Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Investing in Cuba can be a risky business

| January 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By FRANK CALZON

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce holds its annual South Florida Economic Summit today. This is what businessmen should know about doing business with Cuba:

From a business perspective, commercially engaging with Havana is different than doing business in most countries. Until now the American companies that have exported hundreds of millions of dollars in products to the island have benefited from American restrictions that required a cash and carry basis for American exports to Cuba.

Those restrictions have saved U.S. taxpayers millions because Havana is well-known for not paying its bills.

In 1986, Cuba stopped paying principal and interest to the Paris Club, to whom it owed billions of dollars to governments, banks, and foreign companies. Since then, Havana has restructured some debt. Some creditors forgave part of it due to the regime’s near bankruptcy.

The Heritage Foundation 2015 Index of ... Read More

Why Castro’s demand for reparations from US could backfire

| January 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor

By Howard LaFranchi

WASHINGTON — Cuban President Raúl Castro had a surprise for the Obama administration when he issued a new and considerably tougher set of demands this week for reaching normalized relations with the United States.

Return of the Guantánamo Bay naval base to Cuban sovereignty was perhaps the most stop-and-take-notice condition Mr. Castro set in a speech Wednesday. But it was the brother of Fidel Castro’s demand concerning reparations that could end up stirring the bitterest pot and posing the highest obstacle to normalization.

Castro said United States payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in economic reparations for damages caused by the five-decade-old embargo, and indeed a lifting of the embargo Cuba considers a “blockade,” would also have to take place before the two adversaries can renew relations that were severed soon after the Cuban revolution of 1959.

But Castro’s reparation demands also carry a risk. That’s because ... Read More

Castro demands Guantanamo Bay in return for US-Cuba diplomatic deal

| January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »
BBC

In a speech, President Raul Castro also called for the lifting of the US trade embargo and Cuba’s removal from a terror list.

Last month the two countries announced a thaw in relations, agreeing to restore diplomatic ties. They were severed in 1961.

High-level talks were held last week.

A Congressional delegation arrived in Havana to begin negotiations aimed at reopening embassies in the two countries’ capitals.

Meanwhile, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared to signal his approval for the political rapprochement.

Cuba’s state-run newspaper published a letter on Tuesday in which he wrote: “We will always defend co-operation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries.”

He wrote that although he did not “trust the policy of the US”, it did not mean he rejected a “peaceful solution to conflicts”.

‘Illegally occupied’

His brother Raul, who succeeded him as president in 2008, made his demands at the summit of Community of ... Read More

Fear of immigration policy change triggers new wave of Cuban migrants

| January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Nick Miroff

HAVANA — President Obama’s opening to Cuba has accelerated a surge in Cuban migration to the United States, the latest U.S. statistics show, as many on the island grow worried that America’s long-standing immigration benefits for Cubans are now in jeopardy.

Last month the Coast Guard intercepted 481 Cubans in rickety boats and rafts, a 117 percent increase from December 2013. But the boaters account for only a fraction of those attempting to reach the United States. At the Miami airport and ports of entry along the Mexican border, the number of Cubans who arrived seeking refuge jumped to 8,624 during the last three months of 2014, a 65 percent increase from the previous year.

Many Cubans have heard warnings for years that their unique immigration privileges — which essentially treat anyone from the island who sets foot on U.S. terra firma as a political refugee — would not last forever.

And they have seen ... Read More

U.S. Pushes Energy Exports to Undermine Venezuela

| January 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
Oil Price

By Nick Cunningham

The United States is seeking to dislodge Venezuela’s energy influence in the Caribbean, capitalizing on the collapse in oil prices.

Vice President Joe Biden hosted the first ever Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington DC on January 26. The summit, attended by leaders of Caribbean nations, was intended to find cleaner and more affordable sources of energy. As island nations with few indigenous sources of energy (save natural gas in Trinidad and Tobago), many rely on costly oil and gas imports.

But beyond providing sustainable alternatives, the energy summit appears to be an attempt to peel off Caribbean nations from Venezuelan influence.

Since 2005, Venezuela has provided very generous support to ideological allies in the western hemisphere. Using its abundant oil reserves – Venezuela is sitting on an estimated 298 billion barrels of oil, according to the EIA, arguably the largest reserves in the world – the ... Read More

Cuba digs in heels on concessions as part of better US ties

| January 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and ANNE-MARIE GARCIA

HAVANA (AP) – The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left President Raul Castro’s government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country’s struggling economy.

Following the highest-level open talks in three decades between the two nations, Cuban officials remained firm in rejecting significant reforms pushed by the United States as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise move to re-establish ties and rebuild economic relations with the Communist-led country.

“One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in,” Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press after the end of the talks. “Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable.”

... Read More

Mr. Maduro in His Labyrinth

| January 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

Framed portraits of the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez were propped up at various stops of President Nicolás Maduro’s recent whirlwind trip abroad, as the man at the helm of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves begged for bailouts.

Posters of his predecessor also abounded when Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver, arrived home to a carnival-like welcome, as he drove the lead coach of a convoy that snaked through crowds of supporters.

Last week, in a speech before lawmakers, Mr. Maduro, whose approval rating has slipped to 22 percent as the Venezuelan economy teeters on the brink of collapse, again invoked his mentor in predicting a landslide victory in upcoming parliamentary elections. “I have no doubt that Chávez’s nation will deliver a great victory in the memory of Hugo Chávez in elections that are being held this year,” he said.

... Read More

Remarks of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega on “Promoting Human Rights and Democratic Reforms in Cuba”

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
By Roger Noriega

Remarks of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega

Visiting Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Forum on “Promoting Human Rights and Democratic Reforms in Cuba”

At the Heritage Foundation, Friday, January 23, 2015

Those of us who are critics of President Obama’s new initiatives on Cuba do not oppose them because we hope he’s wrong, but because we know he’s wrong.

We know that the single biggest obstacle to economic and political freedom in Cuba for 55 years has been and still is the Castro regime. We know that a courageous, quiet, Christian, Oswaldo Payá, who sought a plebiscite under the rules of Castro’s own constitution, was killed when police ran his car off the road in southeastern Cuba in July 2012.

We know that an American aid worker, Alan Gross, who tried simply to offer Cuba’s small Jewish community Internet access on the island was held hostage for five years for his efforts. We know that while the Obama ... Read More

U.S., Cuba find ‘profound differences’ in first round of talks

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Karen DeYoung

HAVANA — The Cuban and American delegations sat at parallel tables, eight wary diplomats on each side, facing each other across a distance of about six feet and a gulf filled with more than a half-century of grievances.

In separate news conferences afterward, at the end of their first round of talks Thursday, both sides pronounced it “productive,” respectful and positive.

But both acknowledged that “profound differences” remain.

“What you have to recognize,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said after the initial session, “is that we have . . . to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust.”

Josefina Vidal, Jacobson’s counterpart at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, stressed the importance of approaching each other on the basis of “equal sovereignty” and “avoiding any interference in [each other’s] internal affairs.”

Like Jacobson, Vidal stressed that reopening embassies that were closed in 1961 was just the first step in ... Read More

The retreat of U.S. interests from Latin America has left a vacuum for the Chinese to fill

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 BY ILAN BERMAN You have to feel a bit sorry for the Obama administration. The White House in December announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, including establishing a U.S. Embassy in Havana and formally revisiting Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism. The move was a clear effort by Washington to distinguish itself in a new international theater.

But that gambit was soon eclipsed by another: In a meeting that could herald a significant shift in the Western Hemisphere’s balance of power, China hosted a high-profile summit earlier this month with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or Celac.

Celac is a relatively recent invention. Conceived in 2010 at a meeting in Caracas hosted by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez , it is designed to deepen integration among Central and South American states—while excluding the U.S. and Canada. The 33-member bloc explicitly styles itself as an alternative to the U.S.-led Organization of ... Read More

Gobierno de Venezuela habría emitido visas fraudulentas para terroristas de Hezbollah

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Infobae

Venezuela ha sido un pilar clave en la penetración irregular de inmigrantes iraníes e islámicos en el continente americano, según se desprende un informe elaborado por el Centro para una Sociedad Libre Segura (SFS), un think thank global basado en Washington DC, y el Instituto de Canadá de Análisis Social y Económico (ISEA), al que tuvo acceso Infobae.

El estudio sugiere que las facilidades que Venezuela –y también Cuba– ofrecen a los extremistas islámicos son una amenaza para la seguridad en Norteamérica. Recuerda, en ese sentido, que en 2006 las fuerzas de seguridad canadienses detuvieron a 18 terroristas que planeaban una serie de atentados, que incluían la decapitación del primer ministro Stephen Harper y la detonación de una bomba en el Parlamento.

“En la medida en que Irán siga abriendo caminos estratégicos en el hemisferio occidental, la amenaza de ataques patrocinados por actores estatales es posiblemente más ... Read More

Senator Menendez Raises Serious Concerns Regarding Cuba in Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
US Senate Washington, D.C. – Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent the following letter to Secretary John Kerry regarding Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson’s visit to Havana, raising serious concerns that need to be addressed during this trip, including: political prisoners, normalization of diplomatic relations and the harboring of U.S. fugitives in Cuba.   In the letter, Senator Menendez said that “…after five decades of authoritarian, one-party rule, we must recognize that the Castros will never relax their iron-fisted control over Cuba unless compelled to do so.  As the Administration pursues further engagement with Cuba, I urge you to link the pace of changes in U.S. policy to reciprocal action from the Castro regime.  The Cuban people, in their continued struggle for democracy and fundamental freedoms, deserve nothing less than our unwavering support.” The letter appears below.   The Honorable John F. Kerry Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, D.C. ... Read More

Russian spy ship in Havana on eve of US-Cuba talks

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

Havana (AFP) – A Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, a day before the start of historic US-Cuba talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations.

There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities.

US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary.

“It’s not unprecedented. It’s not unusual. It’s not alarming,” a defense official told AFP.

The Vishnya or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, according to Russian media.

... Read More

Cuba wants off U.S. terrorism list before restoring normal ties

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY DANIEL TROTTA

(Reuters) - Cuba will tell the United States in face-to-face talks this week it wants to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism before restoring diplomatic relations, a senior foreign ministry official said on Tuesday.

The two adversaries will meet in Havana on Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to restore ties that the United States severed in 1961.

They are the first talks since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 they would resume diplomatic ties and swap prisoners in a historic shift after five decades of hostilities.

The Cuban official said it was “unfair” to put Cuba on the U.S. State Department’s list, which also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.

While saying removal from the list was not necessarily a condition for restoring ties, the official said the Cubans would press the issue with the U.S. delegation.

“We cannot conceive of re-establishing diplomatic relations while Cuba continues to be included on ... Read More

US Delegation Meets With Cuban Officials, Not Castro

| January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
ABC News

By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and ANNE-MARIE GARCIA

Cuba’s foreign minister told a group of U.S. senators and congressmen Monday that his country is open to greater diplomatic and trade ties but the congressional delegation did not meet President Raul Castro, the man who will make many of the key decisions about the new U.S.-Cuban relationship.

The U.S. delegation was led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, who played a key role in the release of American contractor Alan Gross as part of a prisoner exchange that paved the way for the move toward full diplomatic relations. Leahy met with Castro on past trips to Cuba but did not do so again on Monday, two days before Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson arrives in Havana to negotiate the reopening of the U.S. Embassy.

The delegation met for several hours with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who told the legislators that Cuba welcomed President Barack Obama’s loosening of the U.S. trade embargo, ... Read More

Official: Cuba terror listing won’t affect US push for embassy, diplomatic ties

| January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
FoxNews.com

The Obama administration plans to proceed on forging diplomatic ties with Cuba – and potentially opening an embassy — regardless of whether the country stays on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A senior State Department official made clear Monday that the status of the terror listing will have no impact on the diplomatic push. In a conference call with reporters, the official said the issues are proceeding on separate tracks – on one, Secretary of State John Kerry has launched a six-month review of Cuba’s terror sponsor designation; on the other, U.S. officials head to Havana this week to start talks on normalizing ties.

The distinction underscores that little stands in the way of a U.S.-Cuba détente, after Cuba released 53 political prisoners as part of the deal – though Havana sparked renewed concerns after re-arresting, and then releasing, some of them.

The ... Read More

Obama should help Cubans, not Castro

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
AEI

Touted as a historic shift in US-Cuba relations, ironically, the Obama administration’s latest initiatives serve to reinforce the status quo — legitimizing and benefiting a regime that has a 55-year track record of opposing change.

President Obama’s new Cuba policy is taking shape this week as his administration announced high-level talks on diplomatic recognition of the Castro regime and released new regulations to liberalize travel to and transactions with the island. Touted as a historic shift in US-Cuba relations, ironically, all of these initiatives serve to reinforce the status quo — legitimizing and benefiting a regime that has a 55-year track record of opposing change. Accepting that this is not what the president intended, he must get serious about engaging the 11 million people of Cuba rather than placating the regime that torments them.

The State Department has announced that Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will travel ... Read More

Administration details eased travel, trade restrictions on Cuba

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Hill

By Justin Sink

The Obama administration on Thursday announced the details of sweeping new regulations that will ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba as part of President Obama’s bid to normalize relations with the communist nation for the first time in a half century.

The rules, announced by the Treasury and Commerce departments, will take effect on Friday.

Under the new policies, travelers who qualify under a dozen broad categories of authorized travel will be able to visit the country without applying for a license. Travelers visiting Cuba won’t be limited in how much money they can spend while on the island, and they’ll be allowed to use their U.S. credit and debit cards.

Travelers can also bring back up to $400 worth of goods, including $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. And travel agents and airlines will be allowed to provide service to the island without the need of ... Read More

Cuban dissident ‘titan’ slams normalization while in Tampa

| January 14th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Tampa Tribune

By Paul Guzzo

TAMPA — There was more at stake than a photo op when Mayor Bob Buckhorn met Cuban opposition leader Jorge Luis García Pérez in Tampa on Tuesday.

To hear the man who arranged the meeting, it was meant to help preserve the safety of this leader known in Cuba as Antúnez.

 If the Cuban government knows the 50-year-old Antúnez, who continues to live on the island nation, has friends in high places in the United States, it may be less likely to punish him for what he says, said Ralph Fernandez, a Tampa lawyer long active in the movement to overthrow the Castro regime.

 “This is a protective measure,” Fernandez said. “And it might not be enough.”

Antúnez’s visit comes as the U.S. moves toward normalizing relations with Cuba, with the announcement last month by President Barack Obama that he will reopen an embassy in ... Read More

Oil price rout forces Venezuela to rethink petro-diplomacy

| January 14th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

Andres Schipani in Managua and John Paul Rathbone in London

Jamaica has its “Hope Zoo”, in Nicaragua garish yellow sculptures decorate the avenues of Managua called “The Trees of Life”, while Haiti has the “Hugo Chávez International Airport”.

All are monuments to the glory days when Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chávez was still alive, oil prices were high, and revolutionary Caracas, which sits on the largest energy reserves in the world, could afford to send 200,000 barrels per day of subsidised oil to 13 countries, including Cuba, in return for their political support and sometimes repayment with goods in kind — like black beans.

Today, however, with oil prices having halved in six months, Venezuela’s economy in a tailspin and protests rising at home over food shortages, Caracas is having to rethink the Petrocaribe subsidised oil arrangement in order to finance dwindling imports, rebuild foreign reserves and avoid ... Read More

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