Tag Archives: Trump

TRUMP ACTIVATED A LONG-DORMANT CLAUSE IN CUBA TRADE WAR — AND IT’S STARTING TO HURT CANADIAN COMPANIES

Sherritt International is suffering from a ratcheting up of U.S. restrictions on everything from financial transactions, to travel and shipping

Naomi Powell, November 5, 2019, 3:47 PM EST

Tougher U.S. sanctions on Cuba squeezed Sherritt International in the third quarter, disrupting the supply of diesel to its nickel mine on the island and casting doubt over the timing of key payments in foreign currency.

The Toronto based firm, which operates the Moa mine as a joint venture with the Cuban government, was forced to adopt conservation measures including running fewer mining trucks as U.S. sanctions on oil shipments worsened an acute fuel shortage.

The measures reduced production of mixed sulphite, though nickel production was unaffected. Mixed sulphides production is now back on track and access to fuel supply returned to normal in the fourth quarter, the company said in a call with investors Friday.

Meantime, the Trump administration’s attempts to unsettle business in the Communist run nation have stifled the flow of cash Cuba needs to pay Sherritt, which has taken pains to limit its direct exposure to American sanctions, including the recent activation of Title III of the Helms Burton Act.

 

Sherritt’s Moa Cuba Operations

“The U.S. sanctions continue to be a concern for us,” Sherritt chief executive David Pathe said in a call with analysts last week. “There is potential for further sanction increases in the months ahead and that does put further difficulty on our ability to forecast the timing of Cuban receivables, receipt of cash on Cuban receivables from our Cuban partners in the oil and power business.”

The Trump administration moved in April to activate Title III of the 1996 Helms Burton Act, the legal underpinning of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The long-dormant provision allows parties whose property was confiscated by the Cuban government in the 1959 revolution to sue in U.S. courts anyone who “traffics” or derives an economic benefit from that property. The provision has been suspended by every previous U.S. President.

Though a certified claim of $88.3 million stands against Sherritt’s Moa nickel mine, the company has structured its operations to avoid having any presence in the U.S. where a claim could be pursued. And changes made in 1996 to Canada’s Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act (FEMA) state that any judgement made under the U.S. embargo will not be recognized or enforced in Canada.

But that hasn’t sheltered Sherritt from a ratcheting up of the U.S. restrictions on everything from financial transactions, to travel and shipping.

In an effort to punish Havana for its close ties to Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, the Trump administration has limited U.S. travel to Cuba, banned American cruise ships from entering Cuban ports, imposed sanctions on shipping companies and restricted the ability of Americans to send remittances to family in the country. The moves have limited foreign investment in Cuba, restricted access to supplies and equipment and reduced the availability of foreign currency, Sherritt said.

That’s left the Caribbean nation unable to pay Sherritt — it’s largest private investor — for the energy it has produced. Sherritt also produces electricity, oil and gas in the country.

“Each one of those implemented successively does impact Cuba’s ability to draw hard currency reserves into the country and puts more pressure on their liquidity situation and hence more pressure on their ability to service our receivables,” Pathe told investors.

Sherritt’s Cuban partners are currently overdue on US$154.8 million in payments, though the Canadian miner did receive its monthly injection of US$2.5 million, National Bank Canada analyst Don DeMarco said in a note.

Cuba’s timing in paying off the debt will have implications for Sherritt’s liquidity and “ability to repay (or refinance) the Cdn $170 million first tranche of corporate debt due in 2017,” he added.

So far 20 lawsuits have been filed under Title III, according to John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc., a group that tracks Title III lawsuits. That’s a long way from the avalanche of claims many experts were expecting when Trump activated the provision, many of which were expected to affect Canadian companies.

Nearly 6,000 certified claims for property confiscated in Cuba have been certified by the U.S. Justice Department. And the number of uncertified claims have been estimated to be as high as 200,000.

Many parties are likely waiting to see how U.S. courts sort out various jurisdictional and other issues related to the law before venturing out with their own claims, said John Boscariol, head of the international trade and investment law group at McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

“This just happened in April so this is just the tip of the iceberg I think,” he said. “A lot of Canadian companies stepped in to fill the vacuum after the U.S. left so I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this.”

Though former U.S. President Barack Obama sought to settle the certified claims and restore relations with Cuba, Trump has taken a markedly different stance. Ultimately the action will have a “chilling effect” on investment in Cuba, he added.

“Rather than face lawsuits, these companies may decide not to spend in Cuba at all,” he said.

Financial Post

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TRUMP’S CUBA GAMBIT PUSHES CANADIAN MINER SHERRITT TO THE BRINK

Original article: Sherritt could get caught in the crossfire between U.S. and Cuba

Paula Sambo and Danielle Bochove,

Bloomberg News, June 5, 2020

 

Sherritt International Corporation’s nickel mine in Cuba.

Sherritt International Corp. (S.TO), whose executives were once known as Fidel Castro’s favorite capitalists, is paying the price for its close ties to the struggling Caribbean nation.

The Canadian miner, which gets all its revenue from assets in Cuba, is being hit on multiple fronts by Donald Trump’s isolationism, plunging nickel prices and cost overruns. With the stock at 21 cents and its bonds trading at distressed levels, investors are starting to question the company’s viability.

“It all depends how the world unfolds in terms of commodity prices and the U.S.-Cuban relationship,” Chief Executive Officer David Pathe said in an interview this week. “There’s only so much that we can do right now and that’s focusing on the things that we can control.”

The Toronto-based miner is a shadow of what it once was. Long-known as a proxy for Cuba since former CEO Ian Delaney first engaged with Castro in the 1990s to develop the island’s nickel, oil and gas assets, Sherritt prospered as U.S. relations thawed over the past two decades and commodity prices soared.

Revenue jumped to almost $2 billion a decade ago, while the stock traded as high as $18 in 2007. Since then, the stock has dropped 99 per cent amid heightened country risk, a failed project in Madagascar, cost overruns and the collapse of the commodity super-cycle. The company’s bonds are trading at about 30 Canadian cents, according to multiple portfolio managers, implying low recovery in case of a default or debt overhaul.

“We have seen some bonds selling in the context of more aggressive U.S. policy towards Cuba, which has caused holders that have significant interests or operations in the U.S. to get out,” Pathe said. “That is what it is. From our perspective, we are focused on running our business as best we can.”

Sherritt’s debt costs are rising even as the company’s ability to generate cash flow to service that debt falls. Concerns about global growth have knocked the price of nickel down 24 per cent over the last year, reducing the amount of cash Sherritt receives from markets outside Cuba. Meanwhile, a tightening of U.S. sanctions against Cuba this year has resulted in the island nation being unable to pay Sherritt for the energy it produces in foreign currency and has caused bondholders to sell the company’s debt.

“We have deliberately avoided having any presence in the U.S. since Helms-Burton came in 23 years ago,” said Pathe, who is barred from entering the country under a section of the act. Despite this, the company is being caught in the cross-fire as Trump punishes Cuba for its support of Venezuela, and takes aim at trading partners around the world.

Debt Reduction

Having managed to knock around $2 billion off its debt in recent years, the 92-year-old company’s top priority is to continue to see that balance come down and reduce interest expenses, according to its CEO. The next big bond maturity is $170 million in notes in 2021 and the company has a $70 million revolving facility due next year that it anticipates renewing ahead of the maturity, Pathe said.

As it hangs on by its fingernails, some debt investors are seeing a silver lining ahead.

“They are trading below their working capital; the optionality is huge even excluding long-term assets like the refinery” said Paul Tepsich, founder and portfolio manager at High Rock Capital Management Inc. in Toronto, referring to the refinery in Alberta. “I think they get a deal signed with Cuba imminently and that produces strong cash flow on a monthly basis to Sherritt.”

For Tepsich, who owns Sherritt debt, the company has room to buy back bonds. The Moa nickel-and-cobalt mine joint venture should also provide both cash flow and dividends in hard currency, he said. The company produces electricity, oil and gas in Cuba and has a 50 per cent stake in the Moa mine, although it finishes the ore in Canada.

Coal Sale

For more than a decade, Sherritt has fought to reduce its debt, selling all of its coal assets in 2013 as commodity prices languished. A spike in cobalt prices in 2017 helped the company post its first annual profit since 2012 but it fell back into the red last year. Total debt stands at $706 million, less than a third of what it was less than two years ago.

Sherritt’s debt almost quadrupled between 2007 and 2008 as the company developed the massive Ambatovy nickel and cobalt project in Madagascar with Sumitomo Corp. and Korea Resources Corp. From the start, the project was plagued with delays and cost overruns, not to mention a political coup that resulted in the suspension of mining licenses.

Meanwhile, the company’s footprint in Cuba has created constant challenges. In 1996, Sherritt executives and shareholders were the first to be banned from the U.S. under the Helms-Burton law.  Twelve years later, Fidel Castro’s resignation sparked hope for more foreign investment in Cuba but progress, including subsequent American liberalization under President Barack Obama, has recently been overshadowed by a tightening of policy under Trump. The pressure has worsened Cuba’s access to foreign currency; it owed Sherritt almost US$172 million at the end of the first quarter, although Sherritt said a plan is in place to manage payments.

Last April, meanwhile, the White House said it would activate a provision of Helms-Burton that would let Americans sue for land confiscated in the 1959 revolution.  That’s a big deal for Sherritt: The US$88.3 million claim against its nickel mine is now greater than the company’s market capitalization.

 

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TRUMP DECLARES ECONOMIC WAR ON CUBA

April 18, 2019 6.45am EDT

William M. LeoGrande, Professor of Government, American University School of Public Affairs

Original Article: Trump Declares Economic War on Cuba

The Trump administration has declared the most severe new sanctions against Cuba since President John F. Kennedy imposed an economic embargo banning all trade with the communist island in 1962.

Speaking in Miami on April 17, the anniversary of the United States’ failed 1961 invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, national security adviser John Bolton announced the end of virtually all non-family travel to Cuba and placed new limits on the money Cuban Americans can send to family on the island.  He also said the U.S. will now implement a 23-year-old law aimed at blocking both U.S. and foreign investment in Cuba, first passed by Congress in 1996 as part of a broader sanctions package against Cuba but put on hold because it triggered immense opposition among U.S. allies.

The harsh new sanctions reverse “the disastrous Obama-era policies, and finally end the glamorization of socialism and communism,” Bolton said.

A law too controversial to implement

Trump’s decision activates a long-suspended 1996 provision of U.S. Cuba sanctions that allows Cuban Americans to sue in U.S. courts any company that benefits from private property of theirs confiscated by Fidel Castro’s regime.

Normally, U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over property owned by non-citizens that is nationalized by a foreign government. For U.S. courts to sit in judgment of another government’s actions toward its own citizens in its own territory is a challenge to that government’s sovereignty.

U.S. allies who do business with Cuba vehemently oppose the move.

In 1996, when the U.S. law was first approved, the European Union filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization and adopted a law prohibiting EU members and their companies from complying with the U.S. legislation. Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom soon passed similar legislation.

In response, President Bill Clinton suspended the lawsuit provision, which is called Title III, for six months, and in 1998 he signed an agreement with the EU that European companies who do business in Cuba would not be targeted.  Since then, every president, Democrat and Republican, has renewed the suspension. Trump himself renewed it three times – until he didn’t.

The president has now reignited international outrage over this sanction, which abrogates Clinton’s agreement with the EU and complicates already rocky U.S. relations with Mexico and Canada.

Who wins?

A small but elite community stands to benefit from Title III: Cuba’s former one percenters – members of the exiled upper class that owned nearly all the land and business in Cuba prior to the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

Most wealthy Cubans fled the country after Fidel Castro’s Communist government nationalized their businesses and confiscated their homes, bank accounts and property. Some still dream of recouping their lost fortunes.  They can now sue Cuban, American and foreign companies that profit in any way from the use of that property.  For example, former owners of Cuba’s nickel mines could seek damages from Canada’s Sherritt International Corporation, which has invested in Cuba’s nickel mining industry. The former owners of Cuban hotels could sue the Spanish hotel company Melia, which manages hotels across the island.

Every U.S. and foreign company that does business with Cuba – or might do so in the future – risks being sued if they make use of property once owned by a Cuban exile who is now a U.S. citizen. According to a 1996 State Department analysis, implementing Title III could flood U.S. federal courts with as many as 200,000 lawsuits.

Trump’s 2020 bet

Most Cuban Americans will gain nothing from Trump’s latest sanctions.  It exempts private residences from compensation. So, if the main thing you owned back in Cuba was a house that was confiscated after Jan. 1, 1959, you’re out of luck.  The exiled owners of thousands of small Cuban mom-and-pop shops nationalized in 1968 won’t see compensation, either, because the law exempts Cuban small businesses that were confiscated.

Those who stand to benefit are the oldest, most conservative and wealthiest segment of Florida’s 1.5 million Cuban Americans.  Trump believes these influential Republicans helped him win Florida in 2016 because he promised to take a hard line toward Havana, rolling back President Obama’s restoration of diplomatic and economic relations with the island.

If the president thinks these punishing new sanctions can deliver Florida to him again in 2020, he may have miscalculated.

I’ve studied Cuba-U.S. relations for decades. While activating the law may please Cuba’s former wealthy business owners, Trump’s new sanctions – like limiting the money Cuban Americans can send back to the island – are unlikely to be popular in the broader Cuban American community.  By decisive majorities, Cuban Americans support free travel between the U.S. and Cuba, broader commercial ties and President Obama’s decision to normalize relations. Every year, they send $3 billion to family on the island, and hundreds of thousands of them travel there to visit.  These Cuban-American voters don’t want to inflict more economic pain on the Cuban public, which includes their friends and family.

Hurting everyday Cubans

The punitive aspects of the newly implemented law, which administration officials have for months hinted that they would put into effect, are already having an impact.

Cuban American families who owned the land and facilities at the port of Havana and José Martí International Airport have warned the cruise ship companies and airlines that their use of these properties could put them at legal risk.

Along with money sent from their families abroad, tourism-related income sustains many everyday Cubans.

If travel businesses withdraw from Cuba, and if U.S. and foreign firms hesitate to enter into new commercial relations with Cuba for fear of incurring lawsuits in the United States, Cuba’s already fragile economy would take a serious hit.

That may play well with Cuba’s old elite. But the rest of Florida’s Cuban Americans will feel the hurt, too.

 

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WHY TRUMP’S CUBA POLICY IS SO WRONG

Nacla  May 20, 2019

Arturo Lopez Levy, Visiting Assistant Professor of International Relations, Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota.

 Original Article: Why Trump’s Cuba Policy Is So Wrong

Nearly five years have passed since President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and began relaxing the U.S. policy of unilateral sanctions. Now, the Trump Administration is doubling down on a failed strategy of hostility, reducing engagement with Cuba, and returning to the 1996 Helms-Burton law, one of the most repudiated pieces of “trade” legislation in the world. Trump’s decision to restore the grip of Cold War-era policy to the Strait of Florida caters not to the interests of the Cuban people, but to a small group of voters between Little Havana and Doral—the new Little Caracas—in South Florida.

On April 17, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced in a speech in Miami that the U.S. would be fully implementing Chapters III and IV of the 1996 Helms-Burton law—which allows U.S. citizens to file claims against Cuba’s trading and investment partners for properties nationalized following the revolution 60 years ago. Bolton salted his red-meat speech with new restrictions on U.S. non-family related travel and remittances sent to Cuba. Present in the audience were veterans of the defeated 2506 Brigade, a group of exiles who invaded Cuba in 1961 after receiving CIA training in Guatemala.

Reparations for Exiles Over Citizens in Need

Under Chapter III of the Helms law, American courts will be open to hear any claims for lost properties by Cubans who became American citizens before 1996 after January 1, 1959. The former Cuban economic and political elites seem poised to try to claim all of these properties—except the one for the responsibility of mismanaging a country to the point of revolution.

It is not the United States government’s responsibility or place to force the current or any future Cuban government to prioritize compensating Cuban right-wing exiles over demands for other reparationsThe implementation of this chapter has profound implications for Cuba’s national reconciliation and how Cubans may perceive Washington in the future. Cuban-Americans who lost their properties as result of revolutionary nationalizations were at the time Cuban nationals, living under Cuban jurisdiction and sovereignty. The logical venue for these Cubans to seek remedy for the alleged injustice committed against them is in Cuban courts. No matter what one thinks about the priorities for reparations for Cuban injustices, it is difficult to argue that U.S. courts are the proper place for solving these issues. It is not the United States government’s responsibility or place to force the current or any future Cuban government to prioritize compensating Cuban right-wing exiles over demands for other reparations, such as for slavery or any of the many other abuses committed in Cuban history before or after 1959. Such meddling in issues of exclusive Cuban sovereignty will not sit well in Cuban politics and will feed anti-American nationalist resentment. Whether Cubans would like to use their own resources to compensate wealthy exiles should not be an imposition of the United States government.

This isn’t the first time that U.S. policy has pressured a Latin American government to put appeasing exiles over its own governance. In post-revolutionary Nicaragua in 1994, Senator Jesse Helms imposed a hold on legislation for U.S. aid, with consequences for the government of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. A significant portion of U.S. economic aid to Nicaragua for development purposes went to compensating anti-Sandinistas who had lost property or investments under the revolution rather than towards poverty alleviation efforts. Bolton’s support for tightening Helms-Burton to allow similar claims for Cuban exiles is similarly misguided.

Unilateral sanctions will not work in Cuba because other countries will not stop trading and investing if there is a profit to make. After 60 years of conflict and hard sanctions, the Cuban communist regime has survived, outmaneuvering every U.S. president who imposed or implemented sanctions since the Eisenhower era. Even though the U.S. is a much more powerful country than Cuba, it is still unable to impose its preferences on its weaker neighbor. Cuba has demonstrated time and time again that despite this asymmetric power, they are well-versed in strategies to delegitimize the U.S.’s position.

As Wayne Smith, the American diplomat who closed the U.S. embassy in Havana in 1961 and later returned to Cuba as Chief of the Special Interests Section (1978- 1982) once wrote: “Cuba seems to have the same effect on American administrations that the full moon once had on werewolves.” Bolton’s April 17 speech in Florida is simply the same howling. It only makes sense as a policy towards Florida, not towards Cuba.

Under Chapters III and IV of the Helms law, right wing Cuban-Americans are trying to internationalize the U.S. embargo against Cuba at all costs. They have brought legal claims against U.S., Canadian, and European Union citizens and companies. Trump’s catering to these interests by returning to this logic is detrimental to U.S. interests in Cuba and Latin America—and to Cuba itself—for a number of reasons.

Cuba in Transition

First, this decision ignores Cuba’s current moment. Most Cubans are eagerly looking to their first post-Castro president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, to address the critical challenges of reforming the country, especially its economy. While the new president has maintained a clear distance from the most audacious reforms, he is aware that the Cuban Communist Party’s rule is not sustainable without a wider opening of the economy to private business and foreign investment, or improving relations with reform-oriented civil society and diaspora groups. At this critical moment, Trump’s aggressiveness will distract the Cuban public debate from Cuba’s internal situation and create an opportunity for the Communist Party to rally the population and its various elites—old and new, pro-market or pro-state-owned corporations, pro or against regulation—behind the patriotic flag.

The more the Trump administration tries to asphyxiate Cuba, the harder the Cuban government will impose political discipline in its ranks and within Cuban civil society. In contrast, in the wake of Obama’s rapprochement, a wide spectrum of autonomous publications emerged. Although this expansion of the public sphere does not amount to democratization and did not result from U.S. policy, a friendly international environment may have played a constructive role in influencing their development.

Patriotic segments of civil society such as the Catholic Church, the majority of intellectuals, LGBTQ activists, and other groups will condemn U.S. policy towards Cuba. Those who do not close ranks with the government against foreign aggression will appear aligned with what Cuban national hero and poet Jose Martí called “the scrambled and brutal north.” Not a good position to be in Cuban politics, isolated with just one foot out of prison.

Sanctions for Sanctions Sake

Most of Trump’s Latin America team do not understand how political asymmetry works in international affairs. Hard power is tremendously important in state-to-state relations, particularly in war. But in many cases, the stronger cannot impose its preferences on the weaker side. Small countries have agency and well-known repertoires of asymmetric strategies that erode and deteriorate the stronger country’s position, without achieving domination.

Relations between the world’s major powers are indeed very important. But sustainable leadership relies also on constructive relationships with small countries. Wasting political, economic, and social capital on mismanaged and unnecessary conflicts not only alienates allies but also pushes neutral and potential non-aligned countries into the arms of rival great powers. Leadership, different from domination, is about attracting others to operate and think within one’s own agenda. That is the role of effective diplomacy.

Trump’s return to sanctions will neither empower any relevant actor in Cuba’s politics nor change the Cuban government’s behavior. Cubans of almost every political persuasion will see Vice President Pence’s announcement that the United States will sanction oil shipments from Venezuela to Cuba as sanctions for the sake of sanctions—a means to create scarcity, desperation, and chaos in the island. Obviously, the Cuban people will suffer if Venezuela is forced to reduce the amount shipped daily to Cuba by some 20,000 to 50,000 barrels. But such sanctions will not peel off Cuba from the Bolivarian Alliance and would in fact encourage more security cooperation with Maduro and strengthen Havana’s alignment with Moscow and Beijing.

Trump’s new sanctions against Cuba replicate the same problems that the embargo has represented since the 1970s. First, the United States is alone geopolitically in its desire to double down on the Cuban embargo. Second, because the sanctions cater to domestic interests, Bolton’s speech repeated unrealistic expectations about imposing American diktat to third countries and provoking the fall of Maduro in Venezuela, Ortega in Nicaragua, and Díaz-Canel in Cuba. Third, limiting travel to the island and capping remittances will mainly harm Cuba’s emerging private sector, providing new incentives for mass migration to the United States. Cubans who are anticipating a sharp economic downturn are traveling to Mexico and Central America and headed north to the U.S. border.

The announcement of sanctions may spark catharsis in some segments of the Cuban and Venezuelan diasporas in South Florida, but history has proven that foreign policy for retribution therapy at the service of traumatized exile groups is not very effective.The announcement of sanctions may spark catharsis in some segments of the Cuban and Venezuelan diasporas in South Florida, but history has proven that foreign policy for retribution therapy at the service of traumatized exile groups is not very effective. A policy towards Cuba should be, well, a policy towards Cuba. For those passive opponents of communism within the Cuban government coalition, it is doubtful that these sanctions will create a wedge between development-oriented nationalists and control-oriented communists. In terms of those Cubans who openly oppose communism, the sanctions will not diminish their isolation from most Cubans, but will certainly increase their internal divisions over how to interact with the United States.

Consequences for Business and International Law

Reinforcing sanctions and threatening litigation over property claims will also make companies wary of doing business in Cuba. This could include the U.S. companies that began to explore business possibilities with Cuba at the end of the Obama administration, and farmers who sought an opening to a substantive market.

Mixing U.S. legitimate compensation claims on properties that were U.S.-owned at the time of nationalization with claims by Cuban citizens who lost their properties and became U.S. citizens later makes a difficult problem intractable. Cuba will never agree to pay for acts that were taken under its jurisdiction after 1959 between parties that were Cubans in Cuban territory. Even the Eisenhower government recognized the Cuban government’s prerogative to nationalize some properties that had been owned by corrupt members of the Batista regime.

When Congress first debated the Helms-Burton Bill in the late ‘90s, the U.S. State Department warned legislators that the sanctions would provoke clashes with other U.S. allies doing business in Cuba, for example in international institutions, such as the WTO. Under Helms-Burton regulations, the United States has sanctioned French, German, and Canadian companies for participating in commerce and investment transactions with Cuba that are plainly legal in their own countries and under international law. Economists and experts have warned repeatedly that the abuse of sanctions by the United States using the primacy of the dollar creates incentives for other actors to seek mechanisms to protect themselves from this financial vulnerability.

Indeed, after the announcement on the application of Chapters III and IV, European commissioners for Foreign Relations and Trade, Federica Mogherini and Cecilia Maelstrom, announced the EU’s intention to take the United States to the legal panel of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The EU and Canada also released a statement affirming that they “consider the extraterritorial application of unilateral Cuba-related measures contrary to international law. We are determined to work together to protect the interests of our companies in the context of the WTO and by banning the enforcement or recognition of foreign judgments based on Title III, both in the EU and Canada. Our respective laws allow any US claims to be followed by counter-claims in European and Canadian courts, so the US decision to allow suits against foreign companies can only lead to an unnecessary spiral of legal actions.”

Trump’s officials like Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor Bolton are indulging themselves in a 19th-century geopolitical time-warp, pontificating about the Monroe Doctrine while creating conflicts with Ottawa and Mexico City, and disregarding its allies’ positions on Cuba policy. Meanwhile, Russia and China are deploying a 21st century approach to Cuba and Latin America. Every area in which trade and investment in Cuba appears to be profitable is an open space for Russian and China’s technology and data-driven impulses.

Unleashing the illegal extraterritoriality of Helms-Burton law now will only add to the allies’ resentment of and skepticism against the U.S.’ capability to act as a leader beyond the short-term pressures of its domestic politics. It also provides ammunition to rival powers to denounce U.S. double standards. Why should Russia or China or Iran obey international law or UN resolutions if the United States so flagrantly violates them?

Plus, Trump’s sanctions will hamper also multilateral cooperation with Cuba such as the medical collaboration established by the Obama administration against the Ebola pandemics in West Africa in 2013 and 2014. An environment of hostility does not help foster any kind of constructive cooperation.

Non-Family Travel Ban

Finally, Bolton’s announcements in Miami included a ban on non-family travel to Cuba and a limit on family remittances, the amount of money sent by Cuban Americans to their relatives in the island. Limiting Cuban-American remittances is a prime example of double standards, where the United States dictate that the Cuban government curtails its involvement in the personal lives of citizens while trying to regulate how Cubans living in the United States spend the money they earn. U.S. taxpayers’ money will be spent on monitoring and persecuting people who only want to spend what belongs to them and travel to Cuba.

Trump’s prohibition of non-family travel to Cuba also privileges Cuban-Americans over other American citizens, including Cuban-descendant U.S. citizens, who fall into a second-class citizen category when it comes to travel rights. Cuban American legislators who cannot convince their constituencies to not travel to Cuba have pushed a compromise on the Trump administration that would bar other U.S. citizens from going to Cuba, while avoiding the backlash they will get in Miami if the government repeats former President Bush’s mistakes of limiting Cuban Americans’ travel to Cuba. More than 300,000 Cuban Americans travel to Cuba each year and will continue doing so.

It is ironic that average Cubans who live under a communist one-party regime, which Washington has deemed “a closed society,” have been allowed by their government to travel to the United States without limitation since October 2013, while U.S. citizens living under a liberal democracy are barred from traveling freely to Cuba. Most Cubans would like to change many dimensions of their country but not with a U.S. run transition but with their own timing, priorities, and sovereignty. The United States’ best contribution to Cuban democratization is to respect Cuba’s and other countries’ sovereignty and practice the freedoms it preaches.

 

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EL IMPACTO EN LA ECONOMÍA CUBANA DE LA CRISIS VENEZOLANA Y DE LAS POLÍTICAS DE DONALD TRUMP

Carmelo Mesa-Lago,  Catedrático de servicio distinguido emérito en Economía y Estudios Latinoamericanos en la Universidad de Pittsburgh

Pavel Vidal Alejandro, Profesor asociado del Departamento de Economía de la Universidad Javeriana Cali, Colombia

30 de mayo de 2019

Articulo originalLA CRISIS VENEZOLANA Y DE LAS POLÍTICAS DE DONALD TRUMP

 

 

 

Índice

Resumen, Abstract……………………………………………………………………………………….. 2

Introducción ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3

(1) Antecedentes de la relación económica entre ambos países …………………………. 4

(2) Análisis de la severidad de la crisis económica-social venezolana ……………….. 5

 (3) Evolución del comercio exterior cubano con Venezuela……………………………….. 7

(4) Las medidas de Trump contra Venezuela y Cuba ……………………………………….. 14

(5) Los efectos del shock venezolano ……………………………………………………………….. 18

(6) ¿Viene otro Período Especial? …………………………………………………………………….. 22

 (7) Posibilidad de que otros países (Rusia o China) sustituyan a Venezuela ……….. 23

(8) ¿Hay alternativas viables para Cuba? ………………………………………………………… 24

(9) Conclusiones……………………………………………………………………………………………… 30

 

Resumen

Históricamente, Cuba ha padecido la dependencia económica de otros países, un hecho que continúa después de 60 años de la revolución. La dependencia con la Unión Soviética en 1960-1990 dio lugar al mejor período económico-social en la segunda mitad de los años 80, pero la desaparición del campo socialista fue seguida en los años 90 por la peor crisis desde la Gran Depresión. Este documento de trabajo analiza de manera profunda la dependencia económica cubana de Venezuela en el período 2000- 2019: (1) antecedentes de la relación económica entre ambos países; (2) análisis de la severidad de la crisis venezolana; (3) evolución del comercio exterior cubano con Venezuela; (4) medidas de Donald Trump contra Venezuela y Cuba; (5) efectos del shock venezolano en Cuba; (6) ¿viene otro Período Especial en Cuba?; (7) posibilidad de que otros países (Rusia o China) substituyan a Venezuela; y (8) alternativas viables a la situación. El impacto en la economía cubana de la crisis venezolana y de las políticas de Donald Trump

Abstract

Cuba has historically endured an economic dependence on other nations that continues after 60 years of revolution. Dependence on the Soviet Union in 1960-90 led to its best economic and social situation in the second half of the 1980s, but the disappearance of the socialist world was followed in the 1990s by its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. This Working Paper analyses Cuba’s economic dependence on Venezuela in 2000-19, as follows: (1) antecedents of the economic relationship between the two countries; (2) evaluation of the severity of Venezuela’s economic-social crisis; (3) evolution of Cuba’s trade relationship with Venezuela; (4) Trump’s measures against Venezuela and Cuba; (5) effects of the Venezuelan shock on Cuba; (6) is another Special Period in the offing?; (7) possibility of another country (Russia or China) replacing Venezuela; and (8) viable alternatives to Cuba.

 

 

 

 

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Conclusiones

Este estudio ha aportado evidencia abundante y sólida (respecto a Venezuela) que ratifica la histórica dependencia económica cubana de otra nación y la necesidad de subsidios y ayuda sustanciales para poder subsistir económicamente.

A pesar del gran peso de la beneficiosa relación económica externa, Cuba no ha logrado financiar sus importaciones con sus propias exportaciones. La ayuda externa resulta, al menos por un tiempo, en un crecimiento económico adecuado (en 1985-1989 con la URSS y en 2005-2007 con Venezuela), pero cuando desaparece o entra en crisis el país subsidiador, ocurre una grave crisis en Cuba. La dependencia sobre Venezuela ha sido menor que la relativa con la Unión Soviética y hay además otros factores que podrían atenuar la crisis resultante de la debacle en el primer país; aun así, Cuba ya ha sufrido

El impacto en la economía cubana de la crisis venezolana y de las políticas de Donald Trump Documento de trabajo 9/2019 – 30 de mayo de 2019 – Real Instituto Elcano 31 desde 2012 una pérdida equivalente al 8% de su PIB y una caída del régimen de Maduro agregaría otro 8%. Las medidas de Trump contra Venezuela no han conseguido hasta ahora derrocar el régimen de Maduro y este ha logrado circunscribir algunas de ellas, pero han agravado la crisis en la República Bolivariana creado una situación peliaguda que se agravará en el medio y largo plazo.

Por otra parte, las políticas trumpistas contra Cuba probablemente tendrán un impacto adverso sobre las remesas externas y el turismo (respectivamente la segunda y tercera fuentes de divisas cubanas), mientras que la aplicación del título III de la ley Helms-Burton generaría costes considerables por las demandas interpuestas y un efecto de congelamiento en la inversión futura.

La reacción de la dirigencia cubana frente a la crisis que se agrava ha sido el continuismo, de lo que no ha funcionado por seis décadas; muy poco se dice oficialmente (aunque se destaca por los académicos economistas del patio) sobre la urgente y necesaria profundización de las reformas económicas fallidas de Raúl Castro, a fin de adoptar algunas de las políticas del socialismo de mercado practicado con éxito en China y Vietnam. Para que Cuba pueda encarar la dura crisis que se avecina a corto plazo y conseguir escapar de la dependencia económica externa a largo plazo, esa es la alternativa más viable.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP RISKS ALIENATING ALLIES OVER CUBAN AMERICAN PROPERTY CLAIMS

William M. LeoGrande

February 14, 2019

The Trump administration is seriously considering whether to allow Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton) to go into effect in March, according to National Security Adviser John Bolton. On January 16, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he was suspending Title III for just 45 days instead of the ususal six months while the administration reviews whether its implementation would promote democracy in Cuba. He warned foreign companies doing business on the island that they had better “reconsider whether they are trafficking in confiscated property and abetting this dictatorship.”

Title III allows U.S. nationals to file suit in U.S. courts against anyone “trafficking” in their confiscated property in Cuba—that is, anyone profiting from it. If President Trump allows Title III to go fully into effect, he will open the door to as many as 200,0000 law suits by U.S. nationals, most of them Cuban Americans, whose property was taken by the Cuban government after 1959. U.S. courts would be swamped, the ability of U.S. companies to do business on the island would be crippled, and allies abroad might retaliate for U.S. suits brought against their companies in Cuba. Once the suits have been filed, there will be no way to undo the resulting legal chaos and the tangle of resulting litigation could take years to unwind.

The U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has certified 5,913 claims of U.S. nationals whose property was seized. These are the claims that Cuba recognizies and that the United States and Cuba had begun to discuss during the Obama administration. But Title III takes the unusual position of allowing naturalized Cuban Americans who lost property to also file suit against alleged traffickers. Normally, international law recognizes the sovereign right of governments to dispose of the property of their own citizens. According to the Department of State, by including Cuban Americans who were not U.S. citizens when their property was taken, Title III creates the potential for an estimated 75,000-200,000 claims worth “tens of billions of dollars.”

Back in 1996, when the law was being debated in Congress, angry opposition from U.S. allies Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, whose companies doing business in Cuba would be the targets of Title III law suits, led President Bill Clinton to insist on a presidential waiver provision in Title III. As a result, the president has the authority to suspend for six months the right to file Title III law suits, and he can renew that suspension indefinitely. Every six months since the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act was passed, successive presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, have continued the suspension of Title III.

U.S. allies have denounced Title III’s extraterritorial reach. Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union all passed laws prohibiting compliance with it. The European Union also filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization, which it did not pursue after President Clinton suspended Title III. In fact, the principal justification both President Clinton and President George W. Bush offered for continuing the suspension was the need to maintain cooperation with European allies.

If President Trump does not renew the suspension, all these old wounds with allies will be reopened as U.S. claimants try to haul foreign companies into U.S. courts for doing business in Cuba. We already have enough tough issues on our agenda with Mexico, Canada, and Europe without adding another one. At this very moment, Washington is trying to muster their support in dealing with the Venezuelan crisis, support that could be endangered if the administration picks a fight with them over Title III.

U.S. businesses would not be exempt from potential liability. A Cuban American family in Miami claims to have owned the land on which José Martí International Airport was built, so any U.S. carrier using the air field could conceivably be sued under Title III. Another family that owned the Port of Santiago could file suit against U.S. cruise ships docking there.

Moreover, it would be almost impossible for a U.S. or foreign company to know in advance whether a proposed business opportunity in Cuba might become the subject of Title III litigation. “This will effectively end for decades any attempt to restore trade between the U.S. and Cuba,” attorney Robert Muse told the Tampa Bay Times.

When President Trump announced new sanctions on Cuba back in June 2017, senior administration officials said they were designed “to not disrupt existing business” that U.S. companies were doing in Cuba. If the president fails to continue the suspension of Title III, business relations will be disrupted far more severely and irreparably than they would be by any regulatory change.

William M. LeoGrande is Professor of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and co-author with Peter Kornbluh of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (University of North Carolina Press, 2015)

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CUBA MUST CONTEND WITH A NEW COLD WAR IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

WORLD POLITICS REVIEW, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019

Cuba faces a much tougher international environment today than it did just a few years ago. Relations with Latin America have cooled as relations with Washington have regressed to a level of animosity reminiscent of the Cold War. In response, Havana is looking to old ideological comrades in Moscow and Beijing to compensate for the deterioration of ties in its own backyard.

These setbacks abroad come at a time when the Cuban economy is vulnerable. Export earnings have been falling, foreign reserves are low, and the debt service burden is heavy, as Cuba tries to retire old debts that it renegotiated. Despite the economic reforms begun in 2011, domestic productivity is still weak, making Cuba dependent on foreign investment for capital to fuel growth.

A decade ago, progressive governments dominated Latin America. Cuba had friendly presidents in every major Latin American country except Mexico and Colombia, and even those two were not actively hostile. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez saw himself as a protégé of Fidel Castro, promoting “21st-century socialism” in the hemisphere financed by his country’s vast oil wealth. At its peak, Venezuela provided about two-thirds of Cuba’s oil consumption at highly subsidized prices, with the cost offset by some 40,000 Cuban doctors and teachers serving Venezuela’s poor.

Under Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s state development bank provided $832 million in loans to modernize Cuba’s aging port at Mariel. Pressure from Latin American heads of state at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Colombia in 2012 contributed to President Barack Obama’s landmark decision to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations.

But in recent years, the progressive “pink tide” of leftist governments has given way to a riptide of conservatism. Chavez is gone and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, presides over an ever-worsening political crisis and an economy in free fall, with 80,000 percent hyper-inflation last year. Venezuela’s oil production is down by two-thirds because of mismanagement and neglect. Oil shipments to Cuba have fallen by 50 percent, forcing the government to ration energy consumption by state entities, stunting economic growth.

In Brazil and Colombia, far-right governments have aligned themselves with Washington’s threatening stance toward Havana. New Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s denunciations led Cuba to end its “More Doctors” program, under which some 8,000 Cuban physicians served Brazil’s poor, earning Havana $250 million annually. In Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru, progressive presidents have been replaced by conservatives. In short, Latin America has become a much less hospitable diplomatic environment for Cuba. It is no coincidence that on his first major international tour, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s destination was not Latin America, but Russia, followed by North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos.

The reversal of Havana’s fortunes in Latin America has been serious, but the reversal of relations with Washington has been disastrous. In the two years after Obama and Castro announced their plans to normalize relations on Dec. 17, 2014, the two governments re-established diplomatic relations, expanded trade and travel, and signed 23 bilateral accords on issues of mutual interest. Some 60 U.S. companies signed commercial deals with Havana, and the number of U.S. visitors jumped 57 percent between 2014 and 2016. Castro’s strategy of opening Cuba to U.S. trade and investment as part of his plan to modernize the economy seemed to be paying off.

Donald Trump’s election changed all that. In June 2017, Trump declared he was “canceling” Obama’s policy of engagement and tightening the embargo. Then the mysterious medical problems that afflicted some two dozen U.S. diplomats in Havana became the excuse for downsizing the embassy, thereby crippling educational, cultural and commercial exchanges. Washington imposed a travel advisory warning Americans not to go to Cuba, and in the first half of 2018, the number of U.S. visitors plummeted nearly 24 percent. However, cruise ship arrivals increased over the next six months, so the total number of U.S. visitors ended the year flat.

Then John Bolton, who targeted Cuba during George W. Bush’s administration with false claims that Havana was developing biological weapons, became Trump’s national security adviser last April. Speaking in Miami on the eve of the U.S. midterm elections, he ratcheted up the threatening, insulting rhetoric, declaring Cuba a member of a “Troika of Tyranny”—along with Venezuela and Nicaragua—and promising more sanctions to come. The administration is reportedly weighing sanctions on individual Cuban officials, imposing more restrictions on travel to the island, and returning Cuba to the Department of State’s list of state sponsors of international terrorism.

But the most serious sanction under review is allowing Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act—known as the Helms-Burton Act, for its original sponsors—to go into effect. Suspended by every president since the law passed in 1996, Title III would allow U.S. nationals, including Cuban-Americans, who lost property after the 1959 revolution to sue both the U.S. and foreign companies in U.S. courts for “trafficking” in their property—that is, making a profit from it.

During its first two years, the Trump administration continued the suspension of Title III, which has to be renewed every six months. But with a new deadline looming this month, hard-liners in the National Security Council—led by Bolton and Mauricio Claver-Carone, a long-time lobbyist for regime change policies aimed at Cuba—argued against suspension. The result was a short 45-day suspension, giving the Trump administration more time to assess the consequences of letting Title III go into effect.

Activating Title III would open a floodgate of litigation and damage Cuba’s efforts to attract foreign investment since U.S. and foreign firms would be loath to risk getting caught up in costly court fights. It would also prompt counter-measures by European governments unwilling to countenance Washington’s assertion of extraterritorial jurisdiction over their firms.

Faced with this new standoff in the Caribbean, Cuba is rejuvenating relations with its old Cold War allies, Russia and China, both of which are expanding their presence in Latin America. Moscow was the first stop on Diaz-Canel’s first major foreign trip last November, and he came away with $260 million in new economic assistance and $50 million in military aid to refurbish Cuba’s aging Soviet-era arsenal. Diaz-Canel and Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed that their “strategic partnership” extended beyond just economic cooperation. In Beijing, Diaz-Canel met with President Xi Jingping and signed several economic cooperation agreements. China pledged new investments in communications, energy and biotechnology—sectors where U.S. firms had hoped to gain a foothold before U.S.-Cuban relations soured.

A small island like Cuba has to be integrated into the global economy in order to prosper. Raul Castro clearly recognized that when he sought to repair diplomatic and commercial relations with Latin America and the United States. Historically, Cuba has suffered because of its economic dependence on a series of global patrons: Spain, the United States, the Soviet Union and Venezuela. Cuba’s leaders would prefer to diversify economic ties across a wide range of countries regardless of ideology. But the Trump administration’s renewed hostility, along with the collaboration of conservative Latin American governments, leaves Cuba no choice but to look for allies among Washington’s global rivals.

William M. LeoGrande is professor of government at American University in Washington, D.C., and co-author with Peter Kornbluh of “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.”

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U.S. – CUBAN RELATIONS ARE ABOUT TO GET WORSE

Ted Piccione, Brookings Institute, April 16, 2018.

Original Article: About to Get Worse

Ted Piccone  Senior Fellow – Foreign PolicyLatin America InitiativeProject on International Order and Strategy

The orchestrated presidential succession underway this week in Cuba, from Raúl Castro to his likely replacement Miguel Díaz-Canel, is prompting a new round of speculation about how the Trump administration should react to the long-awaited departure of the Castro brothers from power. Judging from the heated rhetoric between the U.S. and Cuban delegations at last week’s Summit of the Americas, relations are likely to go from bad to worse.

Shortly before the U.S. presidential election, candidate Donald Trump promised to “cancel” President Obama’s normalization policy. His administration made good on that promise last year with a number of measures rolling back key features of the incipient rapprochement. This included dire travel warnings, a dramatic 60 percent drawdown of U.S. embassy personnel in Havana, and the eviction of 17 staff from Cuba’s embassy in Washington last September in response to unexplained health incidents affecting U.S. diplomats.

These steps loudly signaled the return of Florida’s pro-embargo faction, led by Senator Marco Rubio, at the helm of U.S.-Cuba policy. Now, with the appointment of the more hardline John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to top national security positions, we should expect the White House to double down on its first year’s embrace of punitive regime change.

THE HANDCUFFS OF THE EMBARGO AND DOMESTIC POLITICS

Ever since the nearly six decades of hostilities between Havana and Washington began, the United States has been locked in a narrow band of policy options. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, the engine driving U.S. strategy remained a deep distrust of Cuba’s closed socialist system, fueled by the hundreds of thousands of nostalgic Cuban exiles concentrated in the swing state of Florida. Domestic politics prevails.

The rationale for tightening or loosening the comprehensive embargo established in the Kennedy administration has shifted, depending on the circumstances. The pivotal moment, however, was Congress’ decision to codify the embargo after the Cuban military shot down a plane piloted by Cuban exiles in 1996. This law—with its unilateral demands for the end of communist rule, the removal of the Castros from power, the establishment of free and fair elections, and full respect for human rights—severely handicapped any attempt by U.S. policymakers to adapt to changing circumstances, let alone construct an alternate route toward reconciliation and change.

 

Until the Obama administration. For a short period of two years, it forged a narrow path between a rock and a hard place, encompassing diplomatic recognition, bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, continued U.S. support for the Cuban people’s claim for more political and economic freedom, and a call for Congress to lift the embargo. Obama took these steps after the Raúl Castro government adopted concrete actions toward reform such as reducing the size of the bloated public sector, opening new avenues for private sector entrepreneurs, and expanding personal liberties for Cubans to buy and sell property, access the internet, and travel on and off the island more freely. These mutually reinforcing dynamics contributed to a flourishing of Cuba’s non-state sector, which grew from a registered 150,000 self-employed workers in 2008 to 580,000 in 2017. Record numbers of Americans began seeing for themselves the realities of Cuban socialism, including thousands of Cuban Americans each year.

Whether or not one agrees with the Obama approach of constructive engagement, it took critics only a few months to declare it a bust for failing to force Cuba to adopt fundamental human rights and market economic reforms. This was, and remains, patently unrealistic. Some progress was made quickly: release of political prisoners; expanded cooperation on matters such as maritime security, drug trafficking, and counterterrorism; new commercial opportunities for American farmers and travel businesses; a significant drop in illegal immigration; and direct support to the Cuban private sector and religious communities.

Beyond these short-term gains, Obama’s strategic gambit was about laying the groundwork for long-term change, especially as a new generation of post-Castro leadership takes the helm this month. It was aimed at removing the Cuban government’s ability to paint the United States as its mortal enemy, a narrative it has used effectively for decades to consolidate its standing at home and around the world. It was also designed to build bridges for dialogue and reconciliation among Cubans on and off the island, which is at the heart of the problem, and triggered a flood of new exchanges and record levels of remittances to struggling Cuban families. Not surprisingly, large majorities in both countries applauded this new approach.

BOLTON, POMPEO, AND RUBIO

For the vocal constituency of Cuban exiles and their families, who bear bitter feelings toward the Castro regime, Obama’s March 2016 handshake with Raúl was sacrilege. They found, among the many Republicans who support their cause, a late convert in Donald Trump who, in the final stretch of his presidential campaign, hardened his position on Cuba, promising a crowd in Miami that he would reverse Obama’s executive orders “unless the Castro regime meets our demands.” The following June, surrounded by veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs operation in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana, President Trump delivered a theatrical rebuke of Obama’s opening toward Cuba and set in motion new rules to restrict individual travel and prohibit any dealings with Cuba’s leadership or military, police, and security officials and their business entities.

For Senator Rubio, the architect of Trump’s hardline approach toward Cuba, this tightening of the screws was not enough. The new rules, for example, allowed any previously negotiated business deals to remain intact, permitted air and cruise ship travel to continue, and kept Cuba off the state sponsors of terrorism list. (Obama’s authorization of unlimited travel and remittances for Cuban Americans, popular in Miami, notably went untouched.) When mysterious ailments affecting over 20 U.S. personnel were reported in the late summer of 2017, Rubio and his allies jumped on the opportunity to demand additional steps to punish the Cuban government for failing to prevent or explain the source of the incidents. Trump ordered diplomats in both countries to go home and issued severe travel warnings. The result: a dramatic reduction in the number of Americans visiting the island, and vice versa. This directly undermines the administration’s purported goal of supporting Cuba’s burgeoning private sector, which U.S. visitors help sustain.

Now, enter John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, stage right. Both have strongly criticized the Castro government and vociferously opposed Obama’s overtures to Havana. Bolton, who was roundly criticized in the 2000s for his unfounded allegation that Cuba was developing biological weapons, wroteas recently as January that “Russian meddling in Latin America could inspire Trump to reassert the Monroe Doctrine (another casualty of the Obama years) and stand up for Cuba’s beleaguered people (as he is now for Iran’s).” Given Russia’s expanding security and economic relationship with Havana, and the general hardening of U.S. policy toward Moscow, this is no longer an abstract notion. Bolton also doubted whether the Cuban regime can survive much longer, a perennial claim used to justify more punitive sanctions, despite Cuba’s ability to withstand five decades of the U.S. embargo, threats, attacks, and assassination attempts.

Pompeo, who initially endorsed Marco Rubio for president, was highly critical of Obama’s visit to the island in 2016 and defended retaining the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Although his Senate confirmation testimony on April 12 promised to improve relations with Cuba and rebuild diplomatic staff, Pompeo made no specific commitments on how or when this would occur.

We should expect a continued mind meld among these three key actors in the U.S.-Cuban drama. Senator Rubio, with colleagues from the Florida delegation, has already called on the White House to “denounce Castro’s successor as illegitimate in the absence of free, fair, and multiparty elections, and call upon the international community to support the right of the Cuban people to decide their future.” Rubio then traveled to the Summit of the Americas in Lima with Vice President Pence, who declared Cuba “a despotic regime” and blamed it for exporting its “failed ideology” to Venezuela and beyond. In response, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez harshly attacked both Pence and Rubio for decades of “U.S. imperialism,” denounced U.S. political corruption, and blamed the Miami “mafia” for hiding terrorists. Not surprisingly, the region remains divided on how to respond.

From a national security perspective, it is hard to understand why Cuba occupies so much high-level attention, given the much more serious security challenges Washington faces. Cuba can barely keep its armed forces trained and equipped, and is falling short on many economic and social fronts as well, prompting thousands of Cubans to vote with their feet every year and risk the perilous journey to the United States or elsewhere. The deterioration in relations also adds pressure on Cuba to turn to Moscow and Beijing for more help, a prospect that directly runs counter to U.S. interests.

In the end, what matters most to this administration is the power many of those same Cubans wield by supporting politicians who want the total collapse of the Cuban regime. The Bolton-Pompeo-Rubio triangle, hand in hand with Trump and Pence, will gladly meet their needs, and then some.

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AS CASTRO PREPARES TO LEAVE OFFICE, TRUMP’S CUBA POLICY IS A ROAD TO NOWHERE

By Jon Lee Anderson

The New Yorker, March 18, 2018

Original Article: As Castro Prepares to Leave 

The year 2018 is a seminal one for Latin America: two-thirds of the region’s people will choose new national governments, and the citizens of Communist Cuba will be among them. Last Sunday, the island held parliamentary elections to elect a new roster of deputies for the National Assembly of the People’s Power, Cuba’s parliament. It was the penultimate step in a series of complex voting exercises that make up Cuba’s version of political democracy. Twelve thousand ward delegates had already been chosen in a public ballot in November. Next, in a historic final step, scheduled to take place on April 19th, the six-hundred-and-nine-person National Assembly will vote for a leader to replace Raúl Castro, who is now eighty-six and intends to vacate the Presidency. (He has served two five-year terms, which he has declared to be the limit for the office.) Once he does, someone other than a Castro will rule the island for the first time since 1959; In 2006, Raúl succeeded his ailing brother, Fidel, in office, and officially assumed his duties in 2008. Castro’s likely successor is the Vice-President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, a fifty-seven-year-old, second-generation Party stalwart. It’s always possible that someone else will emerge; a number of Castro heirs presumptive have fallen in the past. But it seems improbable now. Díaz-Canel has been in his job for five years, following stints as a provincial Party chief, so his selection would telegraph a message of steadiness to Cuba’s citizens and to the outside world.

In any event, Castro will remain the secretary-general of the Communist Party, meaning that he will continue to be the maximum arbiter of political life in Cuba. Given his age, however, he may not stay in the post for long. He is said to be planning to move to the city of Santiago, on the eastern end of the island, not far from the farmlands where he and his brother were born. Fidel’s ashes are encased in a boulder in a cemetery in Santiago, and Raúl’s final resting place will be in a mausoleum in the nearby Sierra Maestra mountains, where the Castros fought the guerrilla war that brought them to power.

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Conclusion:

For much of the past two decades, many of nation’s economic needs were provided for by oil-rich Venezuela, but that supply has been dropping, and, particularly if Maduro loses power sometime soon, Cuba will need a new partner. Coinciding with Trump’s pullback, the Russians, for one, have exhibited a growing interest in revitalizing their own presence on the island. Moscow has resumed oil shipments to Cuba, for the first time this century, and other export and infrastructure deals are under way.

Trump’s bullying only makes it more likely that the Cubans, with or without a Castro, will do what they have done for the past fifty-nine years: exhibit stubborn pride and, if necessary, forge tactical alliances with any of America’s geostrategic foes who might be willing to watch their back.

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TOURISM BOOMING IN CUBA DESPITE TOUGHER NEW TRUMP POLICY

Published 1:15 PM ET Fri, 19 Jan 2018, The Associated Press

Original article: Tourism Booming In Cuba

  • 2017 was a record year for Cuban tourism, with 4.7 million visitors pumping more than $3 billion into the island’s otherwise struggling economy.
  • But the tourism dollars from big-spending Americans seem to be heading into Cuba’s state sector and away from private business.
  • That’s largely due to tougher Trump policy requiring “people-to-people” travel to take place only in tour groups, which depend largely on Cuban government transportation and guides.

On a sweltering early summer afternoon in Miami’s Little Havana, President Donald Trump told a cheering Cuban-American crowd that he was rolling back some of Barack Obama‘s opening to Cuba in order to starve the island’s military-run economy of U.S. tourism dollars and ratchet up pressure for regime change.

That doesn’t appear to be happening. Travel to Cuba is booming from dozens of countries, including the U.S. And the tourism dollars from big-spending Americans seem to be heading into Cuba’s state sector and away from private business, according to Cuban state figures, experts and private business people themselves.

The government figures show that 2017 was a record year for tourism, with 4.7 million visitors pumping more than $3 billion into the island’s otherwise struggling economy. The number of American travelers rose to 619,000, more than six times the pre-Obama level. But amid the boom — an 18 percent increase over 2016 — owners of private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts are reporting a sharp drop-off.

“There was an explosion of tourists in the months after President Obama’s detente announcement. They were everywhere!” said Rodolfo Morales, a retired government worker who rents two rooms in his home for about $30 a night. “Since then, it’s fallen off.”

The ultimate destination of American tourism spending in Cuba seems an obscure data point, but it’s highly relevant to a decades-old goal of American foreign policy — encouraging change in Cuba’s single-party, centrally planned system. For more than 50 years, Washington sought to strangle nearly all trade with the island in hopes of spurring economic collapse. Obama changed that policy to one of promoting engagement as a way of strengthening a Cuban private sector that could grow into a middle class empowered to demand reform.

Cuba’s tourism boom began shortly after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December 2014 that their countries would re-establish diplomatic relations and move toward normalization. U.S. cruise ships began docking in the Bay of Havana and U.S. airlines started regular flights to cities across the island. Overall tourism last year was up 56 percent over Cuba’s roughly 3 million visitors in 2014.

While the U.S. prohibits tourism to Cuba, Americans can travel here for specially designated purposes like religious activity or the vaguely defined category of “people-to-people” cultural interaction.

Obama allowed individuals to participate in “people-to-people” activities outside official tour groups. Hundreds of thousands of Americans responded by designing their own Cuban vacations without fear of government penalties. Since Cuba largely steers tour groups to government-run facilities, Americans traveling on their own became a vital market for the island’s private entrepreneurs, hotly desired for their free spending, heavy tipping and a desire to see a “real” Cuba beyond all-inclusive beach resorts and quick stops on tour buses. The surge helped travel-related businesses maintain their role as by far the most successful players in Cuba’s small but growing private sector.

Trump’s new policy re-imposed the required for “people-to-people” travel to take place only in tour groups, which depend largely on Cuban government transportation and guides.

As a result, many private business people are seeing so many fewer Americans that it feels like their numbers are dropping, even though the statistics say otherwise.

“Tourism has grown in Cuba, with the exception of American tourism,” said Nelson Lopez, a private tour guide. “But I’m sure that sometime soon they’ll be back.”

While Trump’s new rules didn’t take effect until November, their announcement in June led to an almost immediate slackening in business from individual Americans, many Cuban entrepreneurs say. The situation was worsened by Hurricane Irma striking Cuba’s northern coast in September and by a Cuban government freeze on new licenses for businesses including restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts. Cuban officials say the freeze was needed to control tax evasion, purchase of stolen state goods and other illegality in the private sector, but it’s had the effect of further restricting private-sector activity in the wake of Trump’s policy change.

Cuban state tourism officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump’s policy changes did not touch flights or cruise ships. Jose Luis Perello, a tourism expert at the University of Havana, said more than 541,000 cruise ship passengers visited Cuba in 2017, compared with 184,000 the previous year. Even as entrepreneurs see fewer American clients, many of those cruise passengers are coming from the United States, he said.

Yunaika Estanque, who runs a three-room bed-and-breakfast overlooking the Bay of Havana, says she has been able to weather a sharp drop in American guests because a British tour agency still sends her clients, but things still aren’t good.

“Without a doubt our best year was 2016, before the Trump presidency,” she said. “I’ve been talking with other bed-and-breakfast owners and they’re in bad shape.”

A Great Casa Particular, my Home for Cuba visits from 1997 to 2017, undoubtedly still thriving due to its excellence.

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