondita de Compay Ramon, but it was still equally, magically
Cuban.

Jennifer Bain was hosted by the Cuba Tourist Board, which didn't review
or approve this story.

When you go

Get there: I flew Cubana de Aviacion airlines (www.cubana.cu ) direct to
Santiago de Cuba and flew home with a stop in Camaguey. WestJet, Air
Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing all fly to various spots in Cuba.

Get around: It's easy to take taxis around Santiago de Cuba, but if you
have a driver and guide (like I did with Cubatur), you'll have the bonus
of a translator/fixer.

Stay: I stayed at the modern Melia Santiago de Cuba (melia.com).

Eat: Find La Fondita de Compay Ramon on Facebook.

Know: You can only buy Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) in Cuba and can't
exchange them at the end of your trip. Get them at the airport and
foreign exchange shops. Wi-Fi is limited to public squares and some
hotel lobbies. Buy a 60-minute Wi-Fi card for 2 CUC (about $2.75
Canadian) at the airport or your hotel. North American plugs don't work
so bring an adaptor for the European 220-volt system.

Source: How to get off the eaten track in Santiago de Cuba | Toronto
Star -
https://www.thestar.com/life/travel/2017/06/21/how-to-get-off-the-eaten-track-in-santiago-de-cuba.html Continue reading
… of embassies in Washington and Havana. The executive order Trump signed … going to Cuba and bans US business transactions with the Cuban military …  tourism but directly into the Cuban economy. For example in the … to force Cuba to address human rights issues. In response, Havana said … Continue reading
Being Rich Is Banned in Cuba / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 8 June 2017 — The die is cast. At the special session of
the National Assembly of People's Power held on May 31 and June 1 at the
Palace of Conventions, delegates have, as expected, approved the
economic plan for 2016 to 2021 and a national plan for economic and
social development for 2030.

Were it not so serious, it would seem like a sketch from the late night
American comedy show "Saturday Night Live," especially since the
parliamentary debates were more farcical than rational.

Numerous "discussions" were televised. Not even Pánfilo — an elderly
character created by the famous Cuban comedian Luis Silva and a man
obsessed with his ration book — generates as many contradictions and
absurdities.

Committees made up of so-called peoples' representatives held debates,
attempted to change one word in a paragraph, tweaked a concept and
championed trivialities in order to justify two days of meetings in an
air-conditioned facility where attendees were provided with breakfast,
lunch and dinner along with breaks for coffee and mineral water.

Mercenaries of a different kind. No parliamentarian asked the recently
reappointed economics and planning minister, Marino Murillo, to specify
just how much capital one would be allowed to accumulate in Cuba. In
other words, how rich could one be?

A few official reports offer some clues. The regime is already preparing
a series of measures aimed at limiting or restricting the prosperity of
citizens and small business owners.

Lucio, an economist, believes that, "in addition to legal restrictions,
they will issue repressive rulings and adopt tax provisions to curtail
wealth. Those who accumulate certain sums of money that the government
considers excessive will be subject to a severe fiscal knife. In the
worst cases, they will face forfeiture or criminal sanctions. I see no
other way to curtail the accumulation of capital."

There is a dreadful incongruity to the new legislative stew. While the
island's ruling military junta grants approval and legal status to
private businesses, it also uses a range of prohibitions to limit their
growth and to prevent them from prospering or making money.

The island's chieftains are paralyzed by fear that the state will lose
its control over society.

They are worried that, as successful mid-size businesses grow, they will
move large sums of money that could exceed a million dollars and create
supply chains that will benefit society.

Or that the owner of a restaurant will open two or three branches,
expanding within the same city or into other provinces, and acquire a
million dollars or more in funding through bank loans or other sources.

Of course, if a private businessman plays his cards right, he will do
well, even earning annual profits in the six figures. That is the basis
of national economic growth. As long as they respect the law and pay
their taxes, bring on successful private business ventures!

But the government has a specific strategy. The only companies that may
accumulate millions of dollars and enter into joint-ventures with
foreign firms are state-owned enterprises. In other words, GAESA-style
military-run conglomerates or others of the same ilk. It is the state
playing with capitalism.

I did not hear any voices in the boring, monotone Cuban parliament
asking for explanations or details about how Gaviota and Rafin's
multi-million dollar earnings would ultimately be used.*

By 2020 Gaviota will operate 50,000 hotel rooms as well as marinas, golf
courses and stores. Within the next ten years the military-run
conglomerate will become the largest hotel group in the Americas yet the
whereabouts of its revenues are unknown.

Rafin, which according to sources is an acronym for Raúl and Fidel
Investments, is an opaque corporation in a country with a planned
economy that has never stated publicly what its sources of capital are.

This mysterious company bought Telecom Italia's stake in a joint venture
with the Cuban government that was intended to modernize the state-owned
telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. Rafin is now the sole owner of ETECSA.

What is it doing with its multi-million dollar profits? Are
parliamentary deputies not concerned that ETECSA has not created a
social fund to benefit primary, secondary and pre-university schools,
whose makeshift computer labs lack internet access?

Furthermore, they did not complain about the high prices ETECSA charges
for its mobile phone, wifi and internet services, a subject much
discussed in online discussions sponsored by official media outlets and
about which readers have expressed their frustration. Or about the
alarming prices for goods sold at hard currency retail stores. Or, even
more scandalous, the prices of cars on display in large, well-lit showrooms.

Nor did any parliamentarians demand that state-run companies lower the
prices of household appliances, televisions and smartphones at places
like the Samsung store on 3rd Avenue and 70th Street in Miramar in
western Havana, where a Galaxy S7 edge costs the equivalent of $1,300
and a seventy-inch 4K television goes for around $5,000.

The fact that the state is planning the lives of its citizens through
2030 seems like science fiction when no one knows how we will make it
even to year's end. The average Cuban pays no attention to parliamentary
debates or to party politics.

People often look the other way. Apathy, dissimulation and indifference
to national affairs pave the way for regime's excesses.

Workers attend labor union meetings where, without giving them any
thought, they approve economic proposals they do not want and do not
understand. And in their neighborhoods and districts, they vote
mechanically for candidates to the National Assembly who solve nothing.
Cuba has become a nation of domesticated zombies.

Everyone complains quietly at home to his or her family members,
neighbors and friends. But in workplaces and schools, they feign loyalty
to the government, especially when it comes time to have a document
approved or to vote in sterile elections. We have gotten what we deserve.

Deng Xiaoping, a diehard communist and father of China's economic
reforms, understood that making money was neither shameful nor a crime.
"It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white. What matters is if
catches mice," he said in 1960. In Cuba's dictatorship, the cat wears
olive green battle fatigues.

*Translator's note: Gaviota operates a chain of tourist hotels
throughout the island and offers other tourism related services.
According to Bloomberg, Rafin SA "operates as a diversified financial
services company." In 2011 it bought Telecom Italia's 27% stake in the
Cuban state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA for $706 million.

Source: Being Rich Is Banned in Cuba / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/being-rich-is-banned-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 8 June 2017 — The die is cast. At the special session of the National Assembly of People’s Power held on May 31 and June 1 at the Palace of Conventions, delegates have, as expected, approved the economic plan for 2016 to 2021 and a national plan for economic and social development for … Continue reading "Being Rich Is Banned in Cuba / Iván García" Continue reading
Changes To Cuba Policy Met With Mixed Reactions
JULIEGRACE BRUFKE
Capitol Hill Reporter
3:52 PM 06/19/2017

President Donald Trump's changes to the United State's policy on Cuba,
which tightens restrictions on travel and business transactions between
countries, has been met with mixed reactions by congressional Republicans.

Proponents of the adjustments argue it's necessary for the U.S. to take
a stand against the Castro regimes' humanitarian violations. But critics
argue it will have a negative impact on the people of Cuba and the U.S.
economy.

an people are starting to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and
recognize capitalism — which he feels could be hindered once the new
policy is implemented, according to GOP Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas,
who recently traveled to Cuba. He noted the U.S. has relations with
multiple other countries with military-controlled regimes, adding he
believes the policy changes are reflective of a dated viewpoint.

"I think it's in our strategic interest long-term, what we have there
now is a void of leadership, a void of economic direction that's being
killed by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran and other nations,"
Crawford told The Daily Caller News Foundation. "They don't have the
interest of the United States or our well-being — in fact, they have an
invested interest in undermining the United States. So why would we
allow them to carve out a stronger niche every day in the absence of
U.S. economic engagement? We just can't sit back and watch from the
beach in Key West."

Crawford said while he wished former President Barack Obama has involved
Congress more while implementing his administration's Cuba policy, it
largely had a positive impact on both countries.

"I think this [Trump's changes] probably kind of built on the opinion of
a small minority — a very vocal small minority, but a small minority
nonetheless," he said. "You know we feel like we've made some great
progress and building up support, making a pretty compelling case about
what our objectives were why, and so this seems a little obtuse."

Supporters of the new policy say the change will have a positive impact
on the Cuban people since it's aimed at preventing funds from going to
the Cuban military.

Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida dismissed the argument the
U.S. should continue to strengthen relations with Cuba due to its
business dealings with other repressive countries.

"It's a dramatic change dramatic change from a policy that frankly was
helping to fund the Castro dictatorship's military and intelligence
services to a policy that helps support the Cuban people and stops the
funding to those entities," he told TheDCNF."But here's the interesting
thing, we have sanctions against North Korea, we have sanctions against
Iran — even though they were greatly weakened by the previous
administration — we have sanctions used in specific cases," Diaz-Balart
continued.

Diaz-Balart said it's "ludicrous" to have policies in place that fund a
government that is repressing its people.

"Here's the interesting thing, we have sanctions against North Korea, we
have sanctions against Iran — even though they were greatly weakened by
the previous administration — we have sanctions used in specific cases,"
he continued. "In the case of this hemisphere, where democracy is the
only legitimate form of government according to the OAS [Organization of
American States], in this hemisphere it's in our national security
interest not to fund what the Obama administration called the fourth
most aggressive, most-effective espionage network on the entire planet."

Source: Changes To Cuba Policy Met With Mixed Reactions | The Daily
Caller -
http://dailycaller.com/2017/06/19/changes-to-cuba-policy-met-with-mixed-reactions/ Continue reading
Cuba Won't Negotiate Trump's New Policy
At a Monday news conference, the nation's foreign minister called the
latest deal "a grotesque spectacle straight from the Cold War."
ARIA BENDIX JUN 19, 2017 NEWS

Speaking at a news conference in Vienna, Austria on Monday, Cuba's
foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, said his nation was not interested in
negotiating with the Trump administration over a newly-proposed policy
to limit tourism and trade to the island. Cuba "will never negotiate
under pressure or under threat," Rodriquez said, while also refusing to
return U.S. fugitives to whom Cuba has granted asylum. "Cuba conceded
political asylum or refuge to U.S. fighters for civil rights," Rodriguez
said. "These persons will not be returned to the United States."

At a Friday speech in Miami's Little Havana district, President Trump
announced he was "canceling the last administration's completely
one-sided deal with Cuba" in an effort to undermine the nation's current
regime, led by President Raúl Castro. "With God's help," Trump said, "a
free Cuba is what we will soon achieve." While many of the specifics
have yet to be worked out, the new policy intends to reinstate travel
restrictions that were loosened under the Obama administration. The
policy also aims to prevent U.S. companies from doing business with
Cuba's Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA)— a conglomerate
tied to many sectors of Cuba's economy, including tourism.

On Friday, Trump said the deal could be subject to negotiation—with the
exception of a few key demands. "To the Cuban government, I say, put an
end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop
jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic
freedoms, [and] return the fugitives from American justice," Trump said.
"When Cuba is ready to take concrete steps to these ends, we will be
ready, willing, and able to come to the table to negotiate that much
better deal for Cubans, for Americans."

Trump also used his speech to call for the return of "the cop–killer
Joanne Chesimard," otherwise known as Assata Shakur. Chesimard, a black
nationalist, was granted asylum in Cuba in 1984 after receiving a life
sentence for the death of a New Jersey state trooper. On Monday,
Rodriquez directly responded to Trump's order, arguing that the U.S. had
no "legal or moral basis" to demand Chesimard's return or that of any
other U.S. fugitive.

While Cuba has previously expressed a willingness to negotiate bilateral
issues with the Trump administration, their tone changed dramatically
with the unveiling of the new policy on Friday. The Castro government
has since released a statement saying that the U.S. is "not in the
condition to lecture us" on human rights abuses, citing the GOP health
care plan and police brutality as examples of the U.S.'s own violations.
Rodriquez reinforced this message on Monday, stating that "Cuba will
make no concessions on its sovereignty and its independence, will not
negotiate over its principles, and will never accept [imposed] conditions."

While Rodriquez admitted that Trump's new policy "will wreak economic
damage" on Cuban companies and private sector workers, he argued that it
would only serve to further unite his government. Rodriquez also noted
that U.S. companies and citizens would suffer from limited economic and
cultural exchange with Cuba. Indeed, this very thinking motivated the
Obama administration to open the lines of trade and communication with
Cuba in 2014, following a 50-year-old embargo that did little to improve
conditions in the nation. As a result, the administration paved the way
for major companies like Airbnb and Starwood to access the Cuban market,
while spurring entrepreneurship among Cuban citizens.

Trump's new policy threatens to stymie this growth while placing
high-level U.S.-Cuba negotiations on the chopping block. With Rodriquez
now calling Trump's policy "a grotesque spectacle straight from the Cold
War," it seems the lines of dialogue between top U.S. and Cuban
officials have already begun to close—and, with them, the chance to
witness the long-term results of improved diplomatic relations.

Source: Cuba Won't Negotiate Trump's New Policy - The Atlantic -
https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/06/cuba-wont-negotiate-trumps-new-policy/530847/ Continue reading
… benefits of opening up the Cuban market. “I feel confident the … benefited U.S. citizens, everyday Cubans and our economy, we are … , outdated, and isolationist posture towards Cuba. This policy change is not … rights and religious liberties in Cuba. I strongly urge reconsideration of … Continue reading
… of Cuba and the U.S. economy. It’s evident the Cuban … a positive impact on the Cuban people since it’s aimed … funds from going to the Cuban military. Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart … policy that helps support the Cuban people and stops the funding … Continue reading
… undermine the Cuban government,” he stated. “The relationship between Cuba and the United States had a positive impact on the Cuban … made with Cuba. Obama worked to enact several changes to Cuban policy … . He re-established diplomatic relations with Havana in 2015 and loosened some … Continue reading
…  the March 2016 deal between Havana and the administration of then … on Cuba. "This decision will have limited impact on Cuba’s … business with Cuba in view of the immense potential of Cuban tourism …  the key sectors of the Cuban economy, with over four million … Continue reading
Cuba's small businesses say they will suffer under Trump's policy changes
Alan Gomez , USA TODAY 3:33 p.m. ET June 18, 2017

HAVANA — When Julia de la Rosa heard President Trump's speech
restricting Americans' ability to visit Cuba, she immediately started
calculating how many workers she'll have to fire.

De la Rosa, 49, has spent the past 20 years renovating an abandoned
family home and turning it into a private bed and breakfast in Havana.
She and her husband used to rent out five rooms, but expanded to 10
after then-President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic relations
with Cuba in December 2014, unleashing a flood of American travelers to
the long-isolated, communist island.

De la Rosa said the expected drop in visitors from the United
States, who account for two-thirds of her business, will force her to
let go of some of the 20 people she employs as maids, cooks, carpenters,
gardeners and drivers.

"For the first time, we thought our future had no limits," de la Rosa
said of the period after Obama announced the opening with Cuba. "We
thought our history was being rewritten. Now I feel like everything is
crumbling around me. I never thought this would really happen. I'm in
shock."

In Trump's speech Friday in Miami before a supportive group of
Cuban-Americans, the president said he would restrict American travel to
Cuba because U.S. dollars were going straight into the hands of Cuba
President Raúl Castro and his communist regime. Trump said too many
Americans were staying in government-run hotels, eating at
government-run restaurants and not helping Cuba's growing class of
private entrepreneurs.

Nearly 300,000 Americans flocked to Cuba in the first five months of
2017, almost the same number as all of last year, according to the Cuban
government.

"They only enrich the Cuban regime," Trump said.

But Cuba's growing class of private entrepreneurs, now more than 530,000
people working independently outside of the state-run economy, say the
opposite is true. Nereyda Rodriguez sells paintings by local artists out
of a renovated house in Old Havana and says her business has boomed
thanks to all the Yankees.

"These last two years have been great," she said. "It's been a beautiful
thing. We talk with the Americans, they learn about our lives, we learn
about theirs. Now? I don't know what's going to happen."

Trump's restrictions are counter-productive because they will limit the
very kind of travelers who help Cuban entrepreneurs, said Augusto
Maxwell, who chairs the Cuba practice at the Akerman law firm in Miami
that represents airlines, cruise lines, Airbnb and other U.S. companies
operating in Cuba.

He described American travelers as independent people who don't want to
stay in large government hotels, so he doesn't understand why Trump
believes they're propping up the Cuban regime.

"It's these folks who tend to stay in private homes, who hire a private
car for the day, who eat at private restaurants," he said. "And those
are the travelers who are now generally disallowed from traveling to Cuba."

Some entrepreneurs in Cuba were so worried that the U.S. would shift
course that they tried to limit their reliance on American travelers.
Gilberto Smith Alvarez, who runs two pizza shops in Havana, said
he welcomed the rush of American visitors but tried to maintain a more
Cuban clientele. He said about 80% of those who eat at his restaurants
are Cuban — a plan he described as insurance against the kind of
reversal Trump just announced.

"I'm focused on Cubans precisely because this was a possibility," he
said. "Tourism from the U.S. is too unstable for me, too politically
unstable."

The rest of Cuba's entrepreneurs are left to figure out how to recover
from the expected drop in American visitors. De la Rosa said she spent
the weekend fielding calls from workers and friends she had encouraged
to get private licenses and open their own businesses.

"They're been calling and asking, 'And now what?'" she said. "I don't
know what to tell them."

Source: Cuba's small businesses say they will suffer under Trump's
changes -
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/06/18/cuba-small-businesses/102991296/ Continue reading
… new restrictions on Cuba travel and trade. But most Cubans are disappointed. The American traveller in Cuba - sweating … efforts to choke the Cuban economy. Instead, Cuba's tourism industry … dust-covered construction foreman in Old Havana, whose crew was busy converting … Continue reading
How Trump's Cuba policy impacts US travelers
BY MELANIE ZANONA - 06/18/17 08:00 AM EDT 72

Americans may need to rethink their travel plans to Cuba in the wake of
President Trump's effort to crack down on the communist regime.

The White House announced a slew of new restrictions on Friday aimed at
tightening travel and commercial ties between the U.S. and Cuba, which
comes after a nearly five-month policy review of former President
Obama's historic opening with the island nation.

Trump didn't fully reverse the rapprochement with Cuba. But the
significant policy shift will curtail Americans' ability to travel
freely to Cuba, even as numerous U.S. airlines, hotels and travel sites
like AirBnb have begun offering services there.

Here's how Trump's new Cuba policy impacts U.S. visitors.

Legal types of travel

One of the biggest changes is what constitutes a legal form of travel to
Cuba.

Under Trump's new restrictions, Americans will only be able to visit
Cuba as part of a tour group if they want to go to the island for
educational purposes.

Obama allowed U.S. visitors to travel to the country under 12 different
license categories, including for educational purposes, religious
reasons, journalistic activities and family visits. There was also a
general license. Tourism was still prohibited, however.
Trump is eliminating the so-called people-to-people trips, a
sub-category of education that enables Americans to design their own
trips and go to Cuba on their own. That method has been one of the more
popular ways that U.S. travelers have been seeing the island since Obama
announced his changes.

White House officials also said it's the category most ripe for abuse,
with Americans using it to skirt the tourism ban.

Visitors will still be able to self-certify under a general license that
they are traveling to Cuba for one of the remaining legitimate
reasons. And Cuban-Americans will be able to continue to visit their
family in Cuba and send them remittances, according to a fact sheet.

But those going for educational purposes will now need to apply with the
Treasury Department and go with a licensed tour group – a process than
can be far more lengthy and expensive, according to anti-embargo advocates.

"By requiring Americans to travel in tour groups, the administration is
not only making it more expensive for everyday Americans to travel to
the island, but pushing them away from staying in private homes – which
are unable to accommodate large tour groups – and into state run
hotels," said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba.

Spending restrictions

Another major crux of Trump's Cuba policy is prohibiting any financial
transactions that benefit the Cuban military's business arm, Grupo de
Administración Empresarial (GAESA), in an effort to restrict the flow of
money to the oppressive elements of Raúl Castro's regime.

That means Americans will be largely restricted in where they can spend
their money, given the Cuban government's control of a large swath of
the travel and tourist economy, including hotels, restaurants and other
entities.

GAESA currently operates the Four Points by Sheraton Havana, one of the
first U.S. hotels to open on the island in decades.

The administration hopes that the ban on financial transactions with
companies linked to the Cuban military will help funnel more money
towards free and private Cuban businesses.

White House officials also noted that Americans can still bring back
Cuban cigars from their trips.

Stronger enforcement

U.S. visitors may face more questioning from authorities when they
return home from Cuba.

Part of Trump's policy focuses on enforcing the existing ban on tourism,
which means travelers can expect to see stepped up enforcement, either
from customs agents at the airport or through audits later on.

"Our policy begins with strictly enforcing U.S. law," Trump said during
his speech in Miami, unveiling the new policy. "We will enforce the ban
on tourism."

All visitors are required to maintain full schedules while in Cuba and
keep detailed logs for five years – something that has been rarely checked.

The White House is now directing the Treasury Department to conduct
regular audits of travelers and calling on the Inspector General to keep
tabs on the agency's effort.

Those who are caught violating Cuban sanctions could face civil or
criminal penalties, with individual civil fines that could reach up to
$65,000 per violation, according to the Treasury Department.

Commercial flights

Commercial flights, which resumed between the U.S. and Cuba for the
first time in over 50 years last summer, will be allowed to continue
uninterrupted under Trump's Cuba policy.

Seven U.S. airlines now fly nonstop to Cuba, following an intense effort
to win a direct flight route to the island last year.

But facing lower than expected travel demand, a number of carriers have
already begun to scale back their Cuba operations.

If demand continues to decline once people-to-people trips are banned,
and with tour groups more likely to book charter flights, travelers may
see higher ticker prices and less commercial flight options.

"There was already a sense that there were way too many flights. I do
think you're likely to see a fewer number of flights and higher fares,"
said Andrew Keller, a partner at Hogan Lovells focusing on international
trade and investment. "You may well see more of the airlines pulling
out, if it's just not worth it."

Timeline

The Treasury and Commerce departments will now have 30 days to start
drafting new rules that fulfill Trump's directive, but "then the process
takes as long as it takes," said one senior official.

That means that travelers who have already scheduled a trip to Cuba can
still move ahead with their plans, as long as the new regulations have
not taken effect yet.

In writing new rules, the Treasury Department is expected to spell out
exactly what will happen to people who book trips before the new rules,
but travel after their release.

Source: How Trump's Cuba policy impacts US travelers | TheHill -
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/338211-how-trumps-cuba-policy-impacts-us-travelers Continue reading
… back Obama’s outreach to Havana. He’s warned that returning … the Cuban economy. By restricting individual U.S. travel to Cuba, the … announced the policy in Little Havana were Sen. Marco Rubio and … .S. Cuba policy could threaten new bilateral agreements with Havana to combat … Continue reading
Havana The American traveler in Cuba — sweating, disoriented and probably a … in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, asserts that the Obama-era … efforts to choke the Cuban economy. Instead, Cuba's tourism industry … dust-covered construction foreman in Old Havana, whose crew was busy converting … Continue reading
… back Obama’s outreach to Havana. He’s warned that returning … the Cuban economy. By restricting individual U.S. travel to Cuba, the … announced the policy in Little Havana were Sen. Marco Rubio and … .S. Cuba policy could threaten new bilateral agreements with Havana to combat … Continue reading
… Washington Post. HAVANA - The American traveler in Cuba - sweating, disoriented … efforts to choke the Cuban economy. Instead, Cuba’s tourism industry grew … Cuba travel won’t have to cancel. Limited economic reforms by Cuban … dust-covered construction foreman in Old Havana, whose crew was busy converting … Continue reading
… , he challenged Cuba to negotiate better agreements for Americans, Cubans and those … Miami's Little Havana, the cradle of Cuban-American resistance to Mr … ," it said. Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open … conglomerate that dominates much of Havana's economy, such as … Continue reading
… back Obama’s outreach to Havana. He’s warned that returning … the Cuban economy. By restricting individual U.S. travel to Cuba, the … announced the policy in Little Havana were Sen. Marco Rubio and … .S. Cuba policy could threaten new bilateral agreements with Havana to combat … Continue reading
Cuba policy] The Trump plan, announced Friday in Miami’s Little Havana … efforts to choke the Cuban economy. Instead, Cuba’s tourism industry grew … Cuba travel won’t have to cancel. Limited economic reforms by Cuban … dust-covered construction foreman in Old Havana, whose crew was busy converting … Continue reading
What does Trump's new Cuba policy mean for travel to island?
MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and DAVID KOENIG,Associated Press • June 17,

HAVANA (AP) — Here's what's changing with President Donald Trump's new
policy on travel to Cuba, announced Friday:

BEFORE DETENTE

Before former President Barack Obama launched detente with Cuba in
December 2014, most Americans without family ties to Cuba traveled to
the island on expensive guided tours dedicated to full-time "meaningful
interaction" with the Cuban people and — in principle at least —
avoiding activities that could be considered tourism, which is illegal
under U.S. law.

"People-to-people" tour companies needed special licenses from the U.S.
Treasury Department and were regularly audited and faced steep fines or
loss of licenses for allowing travelers to engage in tourism.

In Cuba, U.S. tour companies were required to contract guides, tour
buses and hotel rooms from the Cuban government, meaning U.S. travelers
were effectively under the constant supervision of the government. As a
result, they were often presented with activities and talks favoring
Cuba government positions on domestic and international issues.

OBAMA'S REFORMS

Obama eliminated the tour requirement, allowing Americans to travel to
Cuba on individual "people-to-people" trips that were in reality
indistinguishable from travel to any other country in the world.
Travelers were legally required to maintain logs of their full-time
"people-to-people" schedules but the Obama administration made clear it
would not enforce the requirement.

Online lodging booker Airbnb was allowed into Cuba, and commercial
flights between the U.S. and Cuba resumed after more than half a
century. As a result, U.S. travel to Cuba roughly tripled by the time
Obama left office. U.S. travelers are engaging in what amounts to
illegal tourism, but they are also pumping hundreds of millions of
dollars into the restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts that are driving the
growth of Cuba's nascent private sector.

TRUMP'S ROLLBACK, AND WHAT IT MEANS

Trump will re-impose the requirement that "people-to-people" travelers
can only come to Cuba with heavily regulated tour groups. Many Cuban
entrepreneurs fear this will stifle the American travel that has allowed
so many of them to flourish since the start of detente.

The policy will also ban most American financial transactions with the
military-linked conglomerate that dominates much of the Cuban economy,
including dozens of hotels, along with state-run restaurants and tour buses.

This will almost certainly make all American travel to the island a
complicated maze of avoiding payments to military-linked monopolies
ranging from hotels to gas stations to convenience stores.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who claims credit for writing the Trump policy along
with a fellow Cuban-American and Florida Republican, Rep. Mario
Diaz-Balart, tweeted Friday that individual American travelers will
still be able to go to Cuba for the purpose of supporting the Cuban
people, a category that includes helping human rights organizations and
non-governmental groups meant to strengthen democracy and civil society.

WHEN DOES IT TAKE EFFECT?

The new realities of U.S. travel to Cuba will be determined by the
regulations that federal agencies will produce as a result of the new
policy. A presidential memorandum gives the government 90 days before it
even starts to rewrite Cuba travel regulations, meaning it could be many
months before it's clear what the change means for American travelers.

The Treasury Department said individuals who bought an airline ticket or
rented a room or car before Trump's announcement could make additional
travel-related purchases for that travel under the Obama policy, even if
their trip to Cuba takes place after the new, stricter Trump regulations
go into effect.

Of course, the mere news of the change is likely to have a chilling
effect on travel to Cuba.

___

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

David Koenig on Twitter: http://twitter.com/airlinewriter

Source: What does Trump's new Cuba policy mean for travel to island? -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/does-trumps-cuba-policy-mean-travel-island-181604922.html Continue reading
Trump rolls back some, not all, changes in US-Cuba relations
Darlene Superville, Michael Weissenstein and Josh Lederman, Associated
Press, Associated Press • June 17, 2017

MIAMI (AP) -- Pressing "pause" on a historic detente, President Donald
Trump thrust the U.S. and Cuba back on a path toward open hostility with
a blistering denunciation of the island's communist government. He
clamped down on some commerce and travel but left intact many new
avenues President Barack Obama had opened.

The Cuban government responded by rejecting what it called Trump's
"hostile rhetoric." Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue
"respectful dialogue" with on topics of mutual interest.

Even as Trump predicted a quick end to President Raul Castro's regime,
he challenged Cuba to negotiate better agreements for Americans, Cubans
and those whose identities lie somewhere in between. Diplomatic
relations, restored only two years ago, will remain intact. But, in a
shift from Obama's approach, Trump said trade and other penalties would
stay in place until a long list of prerequisites was met.

"America has rejected the Cuban people's oppressors," Trump said Friday
in Miami's Little Havana, the cradle of Cuban-American resistance to
Castro's government. "Officially, today, they are rejected."

Declaring Obama's pact with Castro a "completely one-sided deal," Trump
said he was canceling it. In practice, however, many recent changes to
boost ties to Cuba will stay as they are. Trump cast that as a sign the
U.S. still wanted to engage with Cuba in hopes of forging "a much
stronger and better path."

In a statement released Friday evening on government-run websites and
television, Cuban President Raul Castro's administration said Trump's
speech was "loaded with hostile rhetoric that recalls the times of open
confrontation."

The lengthy statement went on to strike a conciliatory tone, saying Cuba
wants to continue negotiations with the U.S. on a variety of subjects.
"The last two years have shown that the two countries can cooperate and
coexist in a civilized way," it said.

Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open. U.S. airlines and
cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of
Florida. The "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which once let most Cuban
migrants stay if they made it to U.S. soil but was terminated under
Obama, will remain terminated. Remittances from people in America to
Cubans won't be cut off.

But individual "people-to-people" trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by
Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited. And the
U.S. government will police other trips to ensure travelers are pursuing
a "full-time schedule of educational exchange activities."

The changes won't go into effect until new documents laying out details
are issued. Once implemented Trump's policy is expected to curtail U.S.
travel by creating a maze of rules for Americans to obey. The policy
bans most financial transactions with a yet-unreleased list of entities
associated with Cuba's military and state security, including a
conglomerate that dominates much of Cuba's economy, such as many hotels,
state-run restaurants and tour buses.

Surrounded by Florida Republican officials, the president was unabashed
about the political overtones of his election victory and Friday's
announcement:

"You went out and you voted, and here I am, like I promised."

Cheered by Cuba hardliners in both parties, Trump's new policy is
broadly opposed by U.S. businesses eager to invest in Cuba.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, typically supportive of GOP presidents,
predicted the changes would limit prospects for "positive change on the
island," while Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., said Trump's policy was
"misguided" and will hurt the U.S. economically.

Trump's declaration in a crowded, sweltering auditorium was a direct
rebuke to Obama, for whom the diplomatic opening with Cuba was a central
accomplishment of his presidency.

Yet it also exposed the shortcomings in Obama's approach.

Unable to persuade Congress to lift the decades-old trade embargo, Obama
had used his power to adjust the rules that implement the embargo to
expand built-in loopholes. Obama and his aides argued that commerce and
travel between the countries, which has blossomed since he relaxed the
rules, would make his policy irreversible.

Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security adviser who negotiated
Obama's opening with the Cubans, said it was disappointing Trump was
halting the momentum that had built but added that it could have been worse.

"This is a limitation on what we did, not a reversal of what we did,"
Rhodes said in an interview.

For Cubans, the shift risks stifling a nascent middle class that has
started to rise as Americans have flocked to the island on airlines,
patronizing thousands of private bed-and-breakfasts.

"When he's cutting back on travel, he's hurting us, the Cuban
entrepreneurs," said Camilo Diaz, a 44-year-old waiter in a restaurant
in Havana. "We're the ones who are hurt."

Granma, the official organ of Cuba's Communist Party, described Trump's
declarations in real-time blog coverage Friday as "a return to
imperialist rhetoric and unilateral demands." Cuba's government may not
formally respond to Trump's speech until a speech Monday by its foreign
minister.

The Castro government is certain to reject Trump's list of demands,
which includes releasing political prisoners, halting what the U.S. says
is abuse of dissidents and allowing greater freedom of expression.
Refusing to negotiate domestic reforms in exchange for U.S. concessions
is perhaps the most fundamental plank of Cuba's policy toward the U.S.

Cuba functioned as a virtual U.S. colony for much of the 20th century,
and even reform-minded Cubans are highly sensitive to perceived U.S.
infringements on national sovereignty. Trump, on the other hand,
described his move as an effort to bring about a "free Cuba" after more
than half a century of communism.

"I do believe that end is in the very near future," he said.

Cuba's 1,470-word statement Friday night labeled Trump a hypocrite for
calling on Cuba to improve human rights, saying the U.S. government "is
threatening more limits on health care that would leave 23 million
people without insurance ... and marginalizes immigrants and refugees,
particular those from Islamic countries."

The statement reiterates Cuba's commitment to "the necessary changes
that we're making now as part of the updating of our socio-economic
model," but says "they will continue being decided in a sovereign way by
the Cuban people."

The U.S. severed ties with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro's revolution,
and spent decades trying to either overthrow the government or isolate
the island, including by toughening an economic embargo first imposed by
President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Castro were restoring ties.
Less than a year later, the U.S. Embassy in Havana re-opened, and Obama
paid a historic visit to Havana in 2016.

___

Weissenstein reported from Havana and Lederman from Washington.

Source: Trump rolls back some, not all, changes in US-Cuba relations -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-rolls-back-not-changes-us-cuba-relations-073828473--politics.html Continue reading
Trump's Cuba policy tries to redefine 'good' U.S. tourism. That includes
putting them back on tour buses.
By Nick Miroff June 17 at 2:43 PM

The American traveler in Cuba — sweating, disoriented and probably a bit
woozy from the rum drinks — is once more at the heart of the struggle
for the island's future.

Central to President Trump's plans to peel back his predecessor's
detente with Cuba is the idea that there is "good" and "bad" U.S.
travel. The United States, Trump believes, can tightly regulate American
vacations to deprive the Castro government of dollars and redirect the
money to the island's growing class of entrepreneurs.

But it will be difficult to pick winners in Cuba's state-controlled
economy, where government businesses and the private sector are
thoroughly intertwined. And even harder will be determining what sort of
travel constitutes the kind of "people-to-people" interactions the Trump
administration says it wants to preserve.

By reinstating restrictions on independent travelers, the Trump
administration's new policy will hurt Cuba's emerging private sector
that caters to American visitors, critics insist.

Instead, the new rules will herd Americans back toward the kind of
prepackaged, predictable group tourism that the Cuban government
actually prefers — and earns more revenue from.

"I think if you come here on a package tour, you see what the Cuban
government wants you to see," said Andrew Sleyko, 36, a food scientist
from Chicago who was visiting the island for the first time as Trump
announced his new policy.

Sleyko and a friend had booked rooms through Airbnb and were spending
their days walking around the city in the muggy heat.

"We're talking to people wherever we go," he said. "Isn't that the idea
of people-to-people?"

The Trump plan, announced Friday in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood,
asserts that the Obama-era rules facilitated what the White House called
"illegal" tourism by allowing U.S. travelers to rent rooms in Cuban
homes through sites such as Airbnb.

Americans will generally still be allowed to visit Cuba if they come on
cruise ships, for instance, or book with U.S.- approved tour agencies
that ensure travel itineraries do not include too much unstructured time.

The complication for Trump's rules, however, is that large tour groups
are too big for smaller bed-and-breakfast rentals, and their
government-appointed guides tend to ply the well-trodden routes that
bypass the new galleries, restaurants and night spots opened by
enterprising Cubans and others after the openings spurred by Obama.

That, in turn, will cause a ripple effect.

"If independent American travel is cut off, you won't only hurt the
bed-and-breakfasts. It's also the construction crews, the private tour
guides, the taxi drivers, the restaurants and the artists selling
handicrafts," said Andrea Gallina, an Italian entrepreneur who last year
opened a high-end boutique hotel, Paseo 206, with his Cuban spouse.

The 1934 mansion has an Italian restaurant on the ground floor, and
Gallina estimates two-thirds of his guests are American, booking rooms
through Airbnb, Expedia and other U.S. sites.

"To be honest, Americans don't have time to go to the beach, because
they get absorbed into the city," he said. "Independent travelers have
more contact with real Cubans."

Gallina employs 22 Cuban workers. If his bookings decline because of a
travel crackdown, he said, he will likely turn to the European market
and "tighten our belts."

American travel to Cuba has been a political battleground since the
early 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union left the island's
communist government starved for hard currency.

As its resort industry grew and more foreign visitors arrived, the
Castro government's enemies in Miami and in the halls of Congress fought
to restrict Americans from going — knowing their dollars could undermine
efforts to choke the Cuban economy.

Instead, Cuba's tourism industry grew on euros and Canadian dollars.

But that's beginning to change.

The government says it received more than 4 million tourists last year —
a record number — of which about 615,000 were U.S. visitors. That
includes 330,000 Cuban Americans visiting relatives on the island, but
many of the rest were Americans taking advantage of Obama's landmark
moves to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Travel by non-Cuban Americans has been on pace to double this year,
according to the latest government data.

But Trump's rollback is expected to put a brake on that growth. U.S.
officials say the new restrictions have yet to be written and will not
take effect until then, and Americans who have already booked Cuba
travel won't have to cancel.

Limited economic reforms by Cuban leader Raúl Castro, 86, have allowed
Cuban entrepreneurs to buy and sell property and run small businesses,
but it was Obama's normalization measures that kicked the process into
overdrive.

In Old Havana's tourist quarter, entire city blocks of crumbling
century-old buildings are being renovated and turned into boutique
hostels and chic cafes.

The work is being almost entirely carried out by private sector
tradesman and contractors.

"I've never been this busy," said Roberto Claro, a dust-covered
construction foreman in Old Havana, whose crew was busy converting a
ruined, century-old building into a seafood restaurant. There were two
other buildings on the same block also getting an overhaul.

The new rules aim to ban or limit Americans from patronizing
military-linked businesses including Cuba's gargantuan GAESA
conglomerate, which is estimated to control more than half of the
island's tourist economy.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said
Friday it will provide Americans with a lists of prohibited hotels and
other businesses linked to the company so American travelers can steer
clear.

U.S. travelers will need to keep detailed records and receipts from
their Cuba trips in case of an audit by Treasury Department officials,
and that alone could be a deterrent if aggressively enforced.

"The real challenge is implementing will be this," said Chris Sabatini,
a lecturer at Columbia University's School of International and Public
Affairs and the director of the website Global Americans. "Monitoring
travelers, evaluating who is staying in military-owned hotels, tracking
license compliance — all that requires bureaucratic capacity and follow up."

Because Treasury's foreign assets division is the same office in charge
of enforcing sanctions against countries such as Iran and North Korea,
it has come under criticism for devoting resources to investigating the
vacation receipts of American travelers who visit Cuba. A bipartisan
Senate bill that would completely lift travel restrictions has 55
co-sponsors.

"You or I could travel to any country on the globe and there's not a
federal government prohibition from us doing so — the only restriction
is Cuba," Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) told CNN as Trump announced the new
measures. "We're not the Soviet Union. We don't have to have 'travel
papers' for the government to decide whether or not you can travel."

Treasury said it will issue new guidelines in the coming months.

Gallina and others in Havana said they have been flooded with calls and
emails from Americans in the past three days asking if they should
cancel their trips.

nick.miroff@washpost.com

Source: Trump's Cuba policy tries to redefine 'good' U.S. tourism. That
includes putting them back on tour buses. - The Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/trumps-cuba-policy-tries-to-redefine-good-us-tourism-it-might-be-just-what-the-islands-rulers-want-too/2017/06/17/67fab65e-504f-11e7-b74e-0d2785d3083d_story.html?utm_term=.e18d0af2335b Continue reading
Travel Industry Scrambles After New Cuba Restrictions
By VICTORIA BURNETT JUNE 16, 2017

As President Trump outlined a stricter policy toward Cuba on Friday,
travel industry representatives scrambled to decode new prohibitions and
reassure clients that the island was not off limits.

Hotel owners, tour operators and online booking agencies — who have been
at the heart of much-expanded contact between the two countries over the
last few years, culminating in early 2016, when President Barack Obama
eased restrictions — took what they saw as confusing signals from the
White House as a sign that the policy would be refined over the coming
weeks.

"It appears to me that they are making this up as they go," said Collin
Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, which has been organizing
trips to that country for several years.

Mr. Laverty said he fielded "endless" calls during the past two days
from travel operators and travelers trying to figure out how they would
be affected by the new policy. On Friday, he wrote in an email to
clients that the organization was "very confident" the policy "will not
impact the fall trips to Cuba."

Under the new regulations, individual Americans travelers will no longer
be able to visit the island on what are known as people-to-people trips,
a popular mode of travel introduced as part of Mr. Obama's historic
thaw. People-to-people trips will now be permitted only for groups and
must be organized by a licensed tour operator.

Americans will also be barred from transactions with companies run by
the Cuban military — a potentially significant restriction, given that
many of Cuba's branded hotels are managed by a military-owned conglomerate.

The Treasury Department went some way to clarify the new rules on
Friday, writing in a statement that the changes would not apply to
people who had already booked trips or to existing business deals with
the military.

But the new restrictions would put new properties like the Gran Hotel
Manzana, managed by Kempinski Hotels but owned by Gaviota, a Cuban
military-run company, off limits to American travelers. Travel
representatives said they would redirect American travelers to hotels
run by civilian tour organizations, including Gran Caribe and Cubanacan
— both of which own several properties in Havana.

Exactly how far those restrictions go, however, is unclear. Could a tour
organizer rent a bus from a military-run company? What about purchases
from a military-run retail store?

Prohibitions of that scope would make organizing group trips to Cuba
"impossible," said Michael Sykes, president of Cuba Cultural Travel.

Tour operators and Cuba experts predicted that the Cuban government
would find loopholes. John Caulfield, who was chief of the United States
diplomatic mission to Havana from 2011 to 2014, said the government
could move tourism assets into the control of civilian ministries.

"In an economy like Cuba's, they can rename things and change things
around," he said.

Still, even if the new rules were workable, travel representatives said,
tighter regulation would put off Americans from traveling to a country
still struggling with its tourism infrastructure.

"We were finally getting to a point where there was a sense of normalcy;
people felt it was legal to come to Cuba," Mr. Laverty said. "Now this
is pushing us back to a point where Americans don't know if it's legal.
That will dissuade a lot of Americans."

Two sectors that were left apparently unscathed by the new policy were
cruises and flights: Fees paid by cruise lines and airlines will be
exempt from restrictions on doing business with the military.

Marriott International, whose subsidiary Starwood runs the Four Points
by Sheraton hotel in the Havana suburb of Miramar, may also have escaped
the crackdown, which the Treasury Department said did not affect
existing business deals.

The Havana Sheraton announced on its website on Friday that it would
require each guest to complete an affidavit at check-in certifying
authorization to travel in Cuba. Marriott said in a statement on
Thursday that it was "still analyzing" the policy directive, and its
"full effect on our current and planned operations in Cuba."

The consensus is that those who will suffer most are smaller-scale
businesses that rely on individual travel — private bed-and-breakfasts,
cafes, restaurants, tour guides and taxis. And fewer individual
travelers would also affect commercial airlines, who last year began
operating dozens of daily flights to Cuba.

Cuba is Airbnb's fastest-growing market, with 22,000 rooms registered to
its booking site and 70,000 arrivals every month on the island,
according to figures published by the company. About 35 percent of
Airbnb's guests in Cuba are American; 12 percent of American travelers
to Cuba stay in an Airbnb-listed property.

The company said in a statement on Friday that it was "reviewing what
this policy could mean for this type of travel" but was pleased that it
would be able to continue to "support Airbnb hosts in Cuba."

But those hosts are likely to see a decline in demand, travel
representatives said.

"Much of the growth has been from people booking from Airbnb and private
casas," said Eddie Lubbers, president of Cuba Travel Network, using the
Spanish term for homes. "It's not just casas — it's restaurants, it's
private tour guides."

He added, "It's going to have an effect."

Source: Travel Industry Scrambles After New Cuba Restrictions - The New
York Times -
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/travel/cuba-travel-trump-restrictions-industry-reaction.html?_r=0 Continue reading
Farmers Blast Trump's Cuba Retreat as Bad for Trade
June 17, 2017 4:55 AM
Reuters

CHICAGO —
U.S. farm groups criticized President Donald Trump's decision to retreat
from his predecessor's opening toward Cuba, saying it could derail huge
increases in farm exports that totaled $221 million last year.

A trade delegation from Minnesota, one of the largest U.S. agriculture
states, vowed to carry on with its planned visit to Cuba next week.

"We're going to continue to beat the drum and let them (the Trump
administration) know that trade is good for agriculture," said Kevin
Paap, a farmer in the delegation.

Trump signed a presidential directive Friday rolling back parts of
former President Barack Obama's opening to the Communist-ruled country
after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes.

Farm groups saw the move as a step backward in what had been an
improving trade relationship between the two countries, which are 90
miles (145 kms) apart, even though agriculture is not directly targeted.

U.S. law exempts food from a decades-old embargo on U.S. trade with
Cuba, but cumbersome rules on how transactions were executed have made
deals difficult and costly.

Since Obama's detente, substantial headway has been made with shipments
of U.S. corn and soybeans to Cuba soaring 420 percent in 2016 from a
year earlier to 268,360 tons, U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows.

Through the first four months of 2017, total shipments of U.S. grain and
soy were 142,860 ton, up from 49,090 tons during the same period of 2016.

While the quantities are dwarfed by total U.S. exports — nearly 56
million ton of corn alone last year — the added volumes were welcome as
farmers face a fourth year of languishing grain prices and crimped incomes.

"At a time when the farm economy is struggling, we ask our leaders in
Washington not to close doors on market opportunities for American
agriculture," Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers
Association, said in a statement.

The group sees an opportunity for $125 million more a year in trade to Cuba.

Trump's move could cut off near-term sales and stymie economic
development that would drive longer-term demand growth, said Tom
Sleight, president of the U.S. Grains Council, a grain trade development
organization, in a statement.

"Neither of those outcomes is favorable for the U.S. ag sector or the
Cuban people," he added.

Paap said the United States should be doing more to encourage exports.

"It's frustrating because we've made some advances and built those
relationships," he said.

Source: Farmers Blast Trump's Cuba Retreat as Bad for Trade -
https://www.voanews.com/a/farmers-angry-at-trump-cuba-retreat/3904406.html Continue reading
Cuba policy] The Trump plan, announced Friday in Miami’s Little Havana … efforts to choke the Cuban economy. Instead, Cuba’s tourism industry grew … Cuba travel won’t have to cancel. Limited economic reforms by Cuban … dust-covered construction foreman in Old Havana, whose crew was busy converting … Continue reading
Americans will still be able to travel to Cuba, but rules will be stricter
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

The good news for Americans who want to travel to Cuba is they still
can, but a draft of President Donald Trump's presidential policy
directive indicates they shouldn't even think of sneaking away for a day
on a Cuban beach.

And they better keep detailed information on their travels. The draft
emphasizes that travelers must keep a full record of every transaction
they make in Cuba and hold on to it for five years.

The major change from the Obama era in Trump's Cuba policy draft: U.S.
travelers making educational people-to-people trips can no longer go to
the island on their own but must travel with groups accompanied by a
company representative.

A number of travel companies, airlines and cruise lines were reluctant
to comment on the draft details, preferring to wait until Friday when
Trump officially releases his new presidential directive on Cuba in
Miami. There are also no regulations accompanying the presidential
policy directive. Those are expected within 90 days.

But some are concerned that the new policy will dampen enthusiasm for
Cuban travel.

"Additional prohibitions and oversight on travel will only confuse
Americans and dissuade them from visiting Cuba, causing significant
economic hardship to Cuban entrepreneurs and average Cuban families, as
well as Americans working in the hospitality sector," said Collin
Laverty, president of Cuban Educational Travel, which arranges group
travel to the island.

Pedro Freyre, a Miami lawyer for cruise lines and other businesses that
have deals with Cuba, noted that it's hard to determine the scope and
precise nature of Trump's new policy until the regulations are drafted.

"The devil is in the details. It will be critically important to engage
U.S. regulators as they go forward with the drafting of the guidelines
to ensure that these are not overly burdensome to U.S. business," he said.

Because they haven't been able to see a final draft and review the
details of the new regulations, most travel companies declined to comment.

In general, the president is trying to navigate a delicate line between
cracking down on money that goes directly to the Cuban military and not
taking measures that would hurt Cuban citizens who have embraced private
enterprise, opening restaurants, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels,
and other businesses that cater to the growing number of travelers to
the island.

Visits by Cuban Americans and other U.S. travelers in 2016 reached
614,433, a 34 percent increase over 2015.

On one hand, the draft says the president wants to increase support of
the Cuban people through expansion of internet service, free media, free
enterprise, free association and lawful travel.

But on the other, it prohibits direct financial dealings with GAESA
(Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA), which controls hotel brands
such as Gaviota. Its portfolio in early 2017 included 64 hotels and
villas with more than 27,000 rooms. It even runs discotheques and
hunting preserves.

The Trump policy also allows family travel to Cuba to continue without
restrictions and places no limits on remittances, according to the draft.

That's good news for the Cuban community, said José "Pepe" Hernández,
president of the Cuban American National Foundation. "It wouldn't make
sense to put sanctions on the people," he said.

But he thinks sanctioning the Cuban military is a step in the right
direction. "One of the great problems we're seeing is that most of the
really valuable assets are now the property of the military or under
management by the military," Hernández said.

Under Obama, there were 12 categories of travel permitted, from
humanitarian and religious trips to people-to-people tours and travel
for athletic competitions. Travelers did not have to seek prior approval
from the U.S. government, although tourist travel wasn't permitted.
Those travel categories will remain under the Trump policy directive,
which also bars sun-and-beach vacations.

It's estimated that businesses run by GAESA control more than 40 percent
of the Cuban economy. GAESA's holdings range from the Mariel Special
Economic Development Zone, gas stations, convenience stores,
telecommunications companies, and a commercial airline to the Cuban
Export-Import Corp. (CIMEX), a Cuban enterprise whose holdings include
rental car agency Havanautos, free zones and container ships.

After the regulations are issued, travelers won't be able to book hotel
rooms at Gaviota hotels, which include the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski,
Havana's newest luxury hotel. Some of Cuba's best hotels are managed
under operating contracts with foreign hotel operators.

A full ban on business with military enterprises would have meant cruise
lines would not have been able to pay port fees, essentially cutting off
budding cruise travel to Cuba from the United States. But the draft
indicates that airport and seaport operations necessary for permissible
travel, cargo and trade are exempt from the prohibition on dealing with
military enterprises.

As recently as this week, Miami-based Victory Cruise Lines was approved
to sail to Cuba, making it the 10th U.S. line to get the green light for
Cuba. The luxury, all-inclusive line plans to sail to Havana, Maria la
Gorda, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba on its 202-passenger ships.

Victory President and Chief Executive Bruce Nierenberg said the cruise
line stands to win from the new regulations because all the shore
excursions it offers will follow U.S. guidelines.

"As an all-inclusive product, including all the tours, the tour guides
and arrangements on shore … we are perfectly positioned to be in full
compliance with any regulations covering how our guests use the Cuban
product," Nierenberg said.

"While there has been a significant anxiety about this announcement from
the administration and its potential impact on travel and tourism to
Cuba, the actual adjustments being called for are constructive ways to
get everyone's attention and bring Cuba and the U.S. closer together in
the long term," he said.

MIAMI HERALD STAFF WRITER CHABELI HERRERA CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY.

FOLLOW MIMI WHITEFIELD ON TWITTER: @HERALDMIMI

Source: Air, cruise travel to Cuba will continue under new Trump policy
| Miami Herald -
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… him to ease barriers with Havana that will boost trade and … the Cuban economy. By restricting individual U.S. travel to Cuba, the … announced the policy in Little Havana were Sen. Marco Rubio and … .S. Cuba policy could threaten new bilateral agreements with Havana to combat … Continue reading
… 's Little Havana, spiritual home of the Cuban-American community, to denounce … ;Viva Cuba libre!" from the invited crowd of Cuban-Americans and Cuban exiles. And in symbolism that will not be lost in HavanaCuban expats. "New restrictions on engagement with Cuban economy only pushes CubaContinue reading
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… the Cuban economy. By restricting individual U.S. travel to Cuba, the … . The U.S. Embassy in Havana, which reopened in August 2015 … relations with Cuba unless it met certain “demands,” including granting Cubans religious … Theate in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The theater is named … Continue reading
… 's Little Havana, spiritual home of the Cuban-American exile community, to … enforced. Cuban-Americans will still be able to travel to Cuba and send … have begun to head to Cuba for Havana city breaks or longer … Cuban expats. "New restrictions on engagement with Cuban economy only pushes CubaContinue reading
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