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Should U.S. Companies Hit 'Pause' on Doing Business in Cuba?
Apr 20, 2017

President Trump's government has yet to reveal its hand on the issue of
reconciliation with Cuba. There had been a lot of progress towards
greater ties following President's Obama's overtures in December 2014:
Some cooperation agreements were signed – particularly in aviation and
communications — and Google and Airbnb now have a presence on the island
nation. But only about two dozen U.S. companies have taken early steps,
and there has been limited progress on other fronts, such as the
reconciliation of Cuban-Americans with the Cuban people.

And while President Trump had supported more economic ties with Cuba in
the past, just before the presidential election he reversed course. That
makes it unclear what business should expect going forward.

The overarching issue is the ongoing U.S. economic embargo, noted
Cuban-American attorney Gustavo Arnavat at the recent 2017 Wharton Latin
American Conference. Arnavat, now a senior adviser at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, had a front-row seat on U.S.-Cuba
policy as an advisor to President Obama's team on the issue. He also
represented the U.S. in 2009 at the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB), the largest provider of development finance in Latin America.

"It would be crazy for anyone right now to be trying to invest in Cuba,
even in those areas we can invest, because at any moment, the Trump
administration may come out and totally reverse what was done
previously," he said. Adding further to the uncertainty, Cuban President
Raul Castro is scheduled to leave office in February 2018, with no clear
successor in the wings.

Arnavat took stock of the emerging state of U.S.-Cuban ties in a
discussion with Knowledge@Wharton at the recent Wharton Latin American
conference. An edited transcript of the conversation appears below.

Knowledge@Wharton: It was a historic time in the Winter of 2014 when the
U.S. government decided that a policy that had been in place for 50
years was no longer working, and that it was time to rethink how the
U.S. and Cuba were engaging with one another, and try to normalize
relationships at whatever level was possible. Could you describe why and
how you got involved in U.S.-Cuba relations before President Obama's
policy shift on December 12, 2014?

Gustavo Arnavat: The greatest variable contributing to my interest in
Cuba has to do with the fact that I was born in Cuba. I grew up in a
very conservative, Republican household in Hialeah, Florida, and there
wasn't a day that went by that a family member, or friend or visitor
didn't criticize some element of the Cuban revolution or talked about
Cuba. So, it was impossible for me not to be interested in Cuba and
U.S.-Cuba relations as I grew up. Later, I came to understand that the
world was not black and white, and that realization and complexity made
me even more interested in the topic.

After law school, I was a lawyer focusing on sovereign finance and
corporate finance, and eventually went over to investment banking on
Wall Street. I worked on many deals, but Cuba was never part of that,
for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, there was always a part of me that
wanted to be involved, somehow. Eventually, I became involved in several
projects examining U.S policy toward Cuba, but all of that came to an
end when I joined the Obama Administration because I was at the IDB, and
Cuba wasn't a member of the IDB, and I otherwise wasn't involved in
setting Cuba policy while I worked in the Obama Administration.

Knowledge@Wharton: The major policy shift occurred in December 2014.
What do you think motivated President Obama to make such a major change?

Arnavat: The primary reason is that this was something that I think
President Obama wanted to do for a long time. When he was a senator in
Illinois, he spoke about the futility of the embargo. At the annual
luncheon of the Cuban-American National Foundation in Florida in May
2008, he said that if Cuba began to open up, starting with releasing all
political prisoners, he would begin a dialogue that could lead to
normalized relations. This was startling and unprecedented for a
presidential candidate of either political party. Anyone from Miami
knows that advocating "normalized" relations and a "dialogue" with the
Cuban government just 15 or 20 years ago was a very dangerous thing to do.

He also faced pressure from other Latin American countries, particularly
in the context of the Summit of the Americas. A number of the countries'
presidents told President Obama during the Summit in Cartagena, Colombia
in 2012, that for the next summit (in Panama City in 2015, if Cuba is
not invited, they were not going to participate. That also weighed on
the White House

Related to this, there was a growing consensus in the region – and U.S.
foreign policy –that the primary issues affecting Latin America were not
the same ones from 20, 30 or 40 years ago, which chiefly included
unstable and undemocratic governments, drug trafficking, corruption,
etc. Instead, the focus has been on trade and economic development
through integration. If you are the U.S., it's difficult to make a case
for global economic integration and certainly regional economic
integration, when Cuba is prevented from being fully integrated from an
economic perspective. Finally, President Obama felt that since the
elections of 2014 were over, he had nothing to lose from a political
perspective, and the timing was right to do what he wanted to do all along.

But very little could be done while Alan Gross remained in Cuban
custody, and the Cubans knew this to be the case. [Editor's note: Alan
Gross, a U.S. government contractor employed by the United States Agency
for International Development (USAID), was arrested in Cuba in 2009.]

Knowledge@Wharton: What was your reaction to the policy shift and what
steps did you take?

Arnavat: I was shocked. After I left the IDB, I became aware of a
growing number of Cuban Americans, particularly in Miami, who were
successful lawyers, businesspeople and bankers, who wanted to promote
engagement between the U.S. and Cuba in order to help the Cuban people
more directly. We thought, what can we do? How can we try to convince
the White House to go in a different direction? But we were extremely
pessimistic because we had witnessed very little interest on the part of
the White House, especially because of the situation with Gross.

With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, we thought U.S.-Cuba
policy would once again be the victim of domestic political
considerations. That was despite the fact that Hillary Clinton in her
book (titled Hard Choices, published in 2014), criticized the embargo in
a very open way, and in a way that was unexpected. Some of us in
retrospect thought that was her signal to the White House to encourage
it to pursue engagement.

When the announcement was made, the thinking was, we were finally going
to be able to sit down with the Cubans, and talk to them about all the
issues that two normal countries should want to engage in, on areas of
mutual interest. Little did I know that in fact, they had been
negotiating for about 18 months, but this was an opportunity to test the
waters and see to what extent it made sense to engage diplomatically and
commercially in ways that would benefit both countries.

So a number of us provided the White House with our insights, though few
of us had very high expectations over the short-term effects of an
opening toward Cuba, especially with respect to political matters.

Knowledge@Wharton: How would you assess the progress since the winter of
2014? Has there been real progress, or as somebody once said, is it a
triumph of hope over experience?

Arnavat: I break it down into three buckets. Let's call the first bucket
official U.S.-Cuba bilateral relations. The second bucket is commercial
relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The third is Cuban-American
reconciliation issues.

On the official bilateral bucket, a lot has been accomplished. After
more than 50 years of acrimony between the two countries, diplomatic
relations were reestablished. Embassies were reopened. As part of that
process, Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,
based on an analysis conducted by the State Department with input from
our intelligence community. Regular mail service was established between
the two countries.

Migration talks were regularized, and they've become much more
substantive and more meaningful. Agreements were entered into with
respect to cooperation in law enforcement, environmental disasters and
other areas. I believe close to two dozen such agreements were reached.
A lot was accomplished given the relationship the two countries had.
However, I know that Obama Administration officials were frustrated that
more wasn't accomplished on the human rights front, although the belief
is that civil society in general has benefited because of the new policy
approach.

On the other hand, the biggest issue is the embargo, which is still in
place. Another issue relates to property claims that U.S. citizens have
against Cuba for property that was expropriated in the first few years
of the revolution. Those have still not been resolved, and they're far
from being resolved. Keep in mind, this was the primary reason why the
U.S. broke off diplomatic relations in the first place. So in that
sense, very little progress has been made.

As far as the commercial relationship is concerned, the assessment
depends on whom you talk to; the Cubans believe that a lot of progress
was made given that the embargo remains in place. On the bilateral
front, commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba were reestablished.
U.S. Airlines, as part of a process led by the Department of
Transportation, competed for those routes, and six or seven airlines won
those routes.

A number of mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon have entered into
roaming agreements with the Cuban government. You may not think that's a
big deal, except that before, there were no such roaming agreements and
it made mobile phone communications very difficult. Airbnb is there,
which is very helpful for travelers who don't want to pay for relatively
expensive hotels in Havana. Google has a presence now, and U.S. cruise
ships are sailing into Havana and bringing Americans.

However, a lot more could have been done. One of the missed
opportunities is in fact that not as many deals were done. That's bad
for a number of different reasons. One, U.S. companies have missed out.
The Cuban people and the Cuban government have missed out on great U.S.
products and services. While the Trump administration is reviewing the
policy, instead of having a hundred companies advocating, you only have
25 or 30 or so going to their congressional representatives and saying,
look, we have this business now in Cuba.

When you ask the Cuban government, they will grant that a lot of
proposals were presented to the Cuban government. The pushback came for
a variety of reasons. In some cases, the companies were too small or
were startups. They want to be able to deal with the major players. The
problem with deals that were proposed by major global corporations was
that those proposals didn't necessarily fall into one of the priority
areas in Cuba's plan for economic development.

Then, even with the right kind of company, in a priority area, they
would site the embargo. They would say that even if we wanted to do
this, we couldn't, because there's no way that U.S. companies could pay
for a service or the other way around. They are right to an extent,
because of the continuing restrictions on financial transactions, but
more important, the way those restrictions and regulations have been
interpreted by legal counsel and compliance officers at major financial
institutions around the world, especially in the U.S. They're very well
aware that if you run afoul of those regulations, you get hit with a
multi-billion-dollar fine, as has happened, even recently.

At the same time, investment conditions in Cuba are very challenging for
U.S. companies that are not accustomed to working with foreign
governments in transactions normally involving private sector companies
as counterparts. But the reality is that doing business in Cuba
necessarily means doing business with the government, and not all U.S.
companies are prepared to do that at this point.

So those are in the first two buckets. In the third bucket, on
reconciliation, Cuban-Americans are going to play some role, just as
they have played an important role in shaping U.S.-Cuba policy in the
past. I know that many Cuban government officials are not comfortable
with that involvement, but the sooner we can start to engage from that
perspective and have reconciliation, the better it is both for Cubans in
the U.S. as well as Cubans on the island. Very little has been done, or
has occurred, on that front because of the lack of mutual trust.

Knowledge@Wharton: You've just returned from Cuba. Looking at things
right now, what are the biggest opportunities in Cuba, and what are the
biggest challenges or the biggest risks?

Arnavat: Imagine you discovered a country that you didn't know existed.
You realize that less than 100 miles away from the U.S. is a country
that, if it were a U.S. state, would be the eighth-largest in
population, right after Ohio, for example. It has 11 million people who
are very well educated, despite all of the challenges in Cuba, and lack
of resources. It has software engineers, for example, who graduate from
some of the best technology universities in Cuba, but they're
underemployed. A lot of people code quite a bit in Cuba. So from a human
capital perspective, it's a country that is enormously resourceful, and
this presents a huge opportunity for U.S. companies that will invest
when they are able to do so.

From a natural resource perspective, it's a very large Caribbean
island, so it will be an important destination for tourism, or for
second homes for Americans, whenever that becomes a possibility. It's
got a health care system that is, again, very poorly resourced, but
there is a high level of training on the part of medical staff there,
and access to knowledge and technology. Some presidents in Latin America
from the ALBA countries (the 11-member Bolivarian Alliance for the
Peoples of Our America), when they get seriously sick, they go to
Havana. Medical tourism would be of great interest as an area to invest
in if that were possible.

It is also a country that has tremendous needs from an infrastructure
perspective. The roads are quite better than a lot of places I've been
in the Caribbean, and certainly Central America. But it's a country that
needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. The question, of course, is
going to be how do you pay for it? That brings us to the challenges.
There is no access to capital. It has a legal system that was set up to
support a socialist economic model, which is anachronistic and foreign
to U.S. investors. They're beginning to figure that out, and are
struggling with how to emerge and how to evolve from that. But even
those who recognize the need for change don't want that change to be
forced on them from abroad. This is an essential point to keep in mind.

Cubans are increasingly getting comfortable referring to non-state
employees or entrepreneurs as the private sector, although officially
it's called the non-state sector. I am certain that when things do open
up, and the right incentives are in place, the human capital there is
going to be such that Cuba is going to be well-placed as a market for
Americans to investment.

I'm not sure how independent the judiciary is to resolve disputes
between, let's say a foreign company, a foreign investor and an entity
where the Cuban government may have an interest. So that's obviously a
risk for any U.S. company to consider. It's a risk in any country, but
especially in a country where the government plays such an important
role in the running of the society. There is also the political risk
associated with the fact that [President Raul] Castro is supposed to
leave office on February 24 of next year, and it's always unclear as to
who's going to take over and in what direction the country will go.

If you have to put a bet, Cuba is likely to continue on a socialist
trajectory for an indefinite period of time. You also have the immediate
risk of the Trump administration in trying to decide what to do. So it
would be crazy for anyone right now to be trying to invest in Cuba, even
in those areas we can invest, because at any moment, the Trump
administration may come out and totally reverse what was done previously.

Knowledge@Wharton: How do you think U.S. policy towards Cuba will evolve
under President Trump? You were very complimentary about President
Obama, very optimistic about reading Hillary Clinton's book and what she
said about Cuba. What's your assessment of what President Trump will do,
and what that will mean for Cuban-American relations?

Arnavat: I honestly have no idea. And I don't think anyone has any idea.
People in Cuba have no idea. It could go in lots of directions. It seems
that President Trump is not going to come out any time soon and say
we're going to continue to engage without the Cubans making any
quote-unquote "concessions."

Trump has said very little about Cuba in his career. He appeared to
entertain launching a potential campaign in the 1990s, I believe it was
in Miami he talked about how he was such a strong supporter of the
embargo and he would never do business in Cuba while the Castro brothers
were in place, etc.

Two years later, as it turns out, he sent a consultant to Cuba — a paid
consultant, to figure out how to do business in Cuba. Beginning about
six years ago up until sometime last year, people in the Trump
organization had visited Cuba, exploring opportunities in golf and
hotels, hospitality, that sort of thing. So we know that from a
commercial perspective, he definitely has been interested in doing so.
And, it makes sense, given his investments in China and other countries
that don't adhere to U.S. standards of human rights and democracy.

When President [Obama] announced the policy shift, on a few occasions,
[Trump] said that he supported the engagement. One time, I think he was
in a debate in Miami, a primary, and he said something along the lines
of, "Come on, folks, it's been over 50 years. We've got to move on.
We've got to try something else." But then about six weeks before the
election, he began to tailor his message much more to the conservatives
and the hardliners in the community. He said, "Unless the Cubans take
steps to," and I think he said, "to provide for more political freedoms
and religious freedoms, then I'm going to reverse everything." Mike
Pence said that as well shortly before and maybe after the election.

But having said that, [Trump's policies regarding Cuba are] just not
clear. There are a number of individuals who worked on [Trump's]
transition team, who are involved in the administration, who have been
very focused the last 15-20 years on enforcing the embargo, on
tightening the embargo, on making life as hard and difficult for the
Cuban government. Those people are certainly weighing in very heavily on
the policy. A policy review is ongoing, but it is unclear when they'll
be done with that and what the outcome will be. I imagine an important
consideration will be the change in government that I mentioned previously.

Knowledge@Wharton: When you met people in Havana, what did you hear from
them about how they expect relations with the U.S. to shape up?

Arnavat: Shortly after the announcement of the policy shift, something
like 97% of the Cuban people expressed they were in favor of the
engagement, and of reestablishing diplomatic relations, etc. This makes
sense, because the more Americans that travel to Cuba and invest in
Cuba, the greater the economic benefits to the Cuban people in general.

Everyone is concerned that in fact, the policy will reverse, that there
will be fewer people visiting, fewer people making investments, as a
result of a decrease in remittances that are used as seed capital to
start new businesses on the island. Even if you stay at a state-owned
hotel, you hire private taxis, and you eat in private restaurants that
are allowed under Cuban law. So a lot of people who are private
individuals are in fact benefitting because of the increase in travel
between the U.S. and Cuba. And they're very concerned about that not
occurring

Source: Should U.S. Companies Hit 'Pause' on Doing Business in Cuba? -
Knowledge@Wharton -
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-business-should-hit-pause-on-new-u-s-cuba-ties/ Continue reading
Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 11 April 2017 — Right now the most closely guarded secret
in Cuba is the protocols for succession of the nation's president, army
general Raul Castro, after his retirement in February 2018.

I will tell you what is rumored among some officials close to the
tight-lipped team of advisers and influential relatives in the Council
of State.

A well-informed source claims, "The man is desperate to retire. He wants
to spend more time with his children and grandchildren and travel around
the world. He's really going to retire. And it seems to me that he will
probably pass his job on to the first party secretary. He has always
preferred to be in the background."

A technocrat with connections to powerful elites states, "The succession
is not happening at the best time but Raul is serious when he says he is
leaving. I have it on good authority that Miguel Diaz-Canel and his wife
Lis Cuesta, around whom the media has been creating a presidential image
in recent months, are studying English in depth and preparing to lead
the country."

A former personal security officials says, "Resources have been put at
Diaz-Canel's disposal, the kind of communication technology and
logistical support that a president would have."

Meanwhile, as the official media has been inundating us with reports of
economic successes and the alleged loyalty of the population to Raul
Castro and his deceased brother, the countdown to the succession continues.

There is only a little more than ten months until D-Day. At midnight on
February 24 the republic will presumably be governed by a civilian
president without the last name Castro.

One of the sources consulted for this article believes that "after his
own retirement, Raul will force the retirement of several longtime
revolutionary officials such as Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and Ramiro
Valdes.* His son Alejandro, who is a colonel in the Ministry of the
Interior, will retain a certain degree of power while his daughter
Mariela will continue promoting an image of tolerance towards
homosexuality but will no longer hold any really significant positions.

"The power behind the throne will be the military. Everything has been
arranged. There will be major economic changes. If the purchasing power
of the population does not increase, consumer spending will be
encouraged while the monetary and intellectual capital of the exile
community will be tapped.

"If not, Cuba will never get out of the swamp. Political exhaustion and
systemic failures have created conditions conducive to the emergence of
an acute social crisis whose outcome no one can predict. That is why
there will be changes."

In Cuba, where the state press's greatest strengths are saying nothing
and masking daily reality, rumors within the halls of power carry more
credibility than the official news.

Raul Castro is a perpetual schemer. Let the analyst or journalist who
foresaw the secret negotiations with the United States and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations on December 17, 2014 raise his hand.

Prognosticating in such a secretive country can be disastrous but there
have been some signals. During the the monotone National Assembly's 2015
legislative session a gradual rollback of Raul's reforms began. And
Marino Murillo, the czar of these reforms, disappeared from official photos.

In response to the Venezuelan crisis, which led to cuts of 40% in fuel
imports, the economic initiatives promoted by Raul Castro came to an
abrupt halt.

Barack Obama's visit to Cuba in March 2016 was the final straw. The
regime's most conservative factions began changing the rules of the game.

While lacking the charisma or stature of his brother, Castro II has
proved to be more effective at putting together negotiating teams and
has had greater successes in foreign policy. They include reestablishing
diplomatic relations with the United States without having to make many
concessions in return, acting as mediator in the meeting in Havana
between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, facilitating the peace
agreement in Colombia and securing the cancellation of a considerable
portion of the nation's financial debt.

His agricultural reforms have failed. People are still waiting for that
glass of milk he promised them in a speech given in Camaguey on July 26,
2007. On that day Raul Castro said, "We have to erase from our minds
this limit of seven years (the age at which Cuban children are no longer
entitled to receive a certain ration of milk). We are taking it from
seven to fifty. We have to produce enough so that everyone who wants it
can have a glass of milk."

The Foreign Investment Law has not been able to attract the roughly 2.5
billion dollars expected annually. The sugar harvest and food production
have not gotten off the ground, requiring the regime to import more than
two billion dollars worth of food every year.

Except for tourism, the profitable foreign medical assistance program
and other international missions, and remittances from overseas, all
other exports and economic initiatives have decreased or not shown
sufficient growth.

Vital industrial sectors are not profitable and its equipment is
obsolete. Problems in housing, transportation and public service
shortages are overwhelming. The price of home internet service is
outrageous. Official silence has surrounded recent restrictions on the
sale of gasoline** while public speculation about a return to the
"Special Period" has not been discussed by the executive branch.

Raul Castro barely appears in the public anymore. Aside from attending
Fidel's funeral in November 2016, presiding over parliament last
December and sporadic appearances at the Summits of the Caribbean and
the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, his presence is
almost imperceptible.

He is governing in hibernation mode, on automatic pilot. There is no
word on currency reform. The vaunted Economic Guidelines, only 21% of
which have been carried out, seem to be dead in the water.

According to a former journalist who now lives in Miami and who dealt
closely with Raul in the late 1980s, his seemingly erratic behavior
could be interpreted in several ways.

"Raul is not doctrinaire like his brother. Nor does he leave tasks half
done like Fidel used to do. I supposed he has his hands full preparing
Diaz-Canal so he can finish the job and implement good, effective
reforms. I think Diaz-Canal will play an important role in Cub's future.
Reporters should start lining up their canons now," says the former
journalist.

The sense on the street is that the island is going to hell. The outlook
does not look good. The future is a question mark. The pathways to
emigration are closing. And the average person's salary remains a bad joke.

The optimists, who are in the minority, are praying the general has an
emergency plan in his desk drawer. The pessimists, who are in the
majority, believe that life in Cuba will go on as it has, whether under
Raul, Diaz-Canal or any other members of the Communist praetorian guard.

*Translator's note: Vice-president of the Council of State and
governmental vice-president respectively.

** Though no public announcement has been made, as of April 1 sales of
so-called "special gasoline" have been restricted to tourists with
rental cars.

Source: Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/is-raul-castro-in-hibernation-mode-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization process
with Cuba
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Sixteen retired senior military officers are asking the Trump
administration to continue the process of normalization with Cuba for
the sake of U.S. national security and stability in the region.

"The location of Cuba in the Caribbean and proximity to the US make it a
natural and strategically valuable partner on issues of immediate
concern, including terrorism, border control, drug interdiction,
environmental protections, and emergency preparedness," the retired
officers stated in a letter that was for National Security Adviser Lt.
Gen. H.R. McMaster and made public on Thursday.

The retired officers indicated that ensuring economic stability on the
island was beneficial to the United States for security reasons.

"We acknowledge the current regime must do more to open its political
system and dialogue with the Cuban people. But, if we fail to engage
economically and politically, it is certain that China, Russia, and
other entities whose interests are contrary to the United States' will
rush into the vacuum," the letter said. "We have an opportunity now to
shape and fill a strategic void."

Six of the 16 letter-signers traveled to Havana from March 14-17 at the
invitation of the Cuban government and met with officials from the
Foreign Ministry as well as representatives from the Energy,
Agriculture, Trade, and Foreign Investment ministries. The group also
visited the Port of Mariel and met with 12 Ministry of Interior
officials — a gathering not previously disclosed. The MININT is in
charge of domestic security but also of the Cuban intelligence services.

The Cuban officials provided "a significant hour and a half Power Point
brief on their security concerns and their thoughts on cooperation with
the United States," Stephen A. Cheney, a retired brigadier general in
the U.S. Marine Corps, said. "A pretty interesting group of active
military folks.

"Some questioned why we did not meet with dissidents, but this was not
the purpose of this trip but to listen to government people, have an
idea of ​​how it works and what their concerns are."

The letter seeks to influence the administration while it is still
reviewing Cuba policy, an exercise spearheaded by the National Security
Council. The Trump administration "must take into account all national
security factors under consideration" and not look at the current policy
"simply as something that Obama did and because Obama did it, you hate
it," Cheney said.

The main concern from the national-security standpoint, he added, is a
migration crisis if the island's economy worsens, a possibility that "at
90 miles from our coasts, does not do us any favors."

"If they feel desperate, they are going to reach out to those we would
rather not want," added retired Brig. Gen. David McGinnis, in reference
to the growing role of China, Russia, and Iran in the region.

Cheney highlighted the level of cooperation with Cuba on issues like
anti-drug efforts but said that part of the "frustration" of the Cuban
government is that the routine meetings to continue these mechanisms of
cooperation have been canceled by the Trump administration, "not out of
a policy change but because the people are not there."

Cheney also said the Trump administration could lift trade and financial
restrictions, such as in agriculture, to the benefit of U.S. companies.
"Clearly the embargo has not worked. We have to look for new actions if
we want to increase our security," said retired Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw.

The trip and the missive were coordinated by the American Security
Project (ASP), a non-partisan organization of which several of the
retired officials who signed the letter are members of — Cheney is its
executive director. According to an ASP statement, the trip was
organized by Scott Gilbert, a member of its board and a lawyer of
contractor Alan Gross, who was jailed in Cuba for five years and
released on Dec. 17, 2014.

Among those who signed the letter are retired Gen. James T. Hill, who
headed the U.S. Southern Command from 2002-2004 and retired Admiral
Robert Inman, who held senior positions in the intelligence services
under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Several signers of the letter including, McGinnis; retired Major Gen.
Paul Eaton; retired Rear Admirals Jamie Barnett and Michael Smith; and
retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis publicly supported Hillary Clinton
during the presidential campaign.

Source: Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization
process with Cuba | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article145847939.html Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 11 April 2017 — Right now the most closely guarded secret in Cuba is the protocols for succession of the nation’s president, army general Raul Castro, after his retirement in February 2018. I will tell you what is rumored among some officials close to the tight-lipped team of advisers and influential relatives in the … Continue reading "Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García" Continue reading
MINNEAPOLIS, MN, UNITED STATES, April 20, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- The Mars Generation is now accepting nominations for their newly launched 24 Under 24: Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space annual awards program. The awards aim to … Continue reading
Trump and Cuba should start dialogue: Mississippi governor says
By Sarah Marsh
Reuters April 20, 2017

HAVANA (Reuters) - The Trump administration and the Cuban government
need to start a dialogue, the Republican governor of Mississippi said on
Wednesday during a trip to the Communist-led island to scout trade
opportunities for his state.

"That's the first step: trying to get that dialogue going in a very
positive manner," Phil Bryant said in an interview, adding that he had
found his trip "encouraging."

Cuba watchers are looking closely for signs of how President Donald
Trump will deal with the country, given he threatened during his
campaign to roll back the fragile detente between the Untied States and
Cuba, former Cold War foes.

The White House is undertaking a "full review" of America's foreign
policy toward Cuba, press secretary Sean Spicer said in February.

The governor, who had just met with Cuba's trade minister, said it was
key "not let too much of the political conditions in the United States
become overwhelming."

"Sometimes people have a narrative of Mississippi as if it's 1960s, and
it's not, and it's not the 1960s in Cuba," he said, citing changes like
growth of private businesses.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro
stunned the world in December 2014 when they announced the United States
and Cuba would restore diplomatic ties after more than half a century of
hostility.

Even with a U.S. embargo preventing most trade with Cuba, Mississippi
already exports authorized products to the island such as frozen poultry
and healthcare products, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic
Council.

There was room to increase that trade and as establish exchanges in
healthcare and research, including perhaps bringing Cuban doctors to the
Mississippi Delta, said Bryant.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh)

Source: Trump and Cuba should start dialogue: Mississippi governor says
-
https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-cuba-start-dialogue-mississippi-governor-says-014109832.html Continue reading
Tumbe de lesa humanidad Al jugar politiqueramente con los asesinados por el Gobierno cubano, no se hace más que copiar del castrismo, que hacia 1999 proclamó desatinadamente el embargo/bloqueo como genocidio Arnaldo M. Fernández, Broward | 19/04/2017 9:53 am El anticastrismo banal principió este mes con una conferencia de prensa, en la sede del Directorio […] Continue reading
CHARLOTTE, NC, UNITED STATES, April 19, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- When e-commerce and catalog retailer Westport Big & Tall first launched its Luxury Collection for its Holiday catalog in 2011, their executives were pleasantly surprised with … Continue reading
… triggered by abuses in Iran, Cuba and North Korea. US ambassador … North Korea or Iran or Cuba," she said. Haley also … Continue reading
Ex-Minister: Cuba Earns $11.5 Billion From Export of Professional Services

14ymedio, Miami, 17 April 2017 — Cuban professional services abroad are
the main source of foreign exchange for the government and represent an
estimated 11.543 billion dollars annually, according to an article
published in the official press by the island's former Minister of the
Economy, José Luis Rodríguez.

Most of the income comes from the more than 50,000 healthcare
professionals who work in some sixty countries around the world, nearly
half of whom are doctors and specialists in different branches of medicine.

The recently published Health Statistics Yearbook 2016 reveals that
Cuban professionals are in 24 countries in Latin America and the
Caribbean, in almost three dozen African countries, and in the Middle
East, East Asia and the Pacific. In Europe they are present in Russia
and Portugal.

In 2014, the Cuban government said that the country obtained 8.2 billion
dollars for the provision of health services abroad, a figure that would
have declined after the fall in oil prices and the crisis in
Venezuela. It also maintains other cooperation programs from which it
receives dividends, such as the export of professionals in education,
technicians, engineers and athletes.

Venezuela is the main market for Cuban professionals. In the health
sector alone it is estimated that more than 28,000 Cuban professionals
remain in that country as a part of the agreements that the government
of Hugo Chaves and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, pay for with oil.

According to Maduro, Venezuela has invested more than 250 billion
dollars in health agreements between both nations since 1999. More than
124,000 Cuban professionals in that sector have worked in Venezuela,
said the president.

The second country in terms of numbers of Cuban professionals is Brazil,
which since the beginning of the More Doctors program, in 2013, has
contracted through the Pan American Health Organization for 11,400 Cuban
professionals.

Following the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff, Cuba renegotiated the
contract and gained a 9% increase in the salaries of professionals. The
country also renewed the contract for the island's professionals for
three more years. However, the thousands of Cubans who have contracted
marriages with Brazilians to obtain permanent residence, and the more
than 1,600 who are in the process of validating their credentials in
Brazil and separating themselves from the guardianship of Havana, have
caused Cuba to suspend the sending of new doctors to Brazil to avoid
desertions.

The Cuban government, through the Cuban Medical Services Dealer, offers
workers on the island, whose salary is around $40 a month, some benefits
and better remuneration if they will agree to go on the missions. In no
case do the professionals negotiate their contracts directly with the
employer, which is why the Cuban authorities keep between 50 and 75% of
the income.

Family members are not allowed to stay for more than three months with
the professionals on "medical missions," who must return to the island
when they finish their contracts. If they do not, they are prohibited
from returning to Cuba for eight years, according to the current
immigration regulations.

Some organizations like Solidarity Without Borders, which helps Cuban
doctors who decide to defect from government missions, denounce these
contracts as "the greatest human trafficking case in modern history."

Until January 12th of this year, the United States maintained a special
welcome program known as Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) to
welcome health professionals who escaped medical missions.

The CMPP, established in 2006 under the administration of George Bush,
was a point of friction with Havana, which called for its
elimination. More than 8,000 professionals took advantage of this
program. Cuban-American members of Congress from Florida have vowed to
work for its reinstatement.

The health system on the island is free, state-run and universal. A
total of 493,368 people work in the system, of which 16,852 are
dentists, 89,072 are nurses and 63,471 are technicians.

After the end of the Soviet subsidy the quality of the healthcare system
collapsed. Cubans often complain about the absence of the specialists
who have been sent to third countries. Recently the government began to
deliver symbolic bills to remind citizens that "public health is free,
but it costs."

Source: Ex-Minister: Cuba Earns $11.5 Billion From Export of
Professional Services – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/ex-minister-cuba-earns-11-5-billion-from-export-of-professional-services/ Continue reading
Miami electric car dealer sees opportunity in Cuban gas shortage
By Marc Frank | HAVANA

An electric car dealer with a Miami subsidiary is telling Cuba-based
diplomats struggling with a gasoline shortage on the Communist-run
Caribbean island that they should fret no longer.

The United States, which maintains a trade embargo on Cuba, licensed
Premier Automotive Export to sell vehicles to non-state entities in
Cuba, such as embassies and private companies, as part of detente under
former president Barack Obama.

"We put together a special offer and are distributing the flier - a 2016
Nissan (7201.T) Leaf electric sedan, plus super charger, for $25,000,
including shipping direct from Miami to Mariel Port," said John Felder,
owner of Premier's Cayman Islands-based parent, Automotive Leasing and
Sales Co.

The cash-strapped Cuban government cut back deliveries of high-octane
gasoline this month, sending diplomats, other foreigners and better-off
Cubans scrambling to locate fuel and waiting in long lines to fill up
their cars.

It was not clear how long the shortage would last, and the government
has not commented on the situation.

Most Cubans who own cars, mainly vintage American and Soviet-era models,
use lesser-quality fuel that can damage modern engines.

To date, Felder has sold just one of his vehicles, to the Guyanese
Embassy before the shortages began.

Ambassador Halim Majeed said his government purchased the car as part of
its green energy initiative, but now it has proved handy indeed.

"I'm lucky, and I'm happy about that," He said.

Majeed said other diplomats had always shown interest in his electric
car, but there was more now.

"It is natural that when one faces an issue, you devise ways and means
to overcome that challenge," he said, "and in this situation, the
electrical vehicle can help do that."

Cuba depends on crisis-racked ally Venezuela for about 70 percent of its
fuel needs, including oil for refining and re-exports.

But socialist Venezuela's subsidized shipments have fallen by as much as
40 percent since 2014. Potential new suppliers usually want cash due to
Cuba's poor credit rating.

Two of three Cuban refineries have closed or have operated well below
capacity for months.

Swedish Ambassador Jonas Loven said he would "think seriously" about
Premier's offer the next time the embassy changes its official car.

"It would send a good CO2 message as well," Loven said. "Unfortunately,
we just bought a new Mercedes."

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Source: Miami electric car dealer sees opportunity in Cuban gas shortage
| Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-energy-shortages-idUSKBN17K1MJ Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 17 April 2017 — Cuban professional services abroad are the main source of foreign exchange for the government and represent an estimated 11.543 billion dollars annually, according to an article published in the official press by the island’s former Minister of the Economy, José Luis Rodríguez. Most of the income comes from the … Continue reading "Ex-Minister: Cuba Earns $11.5 Billion From Export of Professional Services" Continue reading
… The United States of America, Cuba, Haiti and 10 African countries … , “The United States of America, Cuba, Haiti and 10 African countries … Continue reading
Moscow, April 17 (RHC)-- Russia has warned the United States against any "unilateral action" against North Korea, saying any response to Pyongyang's nuclear activities should not violate "international law," amid reports of … Continue reading
Cuba Frozen in Time
Paul R. Pillar
April 16, 2017

A week-long visit to Cuba reveals a tropical country of 11 million
people that is stuck in a kind of time capsule. The anachronistic
aspects of the country are symbolized by the 1950s-era U.S.-made
automobiles that cruise city streets—and the resourcefulness of Cubans
is symbolized by whatever they do to keep those old cars running.

Also within the time capsule are long-obsolete ideas of Fidel Castro
that continue to shape Cuba's economy. Salaries are meager and not
linked to productivity. People commonly work multiple jobs to get by.
Many well-educated professionals spend less time on their professions
than on something else, such as driving a bus, that pays better. Some
basic consumer items are heavily subsidized but not in the necessary
quantities. A system of two different currencies, one convertible and
the other not, adds to the jury-rigged quality of the economy.

Comparisons between Cuba and the United States provide some
illustrations of the strengths and limitations of, on one hand,
collective endeavors mounted through government and, on the other hand,
reliance on free markets. In making such comparisons, however, one must
be aware of other factors in determining relative performance.
Transportation infrastructure, for example, is in bad shape in both
countries, but for different reasons. In the United States, it is
largely because of anti-government sentiment that affects the allocation
of resources to what is inherently a public endeavor that requires
government. In Cuba, where problems of transportation infrastructure
include bone-jarring pavement even on major highways, the cause is
simply not enough resources to allocate in the first place.

The most revealing contrasts involve not potholes but people, and the
attitudes and energy that the systems in which they live inculcate. In
Cuba it is easy to find examples of unmotivated workers, in situations
where one could say that some more market incentives could do a lot of
good. But in contrast there are the positive outlooks and abilities
produced by Cuba's comprehensive system of public education, which is
one of the success stories of the revolution.

Cubans do not exhibit any widespread and unsettling discontent. Maybe
this is partly because they just don't know of any better alternatives,
with at least two generations having come of age since Castro took
power. But with much less inequality than in the United States, even
the more ambitious and upwardly mobile Cubans define their aspirations
in terms of what is realistically attainable through hard work in school
and university, however different the end goal may be from the kind of
wealth that many better educated Americans crave. With most basic needs
met, the most talented Cubans find satisfaction and self-realization in
things such as arts and sports, both of which are areas of emphasis in
the educational system. The enthusiasm of young people participating in
the performing arts is obvious and infectious.

Related to all this is a near absence of expectations for major
political change, and of any appetite for the kind of political activism
designed to produce such change. In short, no counterrevolution is in
sight, and not just because of the current regime's use of its coercive
power to ensure that it stays out of sight. Cuba's modern political
history is a factor. The nation achieved independence later than most
other Latin American states, (and when it did get independence, it was
with the U.S.-imposed, sovereignty-compromising Platt Amendment that
went along with it) and has not had as much time to work through stages
of political development as, say, Mexico. Most Cuban presidents in the
first half-century after Spanish rule ended were not commendable
leaders, with Fulgencio Batista being the last of a corrupt and
ineffective lot before Castro ousted him.

But the popular attitudes involving personal fulfillment are a factor as
well. Along with the instances of insufficient motivation it also is
easy to find Cubans who throw themselves into their work with energy and
commitment, whether the work is bartending or city planning. On the
Isle of Youth (which sees very few tourists), in the island's only city,
Nueva Gerona, is a beautiful pedestrian boulevard which makes creative
use of the marble that is extracted from nearly quarries. The park
benches in the town are made of marble. Someone with the drive and
leadership ability that in other circumstances may have been applied to
making a political revolution instead applied those talents to
beautifying the city, even though he or she probably was paid only a
pittance for doing so.

The external influences of globalization can greatly change attitudes
and aspirations in any country, but for Cuba the biggest single external
reality is the anti-globalization U.S. embargo. With the embargo having
been in effect for half a century and with it not leading to even the
possibility of significant political change in Cuba, one can safely
declare the embargo to be a complete and utter failure. All it has done
is to embarrass the United States each year with United Nations
resolutions condemning it, in which every member of the General Assembly
joins the condemnation except for the United States, Israel, and usually
a couple of the Pacific micro-states.

If the embargo were to end—and this would be a major economic event for
Cuba, given the size and significance of the colossus to the north—this
would inevitably mean significant change in Cuban attitudes and, because
of that, Cuban policies. Whoever was ruling Cuba at the time would
almost be forced to pull a Deng Xiaoping regarding modernization and
freeing of the economy, because the ineffective anachronisms could not
survive either the direct competition or the competition in the minds of
Cubans who would see a new range of possibilities.

If significant political change were to come to Cuba in our time, this
is the route it would take. There are no guarantees, of course, and
Castro's heirs, like rulers in a lot of other countries, would look to
the China model with the hope of loosening the economy while maintaining
tight political control. But it is too early to tell whether that sort
of dichotomy between the economic and the political can endure.

Source: Cuba Frozen in Time | The National Interest Blog -
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/cuba-frozen-time-20217?page=show Continue reading
Washington, April 15 (RHC),-- In the United States, CIA chief Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks Thursday as a "hostile intelligence service," in a stark reversal from his previous praise for the group.  Pompeo made the remarks at a Washington, D.C., … Continue reading
MIAMI — You could argue, rather effortlessly, that Jose Fernandez’s death last September instantly became the most debilitating death of a professional athlete in the history of United States sports. Consider: 1) How good a pitcher Fernandez was. 2) His dynamic personality. 3) His backstory, having been born in Cuba then defecting to the United... Continue reading
LANGKAWI, April 16 (Bernama) --Cuba and the United States won the men's and the women's categories of the Malaysia Open World Tour Beach Volleyball Championships 2017, here Sunday. Top seeds Diaz Gomez Nivaldo-Sergio Gonzales proved their mettle … Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 April 2017 — Juana Chiroles will never forget December 26, 2015. It was the last day she saw her son and her two nephews. As night fell the young men told her they were going to kill some pigs and had a rope and several implements. They never returned home. Some … Continue reading "A Small Cuban Town Lives With The Anguish Of The Disappearance Of 13 Rafters" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 April 2017 – Cuba just suspended the sending of a group of 710 health professionals who would have worked on the “More Doctors” mission in Brazil, our of fear of desertions, according to a report from the Brazilian press informed by that country’s Ministry of Health. The decision not to … Continue reading "Cuba Stops Sending Doctors To Brazil For Fear Of Defections" Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 7 April 2017 – A shout disturbed the morning’s tranquility. “Avocaaaaaaado!” shouted the roving salesman as he toured the streets of Central Havana. Considered the “green gold” of foods, this fruit could become an important source of income for the island, due to the high level of consumption around the world. … Continue reading "Green Gold From Cuba’s Fields" Continue reading
In the twilight of the Castros
By Stephen Kinzer APRIL 14, 2017
SANTA CLARA, Cuba

THIS PROVINCIAL CAPITAL in central Cuba throbbed with life on a recent
Saturday night. In one plaza, a Beatles cover band sang "Ticket to Ride"
for an enthusiastic crowd. Exuberant groups of gay men made their way
toward a club that stages drag shows and welcomes patrons of all sexual
orientations. In an evangelical church, dozens of young people were
being driven to near-ecstasy by a young preacher shouting, "We need the
voice of God now!" Many kids wore T-shirts featuring the American flag.

None of this would have been possible or even imaginable at the height
of Fidel Castro's power. Beatles music was banned in Cuba. Gays were
arrested. Public displays of religiosity were forbidden. Police would
have viewed wearing the American flag as nearly equivalent to wearing
the swastika. Cubans now enjoy more cultural freedom than at any time
since the Castro movement seized power 58 years ago.

Economic progress has been more fitful, but still significant. Small
businesses have sprouted across the island. By some estimates, as many
as half a million Cubans are now self-employed. That is a remarkable
change in a country where private enterprise was demonized for
generations. It has whetted the appetite of many shopkeepers,
beauticians, and restaurant owners to expand beyond tight legal limits.

As for political change, it remains beyond a distant horizon. President
Raul Castro is expected to retire next year. No one I met imagines that
this transition will lead to serious changes in the ruling system. This
is today's Cuba: remarkable cultural opening, growing economic opening,
no political opening.

Cuban leaders fear that allowing unrestricted business growth would
strengthen the wealthier class that is already emerging, give enemies in
the United States new ways to subvert the revolutionary project, and
ultimately lead to the collapse of their government. They are right.
Capitalist economics might make Cuba rich, but it would also create a
new version of the class society that revolutionaries have devoted their
lives to wiping away. This is their dilemma. In recent years they have
allowed Cubans to become more prosperous, but that has led to widening
social divisions. How far should they allow the process to go?

Booming tourism is among the forces that have created both new
possibilities and new frictions. Tourists — and Cubans with relatives
abroad — use a different currency from the one most Cubans use. It
allows them to buy many products that are beyond the reach of those who
earn local pesos. Worst of all, tourist demand sucks large amounts of
food out of the market. That leaves even less for Cubans. Many spend
hours every day trying to find food they can afford on government
salaries that often hover below $25 per month.

Cuba has large amounts of fertile and uncultivated land. Selling it to
agro-business conglomerates would produce more than enough food for
every citizen. It would also, however, mark a return to the era when
rich outsiders controlled Cuba's economy. Determined to avoid this, the
government is taking half-steps instead. Private farmers may now sell
their produce more freely. Some state-run cooperatives have become
independent. Good food, though, remains beyond the reach of many Cubans
who must shop in ill-supplied government markets.

Havana, the capital, used to be famous for its fleet of sputtering,
broken-down American cars, all imported before the 1959 revolution. Many
of them have been refitted, polished, and turned into taxis that take
tourists on pricey city tours. Not all Cubans appreciate this. "Those
cars look different to us than they look to you," one man told me as he
pointed to a glistening 1939 Ford Deluxe convertible, complete with
rumble seat. "To you, they're a cute way to have fun. To us, they
symbolize our backwardness. We're stuck in time, back in the days when
those cars were made. We're not getting anywhere."

One sign of the frustration many Cubans feel is the remarkable aging of
the population. Young people have flooded out, leaving parks and plazas
in many towns full of old people. This adds another burden to the
already inadequate welfare system, and poses serious challenges for
future growth. "Before, there were lots of grandchildren to take care of
grandparents," said Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, an official at the
national statistics bureau. "Now, we sometimes have more grandparents
than grandchildren."

Cuba's long century of repression and upheaval famously began with the
US intervention of 1898. A commanding monument on the Malecon, the long
seaside boulevard that anchors Havana, commemorates the explosion of an
American warship, the USS Maine, that became the pretext for
intervention after newspapers and politicians falsely claimed that it
was the result of an enemy attack. In 1899, the US government decided to
renege on its pledge to grant Cuba full independence, and installed a
puppet regime instead. That led to dictatorships, deepening anger, the
Castro revolution, and decades of Communist rule.

President Obama's visit last year, and his modest loosening of the US
trade embargo, momentarily raised hopes for a deep change in US-Cuba
relations — and possibly deep changes in Cuba itself. That has not
happened. Cuban leaders are working quietly to assure that President
Trump does not revert to the bitterly anti-Cuba policies of the
pre-Obama era. Many ordinary Cubans, however, worry more about getting
through each day.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for
International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Follow him on
Twitter @stephenkinzer.

Source: In the twilight of the Castros - The Boston Globe -
http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/04/14/twilight-castros/95OdHKELKcSeu8NfrnyFxJ/story.html Continue reading
Global Real Estate Licence, the provider of online real estate education & technology solutions, launched an exclusive campaign to help Turkish real estate... PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, April 15, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- Palo … Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 April 2017 — HAVANA, Cuba. – “Thank goodness oil is something we don’t have in Cuba.” So said the lyrics of a popular song by Cuban musical group Habana Abierta. However, now Cuba’s official media insist the opposite is true: “The enterprise Cuba-Petroleum Union (CUPET), which promotes prospecting projects with … Continue reading "Oil in Cuba: Dream or Nightmare?" Continue reading
Spirit Airlines to end Havana service June 1; last flights on May 31
Arlene SatchellContact Reporter
Sun Sentinel

Another U.S. air carrier is saying 'Adios' to Cuba.

Low-cost Spirit Airlines plans to operate its last flights between Fort
Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Havana on May 31, an
airline official said early Friday.

The news comes a little more than four months after the Miramar-based
airline began serving Havana with regularly scheduled twice-daily
service from Fort Lauderdale as part of a slew of new U.S.-Cuba routes
approved in 2016.

"We really wanted [Fort Lauderdale-to-Havana] to work, especially being
South Florida's hometown airline... and the ultra-low cost leader to the
Caribbean, but the costs of serving Havana continue to outweigh the
demand for service," said Bob Fornaro, Spirit's president and CEO, in a
statement. "Due to overcapacity and the additional costs associated with
flying to Cuba, we don't find it sustainable to continue this service
while maintaining our commitment to pass along ultra-low fares to our
customers."

Although Spirit's Cuba flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana's Jose
Marti International Airport will officially end June 1, the carrier
plans to operate an adjusted schedule starting in May.

Effective May 3-24, the Havana service will operate once-daily only, but
will revert to its twice-daily schedule from May 25-31, spokesman Paul
Berry told the Sun-Sentinel.

"We're in the process of contacting our customers who'll need
re-accommodations," Berry said.

For example, during the period when only one flight will operate,
passengers already booked on its afternoon flight would be re-booked for
the morning one, Berry noted.

For customers with flights booked beyond May 31, full ticket refunds
will be given, he said.

In March, Fort Lauderdale-based regional carrier Silver Airways also
decided to suspend service on its eight routes to Cuba effective April
22, citing lack of demand and competition from "too many flights and
oversized aircraft" in the market.

A month earlier, JetBlue Airways, said it would begin operating smaller
planes on routes from Fort Lauderdale and other U.S. cities to four
Cuban destinations starting May 3. Those Cuba routes are Havana, Santa
Clara, Holguin and Camaguey.

The announced pullouts from Cuba and schedule adjustments by American
carriers are a continuing sign that airlines may have been too ambitious
about the demand for regular flights to the Communist island following
the restoration of U.S-Cuban diplomatic relations.

In December, American was the first to announce it would reduce service
between Miami and Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero to one daily flight
starting Feb. 16, "to remain competitive in the market."

American also serves Havana from Miami.

Today, travel to Cuba from the United States is restricted to 12
approved categories, such as educational and religious activities,
family visits and humanitarian projects. A ban on leisure tourism to
Cuba remains in force as part of the long-standing U.S.-imposed trade
embargo against the Communist island.

As for returning to Havana in the future, Fornaro said: "Spirit will
continue to monitor the Cuban market and if circumstances improve in the
future, we would consider resuming service there."

asatchell@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4209 or Twitter@TheSatchreport

Source: Spirit Airlines to end Havana service June 1; last flights on
May 31 - Sun Sentinel -
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-spirit-nixes-lauderdale-havana-route-20170414-story,amp.html Continue reading
5 Things Cruise Lines Won't Tell You About Cuba
April 13, 2017

Of all the ports I've sailed into as a crew member, Havana is my
favorite. I fell in love with the city while working as a guide on the
first round of Cuba cruises. We were the only ship from the United
States, with just 700 passengers every 2 weeks. This summer is the
beginning of a new era for Havana. If you're considering a cruise to
Cuba, don't hesitate! But make sure you follow my insider tips to get
the most out of your visit.

#1- Don't miss the sail in: Sailing into Havana is like going back in
time. On the port side of the ship, you'll get up close and personal
with the Morro Castle as you sail through the narrow harbor. On the
starboard side, you'll enjoy a panoramic view of hustle and bustle of
central Havana, Art Deco facades, classic cars, and pedestrian traffic
on the Malécon, Cuba's ocean-front boulevard. Get a good spot on the top
deck early in the morning and bring your binoculars.

#2- Carry a lot of water with you: It's going to be a long, sweaty day
and you need water by your side. I suggest investing in a 40 oz.
Hydroflask. Fill it with ice and water from the ship before disembark.
You'll have cold water for 12+ hours and create less waste from buying
and disposing plastic bottles.

#3- Don't get stuck in the line to exchange money: Your credit and debit
cards from the United States likely won't work in Cuba so you'll need to
exchange money…and so does everyone else. Either get off the ship before
you're fellow cruisers, or get stuck in an hour long backup at the
exchange booths in the cruise terminal. Another option is to exchange
money at the San José Artisans Market down the street. Save money: Make
sure you bring Euros, Pounds, or Canadian Dollars to avoid the extra 10%
exchange fee on United States Dollars.

#4- Get away from the bus: Tours are great, but let's face it, you spend
more time stuck on a bus than you do immersing in the local culture.
Budget some time in your schedule to stroll around the Plazas of Old
Havana or visit a museum near Parque Central. Just make sure you check
the "self-guided" box when you fill out your affidavit. This means that
you agree to document the educational and cultural activities you do
while you're in Cuba.

#5- Do some research beforehand: Enrichment presentations can be hit or
miss, so don't wait until you're onboard to start thinking about Cuban
politics and culture. This doesn't mean you have to bury your head in a
long history book. Rent the movie Una Noche. It's a thriller about
teenagers who try and escape Havana on a homemade raft. If you're
looking for a quick and easy read, checkout my cruise-friendly guide 12
Hours in Havana available on Amazon.

About the Author:
Greg Shapiro is a millennial travel hacker, an expert at packing lots of
fun into short periods of time. From backpacking South America to
sailing around the world, he's visited over 35 countries and counting.

Source: 5 Things Cruise Lines Won't Tell You About Cuba -
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14ymedio, Marta Requeiro, Miami, 13 April 2017 — I still have a clear memory of the Cuban TV show Cocina a minuto, every Sunday before noon. It disappeared, of course, when it was no longer possible to make the recipes with what the people had at their disposal in the refrigerator or the pantry and and what … Continue reading "Rice Without Pebbles For The Tourists" Continue reading
Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending Human Rights
/ Cubalex

Cubalex, 3 April 2017 — The defense and promotion of human rights in the
world depens on the work done on the ground by civil society
organzations, documenting human rights violations.

It does not matter whether the internal context of a country is more or
less repressive, or whether the regime is more or less democratic. Civil
society is the one that monitors the universal and effective
applications and implementation of human rights.

These organizations are the mediators between individuals and the State
and an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of
democracies and the rule of law. Without civil society, there is no
legitimate state.

Lamentably its members often are exposed to dangers. Many times they are
tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including
murder. They are vulnerable worldwide, due to undue restrictions on
freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Of the 43 thematic mandates of the special procedures of the United
Nations, the rapporteurs who deal with the exercise of these rights are
those who send the most communications to the States. Cuba is no
exception. These rapporteurs were the ones that sent the most
communications, either individually or jointly, between 2011 and 2016.

However, the Cuban State disagrees with the rapporteurs'
characterization of the people who make up the organizations that defend
human rights in Cuba. The State considers it inadmissible that they
should be recognized internationally as such and as a part of Cuban
civil society.

The State says that these human rights defenders aim to openly
transgress the laws, undermine, subvert and destroy the political and
social system, the internal legal and constitutional order, established
in a sovereign way by the Cuban nation, acting against the purposes and
principles enshrined in the International agreements on human rights.

It asserts that they are everything from invaders to terrorists, hiding
behind the mantle of human rights defenders. it states that they receive
funding from the United States government to fabricate excuses that
justify their policy of hostility, blockade and aggression against Cuba.

The government denies the work of defending human rights on the part of
informal civil society organizations, and discredits them, to increase
their vulnerability.

Source: Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending
Human Rights / Cubalex – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-denies-the-work-of-informal-civil-society-in-defending-human-rights-cubalex/ Continue reading
Cuban-American Relations in 2017
BY SAMANTHA MENDIGUREN AND JORGE DUANY • APRIL 12, 2017

In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Jorge Duany,
director of the Cuban Research Institute.

Upon Fidel Castro's arrival to power in 1959, the United States and Cuba
built up an oppositional animosity toward one another. The US responded
to Cuba's communist ideology with an embargo in hopes of overthrowing
the regime.

Strict regulations were enforced until President Barack Obama began to
make progress toward normalizing this protracted animosity. On July 20,
2015, Washington and Havana marked the restoration of diplomatic
relations. This has led to an ease on remittances and travel, but
financial, economic and commercial restrictions still remain.

Although Obama made efforts toward removing hostility between the two
countries, shortly before leaving office he ended the
"wet-foot/dry-foot" policy implemented in 1995 allowing for Cubans to
remain in the US once they reached its shores. While the cancellation of
this policy coincides with the new Trump administration's views on
tightening immigrant documentation, many US policies toward Cuba are up
for debate.

In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Jorge Duany,
director of the Cuban Research Institute and professor of anthropology
at Florida International University (FIU). Born in Havana, Cuba, Duany
shares his insight on Cuban-American relations and predicts what will
come of this year.

Samantha Mendiguren: The US and Cuba reopened diplomatic relations after
more than 50 years. What effect has this had on Cuba?

Jorge Duany: On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced he
would take several steps to normalize relations between the US and Cuba
— some of those steps have been quite significant, especially the
removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. And that
had a number of consequences — among them, from our little corner in the
world, that public universities in Florida were now able to cover travel
expenses to and from Cuba.

I mention that because that has been the most important consequence of
the change, not only for us but for Florida in general and particularly
for academic and cultural exchanges with Cuba. We don't know what's
going to happen with that particular move because the new secretary of
state under the Trump administration mentioned that he was going to
review this policy change, so that means that the Trump administration
might revert it.

The main impact of the changes in US policy toward Cuba has been to
increase the official contact between the US and Cuban governments at
all levels, from the president's visit to Cuba last year in March to a
number of lower-level but still significant contacts between
representatives of both governments. Several agreements have been signed
to conduct and collaborate with scientific research, for instance, and
even more policy-oriented issues like drug trafficking, undocumented
migration and so forth. So I think that has been the major change in the
past two years and a few months, especially once the US and Cuban
embassies were opened in the two capitals.

In addition, there has been some impact on trade, communication and
travel. There are a number of other areas that still haven't produced
significant results. For instance, there was a proposal to build
tractors in Cuba by a Cuban-American Jewish businessman, but
unfortunately it did not go through. That would have been the first time
there was direct investment by the US on Cuban soil for decades. So
there are some significant achievements and some failures in the
relationship between the two countries over the last two years.

Mendiguren: While the US and Cuba have amended diplomatic relations, the
commercial, economic and financial embargo still remains. Do you foresee
these positions changing with the new Trump administration?

Duany: As of now we're waiting to see. And we've been waiting ever since
the new administration took office on January 20th. It's been a little
more than a month and there has been no official change, specifically on
US' Cuba policy, except for a couple of tweets by the president and some
very strong language regarding human rights in Cuba, but so far we don't
know what concrete measures will be taken by the new administration.

We're still figuring out what the new administration will do about it
because we were expecting Trump to change it rather than Obama. So the
fact that Obama did it about one week before the new administration took
office was not only surprising but quite controversial.

I imagine that putting Cuba back on that black list of sponsors of
terrorism and even closing the embassy, which Trump mentioned at some
point during the campaign as a candidate, are very unlikely. All the
other changes are under revision, for instance the relaxation of
requirements for travel to Cuba, short of allowing tourism — which is
not allowed under the embargo law — and some other minor changes. I
don't know whether people will be able to bring cigars and rum or not
from Cuba, which was one of the latest changes in US' Cuba policy.

Mendiguren: What needs to happen within Cuba for the US to seriously
consider removing the economic embargo?

Duany: The Helms-Burton Act of 1996 sets several conditions to be met:
free elections, competitive party politics, respect for human rights and
so on, which are very difficult to be met by any government, let alone a
communist government such as the one in power in Cuba. Short of those
major changes what could happen is that Congress decides to look at the
embargo again and, given the changes that have taken place between the
two countries, if a majority of Congress decides it's time to lift the
embargo, that may take place.

However, I think it's very unlikely that it's going to happen given that
the majority of Congress is in Republican hands. And again, there are
few signs on the Cuban government's side that it will move in the
direction stipulated by the Helms-Burton Act.

Mendiguren: Why do you believe that Cuban Americans supported Trump in a
much higher degree than other Latin American groups in the United States?

Duany: I think Trump made one of the last stops of his campaign in late
October of last year when he came to Miami, and of course he was here
several times, has strong connections to south Florida and made a very
strong promise to revert all of President Obama's executive orders
regarding Cuba. He got the support of the veterans of the Bay of Pigs
invasion, which had not endorsed any presidential candidate in the past
five decades. The veterans reflect a broader sector of the community,
particularly the early wave of Cuban refugees from the 1960s, who tend
to be more conservative. Probably that sector of the community did give
him a majority support.

However, there is a lot of argument here in Miami as to exactly what
percentage of the Cuban-American vote went to Trump. I've seen some
estimates that suggest something like 60%, which I think is a little
exaggerated; others are closer to 50-52%, a slight majority. I don't
think there's any doubt that Trump got a much larger percentage of the
Cuban-American vote than any other Latino community, but we don't know
yet what specific percentage actually did. Once Trump sided with the
more conservative sector of the Cuban-American electorate, which means
older, first generation, better-off exiles and their children, he did
get the majority of the vote.

However, there's also a growing number of Cuban Americans, both those
who were born in the US and those who have come in the last three
decades, who are increasingly leaning toward the Democratic Party and
there's also quite a lot of evidence that that particular sector of the
community tended to favor Hillary Clinton. But in the final analysis I'd
say that because many of these more recent immigrants aren't US citizens
or aren't registered to vote, they're still a minority in terms of the
electorate of Cuban origin.

Mendiguren: Obama ended the wet-foot/dry-foot policy. How do you think
this affects the Cuban-American community? Do you think Trump will
change this policy?

Duany: We're still figuring out what the new administration will do
about it because we were expecting Trump to change it rather than Obama.
So the fact that Obama did it about one week before the new
administration took office was not only surprising but quite
controversial. Some of the polls that have been conducted, especially
here at FIU in the past couple of years, have found that the majority of
the Cuban-American community does support the wet-foot/dry-foot policy
and the Cuban Adjustment Act. However, when you break it down by age and
time of arrival, the earlier Cuban refugees probably wouldn't support as
strongly that particular policy measure.

The main reason is because of the concern in south Florida about the
abuse of the wet-foot/dry-foot policy by some Cuban immigrants, who are
not necessarily political refugees and who go back to Cuba once they get
their permanent residence. That issue got a lot of media coverage here
in south Florida, and even in Washington. Marco Rubio, for instance, and
Carlos Curbelo were two of the main critics of the policy and even the
Cuban Adjustment Act.

However, because of political party affiliation, when Obama decided to
cancel the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, that put the new government in a
difficult situation because the incoming president had said that he
would revert all of Obama's executive orders. But this one is likely to
stay, because it seems to fit within the discourse of the new
administration of reducing undocumented migration to the US, which was
facilitated by the wet-foot/dry-foot policy toward Cubans.

Mendiguren: How has Fidel Castro's death affected Cuba and its relation
to the US? What implementations have been set by Raúl Castro and what do
you expect from him in the future? What will happen when he leaves his
position?

Duany: Fidel was out of the picture for about 10 years since his
retirement and mysterious medical emergency. He was coming out of his
house every so often and made public appearances, and wrote that column
that probably wasn't written by him in Cuba's official press, Granma.
But as far as I can tell, looking back at those years, there had been a
transition or a succession of power from Fidel to Raúl, and Raúl was
pretty much the one who was leading the Cuban government and actually
made some changes.

But Fidel still had a strong symbolic influence, for instance when he
criticized Obama's visit in calling him "Brother Obama" and saying some
very nasty things about his visit; whereas Raúl was very friendly with
Obama, sat next to him at the Tampa-Cuba baseball game and so on.

So, with Fidel out of the picture, one theory is that Raúl will finally,
in whatever time he remains in power, be freer to continue his reforms
than when he was under the shadow of Fidel. Another theory is that there
was never that kind of big brother/younger brother distinction in terms
of their actual thoughts and actions.

With Fidel out of the picture, in the next year or so when Raúl has said
he would retire, he might, for instance, accelerate some of the reforms
he started but that Fidel and his entourage didn't support. I'm thinking
especially of the US-Cuba normalization process. Fidel didn't
particularly like this, he didn't stand in the way of the process but he
did make a couple of critical comments about the process of
reestablishing diplomatic relations with the US.

In about a year from now, [Raúl] has declared that he wants to retire
from the presidency and that has led to all kinds of speculations as to
who's next in line. Miguel Díaz-Canel, the vice president, seems to be
the heir to the throne, so to speak, although some people speculate that
it might be somebody from the Castro family itself and the inner circle
— we don't know that yet either.

But if he does retire there's still the question as to whether he will
remain as the first secretary of the Communist Party, which is really
the power behind the throne, or as the commander-in-chief of the armed
forces, and it doesn't look like he's going to let go of those very
powerful positions. So, there might be a new president who doesn't
really have control over the main institutions in Cuba (the army, the
Communist Party), and become the figurehead of the Cuban government.

Then when you go, you find yourself being treated sometimes as a
foreigner, sometimes as a Cuban. You have to pay more, you have to use
the more expensive currency — there's all kinds of experiences that make
you feel like you're not at home.

What I think is now at a crossroads is the question of what kind of
relationship Castro will establish with the new US administration. Raúl
has restated that he's willing to negotiate, that he's willing to talk
to the new government like he had said before with the Obama
administration, but there hasn't been much in the way of a response from
Washington either, so it's kind of a standstill at this point. And it's
unclear where the Trump administration wants to move with this, or just
keep it the same or return to December 16, 2014.

Mendiguren: You've written extensively about Cuban identity and the
diaspora. Can you explain the cultural and political divide between
Cubans and Cuban Americans — do you think that this chasm can be
reconciled into one national identity?

Duany: It's a long history of love and hate between Cuba and the US. In
fact we just held a conference where we used what I think is a good icon
of that relationship. It's an image of a cigar box from Key West,
Florida, in 1898, that shows the symbols of Cuba and the US as these
very strong women giving each other the gift of tobacco — a cigar —
which was then processed in Key West and sold to the US market.

And that of course alludes to migration to the US from Cuba, which is
really a long and protracted process. It began more than a century and a
half ago with the Cuban War of Independence against Spain and continued
throughout the first half of the 20th century. It became massive after
1959, so these very strong historical and cultural links between the US
and Cuba, particularly with Florida, are now stronger than before.

And despite the lack of diplomatic relations and the lack of economic
ties between the two countries over the last 60 years or so, you do find
links between the two places. For instance, travel between Miami and
Havana is very strong now; depending on your sources it could be as many
as 400,000 people of Cuban origin based in the US traveling to Cuba for
a visit. The telephone calls, the remittances, the money that people
send their relatives to the island is in the millions of dollars —and
then more recently, I think as part of this opening about, the
increasing number of artists, musicians, writers and even academics who
have expanded and strengthened these personal and family links between
Cubans on and off the island.

Now, the division is still very much there and all kinds of restrictions
are still difficult to overcome, including visas and passports. Since I
was born in Cuba, I have a very difficult time traveling there because I
either have to get a Cuban passport, which I don't have right now (I'm
still waiting for one since I applied in July, but no response yet), or
I can apply for a one-time only Cuban visa, which is very expensive.

Then when you go, you find yourself being treated sometimes as a
foreigner, sometimes as a Cuban. You have to pay more, you have to use
the more expensive currency — there's all kinds of experiences that make
you feel like you're not at home.

Yet at the same time, you were born there, you have family, and you're
familiar with the culture, the language, the food and the music. In any
case, it's an issue for many Cuban Americans of various generations,
both my own generation and my children's generation, to decide for
themselves in terms of their identity and how they want to define
themselves. If you're a US citizen but your parents were born in Cuba,
even the issue of traveling to Cuba is a major dilemma. I know that a
lot of young Cuban Americans won't go to look for their roots on the
island because their parents or grandparents went through such a
difficult, traumatic experience that they don't want to offend them.

In fact, some FIU students will wait until their parents and
grandparents have passed so that they respect that experience. This
issue of identity of the second generation and the links between the
island and the US are very intractable. They're still difficult to
overcome especially in this, what seems to be, a Cold-War division
between Cuba and the US.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Fair Observer's editorial policy.

Source: Cuban-American Relations in 2017 -
https://www.fairobserver.com/region/latin_america/cuba-america-relations-trump-castro-news-20170/ Continue reading
Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 April 2107 — Confined for more than 80
days in a punishment cell, without a single contact with the outside,
the activist Lisandra Rivera Rodríguez of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(UNPACU) received her first family visit this Tuesday, in the Mar Verde
Women's Prison in Santiago de Cuba.

Lisandra Rivera, 28, was arrested after her home was raided by State
Security on 31 December of last year. On that occasion, and despite
having been beaten by the agents, she was accused of an alleged criminal
"attack," according to UNPACU activists. Her family had not been able to
contact her since 17 January when her trial was held in the Provincial
Court and she was sentenced to two years imprisonment. On 18 April she
will have served four months.

Her husband, Yordanis Chavez, commented in a telephone interview with
14ymedio that both he and her parents managed to be with her for almost
two hours. "As of Saturday she is outside the punishment cell and is in
a of maximum severity wing of the prison."

According to Chávez, from now on they will be able to visit her
normally. The next appointment is scheduled for the 17th of this
month. "We saw her well, quite strong of spirit. She continues to refuse
to comply with orders and or to accept reeducation."

The authorities of the prison used this refusal to accept the
"reeducation" regime as a reason to impose the isolation of a punishment
cell on Rivera. "The tried to make her stand up and give military
salutes to the jailers who conduct a count three or four times a day.
When a high official arrived she also had to stand at attention like
they do in the military and she refused to do it," says Chavez.

During the visit, Lisandra told her relatives that the punishment cell
is like that of any police dungeon, pestilent and in very bad
conditions, without light. She had no access to anything, no right to
family or conjugal visits, nor could she receive phone calls or food
brought in from outside. "Every Tuesday I was handcuffed and taken,
almost dragged, to the disciplinary council," the activist told her husband.

Yordanis Chavez explained that they have not appealed the ruling because
they do not trust the judicial system. "Lisandra has not committed any
crime, it is only because it was an order of State Security as
punishment for her activism in UNPACU in favor of freedom and democracy
in Cuba."

José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU's leader, fears that, in the midst of the
difficult international situation, there could be a repeat of what
happened in the spring of 2003, when 75 regime opponents were arrested
and sentenced to extremely long prison terms. That crackdown, which came
to be known as the Black Spring, coincided with the United States'
invasion of Iraq, a time when the world was looking the other way. At
present, more than 50 UNPACU activists remain in prison in several
provinces, many of them accused of crimes they have not committed.

For its part, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation announced in its last report, on the month of March, that
there had been at least 432 arbitrary detentions of peaceful dissidents
in Cuba in that month. In addition, several dissidents were vandalized
and stripped of their computers, cell phones and other means of work, as
well as cash.

Source: Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/lysandra-does-not-want-to-be-reeducated/ Continue reading
Cubalex, 3 April 2017 — The defense and promotion of human rights in the world depens on the work done on the ground by civil society organzations, documenting human rights violations. It does not matter whether the internal context of a country is more or less repressive, or whether the regime is more or less … Continue reading "Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending Human Rights / Cubalex" Continue reading
Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the brink of death
By ANNIKA HERNROTH-ROTHSTEIN • 4/10/17 8:00 PM

HAVANA — The young woman sees me watch in amazement as she gets up from
her seat and attempts to carry the four bags with her through the aisle
of the plane, and she gestures at them and shrugs.

"There is nothing in Cuba, so whatever we can, we bring."

It took me a few days to fully grasp what she had told me, being a
first-time visitor in a country entering its 58th year of communist
dictatorship, and its very first without Fidel Castro. I came here to
find out what had changed since his passing, and what was next for the
island regime, but to my great surprise it was business as usual, in
more ways than one.

On my way from the airport I ask my cab driver if things feel different
since Castro's death. He shakes his head and tells me that even on the
night of his passing there was little movement in the streets or
commotion through Havana.

"I was impressed, actually. Fidel has been everything, you know? He is
the father of the revolution and when he dies – nothing – not a word.
They were able to control everything, even then."

By "they" he means the regime, now taking orders from Fidel's brother
Raoul Castro, and the security apparatus attached to it, with its
infamous security service, Direccion General de Intelligencia (DGI)
making sure the wheels turn smoothly. It is a simple yet brilliant
scheme, where every neighborhood has an informant, reporting to the
Comites de Defensa de la Revolution (CDR), a secret police in charge of
keeping tabs on counter-revolutionary activity, and every infraction or
sign of disloyalty is met with stern and immediate consequences. Given
the dire straits of the people in Cuba, the regime is not willing to
take any chances, having experienced revolutions in the past it knows
not to allow the flame of change to be ignited.

With a monthly salary of $30 USD per person, supplemented with a fixed
portion of rice, eggs and beans, the people of Cuba have been forced to
use every opportunity to make some money on the side in order to avoid
starvation. This has resulted in a shadow-society to take shape within
communist Cuba, a society that is highly capitalist in every single way.
I get evidence of this en route to old Havana one day, when my driver
stops for gas and is told there is none left, only to leave the car with
a fistful of cash and return later, car filled-up and ready.

"This is what we call the Cuban way. You see, the gas station belongs to
the government, so the only way for these men to earn something extra is
to sell gas to the highest bidder and deny those who can't pay. I call
it communist capitalism."

The same is true everywhere you go: people cooking the books to fill
their plates and fight their way out of desperation, and as a tourist
you accept it and move on, constantly struggling with the guilt of
living here in a bubble that everyday Cubans will never be privy to. To
outsiders, the combination of poverty and oppression and the recent loss
of the symbol of the revolution would inevitably result in a turn toward
democracy and capitalism. But as the regime does its best to convey,
very little has been buried with Fidel.

The Cubans I have spoken to are proud of their country. Even though they
criticize the regime, under promise of anonymity, they are quick to add
that they don't necessarily want Cuba to become the United States or
just any other country in the West. When I ask them if they believe that
democracy and capitalism will come to Cuba now that Fidel has left and
Raoul is on his way out, they respond in the negative, saying that
whatever will come next will be a Cuban version of those things, an
adaptation from what it is now.

And the way things are looking, they may be right. Rumor has it Raoul
Castro has already reshuffled the government, replacing generals and
ministers with his personal confidants so that he will remain the
unofficial leader even after his assumed successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel,
is sworn in as president in 2018. This ensures that even though Fidel is
dead, the spirit of the revolution lives on, and the Cubans I've spoken
to fear that the regime will take steps to emphasize the status quo by
tightening its grip on the population.

It is not an improbable scenario, but rather a common tactic for
totalitarian regimes when dealing with dramatic shifts, as most recently
seen in Iran after the nuclear deal, where executions and imprisonments
have risen dramatically during and after the rapprochement with the
West. There is an important difference, however, and that is that Cuba
is unlike many other countries of its kind, and that difference may
actually be a hindrance in its journey toward democracy.

One thing that sets Cuba apart from other totalitarian regimes is the
romance that surrounds it, still, despite the thousands of extrajudicial
executions and arbitrary imprisonments, a ruined national economy, and
denial of basic freedoms of association, religion, movement, and speech
having taken place in the past 58 years. Even those who do not hold an
ideological torch for the communist revolution are still enchanted with
the country's beauty, charm, and lust for life, making it easier to
disregard the daily crimes committed against its people and quell the
international community's instinct to intervene.

Cuba is truly magical, and yes, it is full of life, but once you step
outside of the lush hotel garden you see that it is life on the brink of
death, magic existing in a state of suspended animation.

There are several shadow-societies existing side by side in Cuba, and
through these the population has come to function and survive, with very
limited resources and freedoms.

This is made possible by the geographical and cultural proximity to the
U.S., loosening of sanctions and the idea of Cuba being kept alive
through and by the booming Cuban tourism industry. This process is
quietly supported by the regime itself because, ironically, the only way
for the communist revolution to survive is by covert capitalism, keeping
the population from starvation, and turning a blind eye to this keeps
the oppressive communist regime from having to admit defeat.

There were no rallies through Havana on the eve of Fidel's death and
now, almost 4 months later, he has already moved from leader to martyr,
cementing a well-directed legacy. Life goes on for the Cubans, with or
without the father of the revolution, as they watch tourists flood their
Island paradise, hoping to benefit from some of the overflow.

Cuba is lively and loud – full of life for days of play. But when it
really matters, it is quiet – its people's fate decided in silence,
without so much as a word.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein (@truthandfiction) is a journalist and author,
based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Source: Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the
brink of death | Washington Examiner -
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/cuba-after-fidel-castro-full-of-life-but-it-is-life-on-the-brink-of-death/article/2619841 Continue reading
Cuba opposition candidates say targeted for reprisals
AFP April 12, 2017

Havana (AFP) - Cuban dissidents planning to run in the communist
country's local elections in November have been arrested, threatened and
otherwise harassed by the authorities, one of their leaders said Tuesday.

At least five would-be candidates have been charged with crimes such as
robbery, had their property seized, or been threatened with losing their
jobs, said Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the opposition Unity
Roundtable for Democratic Action (MUAD).

"They (the authorities) are taking preventive measures so that no
independent citizen who doesn't fit their agenda can run," he told AFP.

The local elections in November kick off an electoral cycle that will
ultimately decide the successor to President Raul Castro.

The next step will be the election of the 612-member National Assembly,
which chooses the all-powerful Council of State, which in turn chooses
the president.

Opposition parties are banned in Cuba, but dissident groups are trying
to sneak the maximum number of Castro opponents into the local polls.

Two opposition candidates managed to stand in the last local elections
in 2015. Neither won.

This year, 109 opposition candidates are prepared to run, according to
Cuesta Morua.

Castro, 85, took over in 2006 from his brother Fidel, Cuba's leader
since 1959.

Raul Castro has steered Cuba toward a very gradual economic opening and
restored ties with its old Cold War enemy the United States.

But opponents say the only communist regime in the Americas still
controls most of the economy, and muzzles free speech and political dissent.

Source: Cuba opposition candidates say targeted for reprisals -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/cuba-opposition-candidates-targeted-reprisals-224942848.html Continue reading
'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political prisoner to
run in the 'elections'
YUSIMÍ RODRÍGUEZ LÓPEZ | La Habana | 12 de Abril de 2017 - 12:10 CEST.

'We will take the voter's voice wherever necessary', says José Díaz Silva.

For his anti-Government activism José Díaz Silva has received four jail
sentences totaling 16 years. He is the leader of various internal
dissidence organizations, and frequently ends up in jail. Now he plans
to be a candidate to serve as a Poder Popular (national assembly)
delegate, running on the #Otro18 independent platform, exercising his
right, as stipulated in the Constitution, to elect and to be elected.

Never before had he thought about taking a step of this type. "I do not
belong to the CDR, nor did I use to vote. Years back, we wanted to be
observers. We went here to the Electoral Board close to here, and they
threw us out. I will run here and now because we want to define the
difference between their [pro-Government] candidates and ours," he
explains. In this way, we will not change the system, but we will act as
spokespeople for the community, which complains about its lack of say.
We know that they will (...) describe us as delinquents and
contrarrevolutionaries. They also claim that we are paid by the Empire.
A lie, and they know it," says Díaz Silva.

"I get help from my family in the US: two children (also former
political prisoners, for writing 'down with Fidel', as stated in their
court records), five siblings, and my mother. My wife has five siblings
there. There I have friends there who want to see a free and democratic
Cuba. They help human rights organizations and political prisoners. They
send food," he explains.

Díaz Silva is the president ofOpositores por una Nueva República,a
national delegate of the Movimiento Democracia, a national coordinator
of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Frente de Resistencia y Desobediencia
Civil, and one of the coordinators of the Democratic Action Unity Bureau
(MUAD).

"The way you entered through, I clear it with a mower I brought from the
United States. Where is the money assigned for that? It is robbed by
Áreas Verdes, Comunales, the municipal government. They report that the
highway is kept clean. But it is cleaned by a human rights activist," he
explains.

"We want to know where the budget assigned to each municipality goes,
which comes from taxes," he affirms.

He is already suffering retaliation for his intention to run for office
in his district.

"They have threatened us, telling us that they could easily tie us up in
the courts, which would prevent us from exercising our right. Manuel
Velásquez Licea and Eduardo Herrera Hernández, also candidates, have
been incarcerated for the past six months", he explains.

"On Tuesday, 28 March, at 4:35 a.m., they knocked on my door. They came
to conduct a search. The paper indicated 'electronic equipment and
others.' To make it legal, they have to look for something specific. The
witnesses were people they have used before to carry out acts of
rejection, brought from Santiago de las Vegas. This is a violation, as
the witnesses must be from the community," he complains.

"I told them to wait, as I was going to get cleaned up. They kicked the
door in. They injured my hand and fingers, throwing me against the wall.
My head was swollen, but it subsided. I bled from my nose. They
handcuffed me. They burned our brochures. They took books, legal
documents (like sentences), two laptops, a mini laptop belonging to my
daughter, and another to my granddaughter, a disk drive, CDs; money,
mine and my daughter's; two chains worth some 1,200 CUC, my pressure
gauging device, two little short-wave radios, a printer, a television
set antenna, a large television set that my son bought and that entered
legally, through Customs. They left the one in the living room. They
broke the door to my daughter's room, to which I do not have a key. She
came when the neighbors told her, and they wouldn't let her in. From the
refrigerator they took a tin of Spam, packages of noodles, six or seven
bars of chocolate, and two of peanut butter, sent for the prisoners," he
explains.

"The police officers' ID numbers were 29140 and 29113, two captains. And
lieutenant 29156. There was an official from the MININT who, while the
search was carried out, lit up a cigarette. I told him that he was
showing a lack of respect, that in my house nobody smoked. He went
outside to smoke, very annoyed, and when he returned he said to me: 'you
people, for us, you are animals, dogs, and we are going to do away with
you.' I asked why he didn't say that on television, so that the people
could know their position. He responded: 'that's just what you'd like.'"

Díaz Silva says that he was taken to Santiago de las Vegas. The
authorities, he indicates, made eight copies of what they took from his
house, but did not give him one.

State Security agents Bruno and Raymo, who had threatened him before,
said to him: 'Have you seen how what we said is happening?'" the
activist recalls.

"The police fined me for handling stolen goods. They let me go the next
day, a 6:00 in the afternoon. Here there are no laws. They could kill us
and nothing would happen."

Do you think any members of your community will dare to nominate or vote
for you?

A family told me that they were going to nominate me. But it remains to
be seen, as they can take measures against the family… but residents
told me that I can count on their votes, and I think that they will dare
to follow through. When the Police entered my house, some neighbors
expressed their indignation to me. It was they who alerted my daughter.
And they are not dissenters.

Many presidents of the CDR and women with the Federation (FMC) approach
us, as dissidents, to tell us that we have their votes." There are even
police who tell us to "continue fighting, because you are right. They
see that what the regime says, that we are delinquents, is a lie.

How did Fidel and Raúl deal with this? With force. They killed. They
killed police heads, informers. It is in the documentaries that they
broadcast. We don't do those things. We are pursuing what Fidel Castro
claimed he wanted in History will Acquit Me: a state based on the rule
of law.

Traditional delegates, many eager to work, face barriers, like the lack
of resources. Will a dissident be able to do more for the community?

We don't promise anything, and we don't have conditions. After all, the
system is our enemy. But we will take the voice of the voter wherever it
is necessary. The community's vote will give us the right us to demand
solutions to problems before bodies. In this way we have an advantage,
because we are not scared, and we know the laws a little better.

In spite of your intention to run, you say that the way to remove the
Castros' Communist regime from power is with people in the streets.

They will always look for mechanisms to thwart anything that we do. We
have the example of Oswaldo Payá. It was necessary to change the law,
because he presented the signatures. I was a promoter of the Varela
Project. When it reached [the National Assembly], they said that the
Cuban socialist system was irrevocable, and the Constitution said so.
They mocked what they themselves had written, because they wrote that
Constitution and Penal Code. Now they will do the same thing, but this
is a way to tell the people that we have the right to change this
through peaceful channels.

Source: 'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political
prisoner to run in the 'elections' | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1491991825_30312.html Continue reading
UN expert probes human trafficking in Cuba
Associated Press 3:59 p.m. ET April 10, 2017

Havana — An independent expert from the United Nations was in Cuba on
Monday for a four-day visit to evaluate the human trafficking situation
on the island for the first time in a decade.

Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro is expected to visit a
school and meet parliament leader Esteban Lazo and also has scheduled
trips to the provinces of Matanzas and Artemisa near the capital, Havana.

Such U.N. visits are routine in other countries, but Cuba has generally
rejected inspections by international organizations. The government has
relaxed that stance somewhat in recent years, and officials welcomed
Giammarinaro upon her arrival and stressed that Cuba has a
zero-tolerance policy on trafficking.

They presented her with a government action plan on trafficking and
exploitation. According to government statistics, in 2015 a little over
2,000 cases of underage sexual abuse were reported among a population of
2.6 million children.

Giammarinaro expects to analyze what progress Cuba has made and
challenges it still faces regarding trafficking, including sexual and
labor exploitation. The findings will be presented to the U.N. Human
Rights Council in June 2018.

Other trips to Cuba by U.N. experts are still pending, including one
related to torture.

Giammarinaro's visit comes three months after the United States ended
its so-called wet foot, dry foot policy, which for over two decades
allowed nearly all Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain. Island
officials had long complained about it, arguing that it contributed to
human trafficking.

The policy was scrapped in January days before then-President Barack
Obama left office, as part of a process of normalizing relations between
Washington and Havana.

The United States previously removed Cuba from its blacklist of
countries it says have failed to fight modern-day slavery after
diplomatic relations were formally restored in July 2015.

Source: UN expert probes human trafficking in Cuba -
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/world/2017/04/10/un-expert-probes-human-trafficking-cuba/100299254/ Continue reading
Our education system will have to be redesigned to shift the focus from teaching emotional intelligence to creating emotional health. RIDGEFIELD PARK, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES, April 9, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- The number 1 fundamental problem … Continue reading
…  this group of foreigners of Cuban origin to obtain their residency … or refugee status because the Cubans "do not face persecution … ; policy and to remove unauthorized Cuban nationals from the United States … Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba. Continue reading
Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Airbnb hosts in Cuba, who
were so enthusiastic at the beginning, have been complaining recently
about the delays in receiving the payments made by the tourists who have
stayed in their homes. The discontent is clear from the complaints
published on the platform of the American company and the interviews
conducted by 14ymedio.

On the Airbnb site a couple claims to have experienced repeated delays
in payments. "Between January and part of February 2016 we had a serious
delay in receiving the payments through the agency VaCuba," complained
Ileana and Rolando, who have had problems again in early 2017. "We are
already behind in the dates scheduled by Airbnb; we haven't received the
payments and right now we're waiting on three more payments," they explain.

The Miami-based courier company VaCuba, with headquarters in Miami, is
in charge of bringing the payments to the hosts who rent out their
homes, rooms and spaces through Airbnb. In any other country, these
payments are made in the ordinary way through internet transfers, but
the banking system in Cuba has hired this agency to send the cash to get
the money to the Airbnb hosts.

The growth of Airbnb in Cuba during the last year has been remarkable,
making it the country where the platform has grown the most thanks to
the extension of licenses of that allows Cuban hosts to attract clients
from all over the world, not only from the United States, like at the
beginning.

Jorge Ignacio, an economics student who rents out a house in the town of
Soroa, in Artemisa, told 14ymedio that in February of this year,
"there's nothing from Airbnb." Now he says he's "looking for
alternatives" to collect for the stays of his guests because VaCuba, the
only money distribution mechanism offered by Airbnb has collapsed,
"because there are so many customers" and it can't continue "counting
the 'kilos'," he comments. "I get the full amount of the payment but
always with a big delay," said Jorge Ignacio, explaining that it's not
an isolated case "because the whole world is in the same situation."

Rebeca Monzó, a Cuban artisan and blogger who has a room to rent in
Nuevo Vedado, has a different complaint but adds to the discomfort
generated in recent months. "The payment delay is almost a month, I
never receive the full amount, they bring me 19 CUC when they actually
owe me 500." Monzó says that a messenger from VaCuba explained that "the
Cuban bank is behind with the transfers" and that "it cannot get the
full amount at once" and that is why they prefer to "make partial payments."

As a retiree, Monzó says the situation is not easy because she doesn't
see the result of her efforts and she only receives a fraction of what
she spends on daily supplies that allow her to "maintain a functioning
business." The payments are not the only thing she needs to stay
afloat. Monzó does her best to earn the good comments that clients place
on her profile. Each morning she prepares the breakfast for her clients
with great care and when they arrive at her house, she receives them
with a welcome card she makes herself.

"I wrote an email to Airbnb to comment on the delay of the payments and
not only did they not answer me but they returned the message. I have
also asked other hosts who have been in this for a longer time and they
have told me that it is not possible to receive the money by any means
other than VaCuba."

She says that Airbnb always makes the payment "in less than two days"
and that the company notifies her by email. Monzó confesses that she
does not want to leave the platform because "it is very safe" and sends
"the type of clients that you ask for."

"I refuse to take in the tourists just off the street because I do not
want to take risks, I want it to always be through a company that
guarantees me the seriousness of the customer," says Monzó.

Other users of the platform say they have found a solution to the
problem by using AIS cards to send and receive transfers, which can be
found in any branch of the state-owned company Financiera Cimex.

"You can ask VaCuba to start sending the money to the AIS card,"
explains an Airbnb host.

By the end of 2016, at least 34,000 self-employed people were engaged in
renting homes to serve a growing number of tourists (4 million last
year). To do so legally, they have to get a license and pay taxes, which
are levied even when their rooms are not rented.

Source: Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-hosts-complain-about-airbnbs-payment-system/ Continue reading
Camila Cabello shares her success story: 'I want to be what people think
of when they think of America'
hola.com April 6, 2017

Long before her pop star days, Camila Cabello was a young girl looking
to start a new life in the United States. The singer and her mother
Sinuhe candidly opened up about their journey from Cuba to America in a
new interview with Glamour magazine. "We flew from Cuba to Mexico, and
went by bus to the American border; it took a month. We left everyone
behind, my friends, my family," Camila's mom recalled. "It was really
hard. I came here with no money and left everything that was familiar.
But I just made a list of goals, and every time I scratched one off, I
felt that everything was worth it."

Relocating from her native Cuba to Miami was an adjustment for the
former Fifth Harmony member. She explained, "In Cuba there were days in
class where we would just watch cartoons. We weren't learning. But when
I came to the U.S., it was like: homework. A lot of things were suddenly
so ­different—being at a new school without my friends, I didn't speak
the language, and I missed my dad." Though her father reunited with
Camila and her mother a year and a half later.
MORE: Camila talks the scariest part of leaving Fifth Harmony
While the Bad Things singer was admittedly shy as a child, she used
music as a way to connect with others. "I was very introverted as a kid.
But I started bringing my CDs to the YMCA after school; I'd ask for the
boom box and go play my music in the corner and people would come over,"
she said. "And I created a little YouTube channel doing covers—I must
have posted 50. Even though I'd be like, 'Oh my god, this is so bad,'
music was the thing I was passionate enough about to get over being
shy." The 20-year-old was also inspired by a famous boy band, One
Direction, to pursue her passion. She shared, "After seeing a One
Direction 'tips on auditioning for The X Factor (USA)' video, I asked
Mom if I could audition" — and the rest is history.

Camila joined Fifth Harmony in 2012 on the competition show and left in
2016. Now as a solo artist the Work from Home singer said, "Right now
I'm in the process of writing about our whole journey. I want to make a
love song for immigrants. That word, immigrant, has such a negative
connotation—I can just imagine all the little girls who have dreams of
coming here and feel unwanted."
She continued, "It inspires me in my music to do my best to give [them]
the light that I have. I want to be what people think of when they think
of America—a person who, no matter what her first language was or what
her religion is, can see her dreams come to life if she works hard enough."

Source: Camila Cabello shares her success story: 'I want to be what
people think of when they think of America' -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/camila-cabello-shares-her-success-125422431.html Continue reading
Nuevo Laredo Mayor to Regularize the Situation of Cubans Stranded in the
City

14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2017 — Cubans living in the Mexican city of
Nuevo Laredo, who were stranded after the United States ended the Wet
foot/Dry Foot policy that allowed Cubans who set foot on US soil to
stay, may now apply for political asylum to regularize their situation
in the country, according to the city's mayor, Enrique Rivas Cueller,
who spoke on Nuevo Laredo TV.

"We had a meeting where we had people from immigration, people from the
state … all the actors from the federal government, to be able to give
them a procedure. They are going to submit a request for political
asylum and achieve their legal stay in the country," explained Rivas
Cuellar.

The municipal authorities estimate that there are currently between 500
and 1,000 Cuban migrants who could not continue their trip to the United
States after the end of the previous US immigration policy.

The long stay in Nuevo Laredo to which migrants have been subjected has
been a natural step for their integration into the city.

The municipal government will conduct a census of the Cubans in the city
and, according to declarations of Rivas Cuellar in the newspaper
Milenio, "many of them are participating in the economic activity, some
have already developed some commerce," which is why regulation is necessary.

"Even if they want to go to another city in the country where they
intend to work or live, it will support them," said the mayor, who said
that many Cubans "are already regularizing themselves."

The measure that the authorities of Nuevo Laredo intend to carry out is
unprecedented in Mexican migration policy, as of 12 January of this year
when they stopped issuing transit permits for Cuban migrants to transit
through the country for 20 days as a legal way to reach the United States.

In its place, the Mexican Government has since passed the Immigration
Law and, as of 18 February, 680 Cuban migrants found to be in different
parts of Cuba illegally were repatriated to Cuba.

Author 14ymedio
Posted on April 6, 2017


Source: Nuevo Laredo Mayor to Regularize the Situation of Cubans
Stranded in the City – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/nuevo-laredo-mayor-to-regularize-the-situation-of-cubans-stranded-in-the-city/ Continue reading
Marco Rubio: 'Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is'
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Two months after the Trump administration announced a total review of
U.S. policy toward Cuba, several controversial proposals are being
circulated at the White House with no clear front-runner on the issue.

But Sen. Marco Rubio says he has spoken with Trump three times about Cuba.

"We've been walking through all these issues with the president and his
team, figuring out the right steps to take and when," Rubio told el
Nuevo Herald.

"I am confident that President Trump will treat Cuba like the
dictatorship it is and that our policy going forward will reflect the
fact that it is not in the national interest of the United States for us
to be doing business with the Cuban military," he added.

The Miami Republican of Cuban descent declined to say whether the
president had made any commitments to him on Cuba policies. But a Rubio
spokesman told el Nuevo Herald that the senator and his staff "have been
working behind the scenes" on Cuba policy.

The Cuban government has taken notice of Rubio's rising voice in U.S.
policy toward Latin America, and the state-run Granma newspaper recently
criticized his efforts to have the Organization of American States
condemn Venezuela's human rights record.

But the Granma article carefully avoided insulting Trump. And the Raúl
Castro government, in a rare show of restraint, has said little about
the Trump administration as it waits for the ongoing review of overall
U.S. policies toward the island.

Spokespersons for the White House and the State Department have said
that the National Security Council (NSC) has the lead in the
multi-agency review. Several knowledgeable sources have said that Jill
St. John, a low-level NSC staffer, is coordinating the work. The White
House did not immediately reply to el Nuevo Herald questions about St. John.

The review requires an initial examination of current policy and
regulations. But whoever is gathering that information "has no
directions on what to do about that," said one source who favors
improved relations with Havana.

Several key jobs in the State Department and other agencies also remain
unfilled by officials "who usually would be the ones you could approach
to talk about Cuba," said one pro-embargo source frustrated by the
so-called "vacuum."

But "treating Cuba as a dictatorship" does not necessarily entail
reversing all of President Barack Obama's measure to improve bilateral
relations. Rubio said he favored tougher policies toward Cuba, a
strategy favored by some dissidents on the island. But he did not reply
directly to a question on whether he favors a total rollback of the new
regulations, as proposed in a memorandum making the rounds on Capitol
Hill and the White House that is believed to have been crafted by staff
members for Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

The memo proposes imposing new sanctions within 90 days unless Cuba
meets a string of requirements contained in the Helms-Burton law and
takes action toward the return of U.S. fugitives and compensation for
confiscated U.S. properties.

Several proposals circulating
However, the memo is just one of many proposing different policies,
according to several sources.

A White House official said in a statement of the Diaz-Balart memo:
"This appears to be an unofficial DRAFT memo which is not consistent
with current formatting and may be a Transition document.

"Some of the language is consistent with what the President said during
the campaign, which is guiding the review of U.S. policy toward Cuba,"
the official said. "The review is not complete and therefore there is no
further comment at this time."

Trump promised during the presidential campaign to "reverse" all the
pro-engagement measures approved by Obama unless the Cuban government
bows to his demands. These days, the phrase making the rounds within
political circles in Washington and Miami is "treat Cuba like a
dictatorship."

"Cuba must be treated for what it is and not, as the Obama
administration did, what it wished Cuba were. Cuba remains a Communist,
totalitarian police state that allies itself with American adversaries
and enemies, including state sponsors of terror and terrorist
organizations," said attorney Jason Poblete of the Washington-based
PobleteTamargo LLP. His wife Yleem Poblete was appointed to the Trump
transition team.

Other proposals floating around Washington would reverse only parts of
the Obama changes, because doing more would disrupt the market and risk
lawsuits from U.S. companies that have already signed deals with Cuba.
The recommendations in the presumed Diaz-Balart memo would cost U.S.
tourism and service companies about $2 billion during the remaining
years of the Trump administration, said John Kavulich, president of the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Turning back the clock even further, to the tight restrictions on travel
and remittances imposed by former President George W. Bush — a
possibility that had frightened many people — seems even less likely now.

Several sources who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly on the
issue said that among the proposals submitted to the Trump
administration is one that would eliminate the self-guided trips to Cuba
under the so-called "people to people" travel category, described as
"tourism on steroids" or a thinly-veiled way to sidestep the U.S. ban on
Cuba tourism.

Another would impose targeted sanctions on Cuban military or Interior
Ministry officials. And a third would deny further licenses to U.S.
companies that do business with enterprises run by the Cuban military,
which controls at least an estimated 60 percent of the island's economy.

"They are 100 percent looking into this," said one source close to the
business sector with ties to Cuba. One pro-engagement source said that
the proposal to deny licenses — perhaps the most detrimental for Cuba —
would be difficult to implement.

"How's OFAC going to determine which companies are connected to the
Cuban military?," said the source.

He also cautioned that such harsh measures could strengthen the most
conservative sectors within Cuba, at a time when the Venezuelan crisis
is growing worse and Castro's deadline for retiring from power in 2018
is approaching.

Rubio's statements, nevertheless, hint that Trump policies may target
the Cuban military. House Speaker Paul Ryan last year also proposed
banning U.S. companies from doing business with Cuba military enterprises.

Lobbyists scrambling
At the same time, groups that support improving relations with Cuba have
not stopped their lobbying efforts, and continue "strategizing about how
to influence the Trump administration, although the window of
opportunity is closing," said Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at Brookings
Institution who specializes in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Piccone said that maintaining the current policy toward Cuba would be in
the best interest of the United States, not just because of the economic
benefits but also because of national security concerns. He said Trump
administration officials such as Jason Greenblatt at the NSC, Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are
"open to this argument."

U.S. companies doing business with Cuba also have been sending messages
to the Trump administration in support of a pro-business agenda.

"With the new administration's desire to grow our economy, we are
hopeful that both governments will continue the momentum to work to open
the door for commerce to flourish between our two countries," said
Vanessa Picariello, Norwegian Cruise senior director of public relations.

"Business and civic leaders from the American Farm Bureau, the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce and Republican members of Congress also have been
encouraging President Trump to shake up our failed embargo policy with
Cuba," said James Williams, director of Engage Cuba, a coalition of
businesses and organizations lobbying to eliminate economic sanctions to
Cuba. "President Trump can create billions of dollars in trade and tens
of thousands of American jobs by expanding trade with Cuba."

Letters in support of the current pro-engagement policy have been sent
to the Trump administration by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Catholic
Church leaders, the American Farm Bureau, Cuban-American organizations
like the Cuba Study Group and members of Congress like Minnesota
Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who has submitted a bill to lift the U.S.
trade embargo on Cuba.

Piccone said that on balance the pro-engagement camp feels "positive,
although realistic that certain promises were made to senators like Rubio.

"It is up for grabs, what is happening at the end."

Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Marco Rubio: 'Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is'
| Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article142898404.html Continue reading
Panel: Relations between Cuba, U.S. remain uncertain under Trump
BY LEÓN HERNÁNDEZ
lhernandez1@elnuevoherald.com

It is still uncertain what will happen between the United States and
Cuba under President Donald Trump, several journalists who took part in
a panel discussion on that topic at the Hispanicize 2017 conference in
Miami said Tuesday.

"It's a mystery. Nobody knows, nobody knows when Trump is going to take
a step," said Pablo de Llano, the Florida and Cuba correspondent for the
El País newspaper. "He will have some dialogue with the Cuban American
community, apparently Senator Marco Rubio is trying to influence the
issue, but what can be deduced is that it is not at all a priority."

De Llano was joined on the panel, "What is the future of relations
between Cuba and the United States in 2017?," by Rick Jervis, USA Today
correspondent; Myriam Márquez, executive editor of el Nuevo Herald;
Angie Sandoval, Telemundo correspondent; and Hatzel Vela, Cuba
correspondent for WPLG Local 10.

"What interests Cuba is to have the embargo lifted in order to have
access to the credits that other countries have," Márquez said.
"Venezuela is on fire. They know they do not have much time. So what can
the Raúl Castro regime do to change that equation, with a man like
Trump, who no one knows which way he is going to turn? That's going to
be the most interesting thing."

The thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, spurred by the Obama administration,
was also addressed by panelists.

"The population has not seen much of that transformation," Sandoval
said. "What is true is that people have been able to dream about seeing
something more. But the one that has benefited the most economically
with the opening is the Cuban government."

FOLLOW LEÓN HERNÁNDEZ ON TWITTER:@EL_LEON

Source: US-Cuba relations uncertain under Trump, Hispanicize
participants say | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article142697714.html Continue reading
You Know What to Measure - But How Do You Actually Measure It? NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, April 5, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- EVOLIO Marketing’s Federbush to Present EXHIBITOR eTrak Online Session You Know What to Measure - But How Do … Continue reading
Steven will lead all North American operations and day to day product line activities for TurbineAero. CHANDLER, AZ, UNITED STATES, April 5, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- TurbineAero, Inc. Announces Steven Foust, Senior Vice President of Operations. … Continue reading
… capital Havana. The United States prohibits tourism travel by Americans to Cuba … the Cuban economy illegally. Knowing the history of America and Cuba and … Jay-Z and Beyoncé saunter around Havana so casually? Jay-Z is a … policy that causes millions of Cubans to suffer economically from the … Continue reading