Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dear Donald...

December 7, 2016

Cuban Entrepreneurs Announce Letter to President-elect Donald Trump 

Dear President-Elect Donald Trump:

Congratulations on your election as president of the United States. The Cuban people, particularly the private sector in Cuba, watched the election with much interest. As you know, U.S. policy towards Cuba greatly affects our day-to-day reality, including our commercial relationship with the United States and the rest of the world.

As Cuban entrepreneurs, we have experienced a great deal of change over the last several years. Changes by our government allow for increased private sector activity and we’ve seen significant growth in small businesses in our country. Over a half of million people now work in the private sector, earning considerably more money than state jobs and offering more autonomy in business decisions. We’re hopeful that our government will make additional changes to the legal framework and market conditions in the future.

Reforms made by the U.S. government to allow for increased travel, telecom services and banking have helped substantially as we attempt to grow our businesses. An influx of American and Cuban American visitors stimulates growth for our businesses, directly and indirectly. Better internet and long-distance calling improves marketing, product sourcing and interaction with customers. Improved banking relations to facilitate payments by U.S. companies and U.S. travelers is key to long-term growth. Increased interaction and business dealings with U.S. travelers and U.S. companies has had important economic benefits, the exchanges of ideas and knowledge, and offered much hope for the future.

As a successful businessman, we’re confident that you understand the importance of economic engagement between nations. Small businesses in Cuba have the potential to be drivers of economic growth in Cuba and important partners of the U.S. business community. Additional measures to increase travel, trade and investment, including working with the U.S. Congress to lift the embargo, will benefit our companies, the Cuban people and U.S. national interests. We look forward to taking advantage of any openings that your administration makes to the Cuban private sector and the Cuban economy as a whole.

Sincerely,



Friday, December 2, 2016

White House Pushing Cuba on Deals for GE, Google (WSJ)

White House Pushing Cuba on Deals for GE, Google

Three cruise lines also expected to announce new service to Cuba

The White House is putting pressure on Cuba to firm up deals with General Electric and Google before the start of the Donald Trump administration. WSJ's Felicia Schwartz explains on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Reuters
WASHINGTON— General Electric Co. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google unit are among firms U.S. officials believe will secure agreements to operate in Cuba as the Obama administration presses Havana to complete pending deals before Donald Trump takes office, according to people familiar with the discussions.
In addition, three American cruise lines are expected to announce deals to start service to Cuba, including Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Pearl Seas Cruises.
The new business agreements are expected to be announced over the next few weeks, those familiar with the discussions said.
For the White House, which ramped up an effort before the election to prod Havana, the deals are aimed at cementing President Barack Obama's policy of advancing U.S.-Cuba relations.
White House officials are unsure how Mr. Trump, the president-elect, will approach Mr. Obama's Cuba policy. He has said he would reverse the effort to build relations, and this week wrote on Twitter that "if Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate the deal."
While there is no formal deal between the U.S. and Cuba that can be undone, there has been a broad effort to expand economic, trade and cultural ties between the two countries since Mr. Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in December 2014 that they would re-establish diplomatic relations.
Asked about the possible agreement, a GE spokesman said: "We continue to talk to Cuba and we're in the middle of negotiations."
A Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman, Vanessa Picariello, said the firm is "in continued talks with appropriate authorities in Cuba on behalf of all three of its brands: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises."
She added: "We remain optimistic that we will receive approval for one or more of our brands and be able to offer our guests Caribbean cruises including Cuba in the near future."
Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean., said, "We've expressed our belief that the market holds promise for the cruise industry, and remain interested in exploring its potential."
Charles B. Robertson, Pearl Seas Cruises' director of marketing, said: "We are very excited and optimistic about the prospect of going to Cuba and we have a number of trips planned in 2017 that we hope to be able to run."
Officials from Google didn't respond to requests for comment.
A number of companies have been granted licenses by the Obama administration to do business in Cuba, but are awaiting approval by Havana. The move at the White House to accelerate the process for U.S. companies holding U.S. licenses became a renewed focus late this summer.
Officials reviewed deals pending before the Cuban government and brought in a U.S. government official, Angela Mariana Freyre, formerly senior vice president and general counsel of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, to focus solely on this issue.
Ms. Freyre was dispatched to Havana shortly after the presidential election to meet with officials about the White House's desire for deals awaiting Cuban government action to move forward.
Google and General Electric made limited forays into Cuba this year. Google in March opened a technology center in the Havana studio of one of Cuba's most famous artists. Cubans at the site can access the internet at speeds 70 times faster than those available to the Cuban public. Google has been trying to offer other services to try to improve internet access on the island.
GE in March signaled its intent to provide power, aviation and medical equipment to the Cuban government by signing a series of memorandums of understanding with the Cuban government. 
Another American firm, Caterpillar, signed a distribution deal in February with Puerto Rican-based Rimco to begin selling its products in Cuba, once trade restrictions are eased.
The move to normalize relations has prompted a flurry of deals. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc., now owned by Marriott International Inc.,signed a deal to run three hotels in Cubaearlier this year. The properties are still government owned but will be run by Starwood. The company began operating a Four Points Sheraton in Havana in June, with the others to follow. 
Meanwhile, American carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. have all reached deals to offer service in Cuba.
U.S. airlines resumed commercial flights to Cuba earlier this year. This week, eight airlines, including American Airlines Inc. and JetBlue Airways, began commercial service to Havana. By the end of 2016, U.S. airlines are expected to conduct more than 500 round-trip flights to Cuba, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Ben Rhodes, Mr. Obama's adviser who led the effort to re-establish relations with Cuba, traveled to Havana this week. Tom Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also was supposed to travel to Havana this week but canceled the trip following the death of Fidel Castro on Friday.
Write to Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com and Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Trump v. Obama v. Trudeau

Trump v. Obama v. Trudeau: Three very different statements on Fidel Castro's passing 

President Elect Donald Trump on Fidel Castro's Death

"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

"Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba."

Statement by President Obama on the Passing of Fidel Castro

"At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. 

"For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

"Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."


Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau on the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro

"It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba's longest serving President.

"Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.

"While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for "el Comandante".

"I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.

"On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader."

Statement by President Barack Obama on the Passing of Fidel Castro

At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. 

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

My take on the legacy of Fidel Castro, 1926-2016

Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

Born on August 13, 1926, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz has become a political and historical figure of truly mythic proportions not only for Cubans but also across the developing world as an inspiration for the anti-capitalist struggles of the 20th century. Unlike other Latin American dictators, Castro’s iron hand has often been covered by a velvet glove permitting him to rule more often through his extraordinary rhetoric and spellbinding charisma than with brute force and coercion (though he has not hesitated to resort to these when he felt necessary). He has also benefited from the powerful, if often frustrated nationalism of the Cuban people; the U.S. threat to Cuban sovereignty; and the enactment of an ambitious successful program of social justice in Cuba since 1959.

Originally from the town of Birán in the eastern province of Oriente, Castro came of age as the son of the self-made sugar planter and Spanish immigrant Angel Castro. As a young man, Castro studied in private Jesuit schools and excelled both in the classroom and at a wide array of sports, exhibiting a work ethic, fierce competitive streak, and almost egomaniacal confidence that would serve him well in the years to come.

After entering the University of Havana to study law, he became involved in the often violent student-led political activities of the time. Unable to run for congressional office in the cancelled elections of 1952 because of Batista’s coup, Castro organized an unsuccessful raid on the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953, after which he delivered his historic “History Will Absolve Me” defense speech at trial. Amnestied from prison in 1955, he regrouped with his guerrilla forces abroad in Mexico. He clandestinely invaded Cuba at the end of 1956, and two years later, marched triumphantly into Havana.

Initially taking on the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in January, 1959, Castro soon became Prime Minister and First Secretary of the Communist Party. He was named President in 1976 with the passage of Cuba’s new Constitution. Until a life-threatening intestinal illness forced him to step down in July 2006, Castro was served as President of the Councils of State and of the Council of Ministers.

While his rule has been characterized by the evisceration of Cuban civil society, the trampling of civil liberties and political freedoms of Cuban citizens, and woeful economic incompetence, Castro has also distinguished himself as a consummate political operator on the world stage, offering aid and inspiration to leftist regimes and emergent Third World nations across the world, many of whose citizens see him as a champion of social justice, a fearless defender of national sovereignty, and a fiery symbol of defiance in the face of U.S. domination.

Muere Fidel Castro (palabras de Raúl)

Palabras de Raúl Castro. 

De @14ymedio

Mensaje leído por Raúl Castro frente a la televisión nacional 

Querido pueblo de Cuba: 

Con profundo dolor comparezco para informar a nuestro pueblo, a los amigos de Nuestra América y del mundo que hoy 25 de noviembre del 2016 a las 10:29 horas de la noche falleció el comandante en jefe de la Revolución Cubana Fidel Castro Ruz. Cumpliendo la voluntad expresa del compañero Fidel sus restos serán cremados. En las primeras horas de mañana sábado 26 la comisión organizadora de los funerales brindará a nuestro pueblo una información detallada sobre la organización del homenaje póstumo que se le tributará al fundador de la revolución cubana. Hasta la victoria siempre"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Donald Trump has a choice to make on Cuba

One example of freer markets in Cuba is the Paladar La Cocina de Lilliam (Lilliam's Kitchen), a home-based restaurant garden where President Jimmy Carter ate on his first visit to Cuba in 2002.

Originally published at CNBC.com ahead of the documentary, "The Profit in Cuba."


While Americans have been reeling over the shocking outcome of our presidential election, Cubans are experiencing perhaps even greater vertigo as a result of the surprise victory of Donald Trump.

As the saying goes, "When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold." Or perhaps the old Mexican adage is more appropriate to the situation Cubans find themselves in: "Poor Mexico! So far from God, but so close to the United States!"

See me discuss the CNBC documentary, "The Profit in Cuba" with host Marcus Lemonis at the CNBC studios here.


Cubans went from a largely acrimonious relationship with the U.S. prior to December 2014, to one of unprecedented "hope and change" during the past 22 months under bilateral efforts to achieve diplomatic normalization between the erstwhile adversaries, to one of great trepidation and uncertainty over the past week given the president-elect's campaign promise to "cancel Obama's one-sided Cuban deal." President Raúl Castro perfectly captured the moment's ambivalence for Cuba by quickly sending the president-elect a brief note of congratulations while simultaneously ordering a five-day military mobilization.

In my more than half-dozen trips to the island over the past year, I have noted a palpable, ebullient expectation among Cubans for a better, more prosperous future under Obama's "new rules" of engagement. This was especially pronounced among Cuba's emergent entrepreneurial class, which includes old school cabbies in their even older school American cars, hip app designers in Cuba's surprising tech start-up scene, and some of the many restaurateurs behind the island's surging circle of "paladares" (private, home-based restaurants) which now number more than 1,800. This hard-won hope was also born of Cuba's own "new rules" introduced in late 2010 under President Raúl Castro aimed at expanding the island's long-suppressed private sector. However, I also found that most entrepreneurs were under no illusions that the Cuban government would be fully lifting its own counter-productive "auto-bloqueo" or internal embargo against grass-roots entrepreneurial innovation and inventiveness any time soon.

This sense of rising hope inside Cuba reached its climax in Obama's brilliant deployment of soft power during his historic state visit to the island in March 2016. Many Cubans identified with this youthful, optimistic, and eloquent African-American family man endowed with both a sense of history and of humor much more than with their own waxworks of old white ideologues. However, Cuba's old guard realized that Obama's charm offensive had begun to fatally undermine their own authority and undercut their long-effective use of the U.S. boogeyman as a scapegoat for their own economic failures and as a justification for their continued political authoritarianism.

In response, the Cuban leadership has spent the past eight months constantly reminding Cuban citizens of the continued U.S. existential threat to Cuban sovereignty under the Revolution and simultaneously dashing their hopes for a better, more open and prosperous future by stepping up detentions of peaceful political opponents and independent journalists and slowing economic reforms to a manageable trickle.

The clearest example of the Cuban government's efforts to lower expectations has come on the economic front. First, April's Seventh Party Congress included no new resolutions about deepening or expanding much needed market-oriented reforms apart from a vague reference to studying the possibility of granting status as legal businesses to a portion of the half-a-million strong micro-enterprise sector. Nothing has come of this idea in the intervening seven months. Second, price controls have been reimposed in the private agriculture and transportation sectors, reducing incentives for greater production.

Third, this past summer saw the government scale back economic growth estimates for 2016 to under 1 percent and impose severe energy saving and cost-cutting measures across the state sector due to a liquidity crisis and the Venezuelan debacle. Finally, the issuing of new licenses for Havana's surging private, home-based restaurant sector were suspended for six weeks in the fall in order to root out legal violations such as providing bar services and live entertainment without permission, obtaining supplies from black-market sources, staying open past the state-imposed 3 a.m. closing time, and tax evasion. Some have even been accused of doubling as sites of prostitution and drug trafficking and shut down.

However, the government has so far not delivered on its promise to provide affordable access to wholesale markets for these restaurateurs nor has it allowed them to legally import supplies from abroad or expand beyond the arbitrary limit of 50 place settings. Moreover, the tax system for the private sector provokes "creative bookkeeping" by imposing a rigid 40-percent deduction limit for business often burdened by much higher supply costs due to Cuba's environment of chronic scarcity. It also imposes a labor tax on any more than five employees disincentivizing legal hiring.

To add insult to this injury, the moribund network of their state-run competitor restaurants do enjoy access to wholesale markets and suffer no seating or size restrictions or employment taxes. Especially frustrating for Cuban entrepreneurs is the fact that this emphasis on law and order comes in the context of shrinking output in the state enterprise sector, a looming emigration crisis with record numbers of new Cuban arrivals in the U.S., and in the midst of a tourism boom that the state hospitality sector has proven unable to absorb.

As Cubans like to say: "¡No es fácil!" (It ain't easy!) 

President-elect Donald Trump could follow the recommendation of some Congressional Republicans by adding his own isolationist wind to the already full sails of the Cuban government's rigid control that attempts to keep Cuban entrepreneurs in their frustrated and impoverished places. Or he could send Cuba's business pioneers a message of support and solidarity as they attempt to build a more prosperous future by continuing America's historic opening to Cuba that aims to empower the island's emergent capitalists through engagement, investment, and trade.

For someone who campaigned as a anti-politician who would bring a hard-nosed business sense to Washington, Cuba presents Trump with a golden opportunity to place economic pragmatism and the tangible benefits it would bring to citizens of both countries over the out-dated and counterproductive Cold War ideology that undergirds the embargo.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Profit in Cuba: Marcus Lemonis hits Havana to profile #Cuba's new breed of entrepreneurs - Tues., Nov. 15th at 10 p.m.


CNBC is airing a documentary called “The Profit in Cuba” on Tuesday November 15th at 10pm ET/PT.

At a time of historic change on the island, CNBC follows The Profit’s Marcus Lemonis as he travels to the island and profiles a new breed of business owners determined to succeed under one of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

I was honored to work as an unpaid consultant on the show and appear in it as I give Marcus the blow-by-blow of the slings, arrows, and new opportunities of opening and running a private business in today's Cuba as we stroll down Obispo Street in Old Havana.

After years of Communist rule and the opening of relations with the U.S., Cuba is taking historic steps to revive its troubled economy. For the first time in decades, Cuban citizens can strike out on their own, open a small business, and begin to shape their future. In shops, factories, farms, and homes, Marcus meets them to learn about their opportunities and challenges firsthand – to see what’s working, and help fix what isn’t.

The tenacity of these small business owners is impressive – but obstacles they face, including a longstanding U.S. trade embargo and what Cuban's bitterly refer to as the "auto-bloqueo" or internal embargo, are staggering. 

Despite these problems, some half a million Cuban citizens are benefitting from the new laws, and in a nation where the average income is less than $30 a month, many have already improved their way of life.

In this fascinating one-hour documentary, Marcus Lemonis profiles these strivers and takes viewers along to see the groundbreaking changes taking place inside Cuba.

Below are a few clips from the documentary:
·         The Profit in Cuba: First Look
·         A Startup on Wheels
·         Endless Obstacles in Cuba

Tune-in Details: “The Profit in Cuba” premieres Tuesday, November 15th at 10pm ET/PT on CNBC. You can also join the conversation on Twitter with #TheProfitCuba, and@TheProfitCNBC or on Facebook at facebook.com/TheProfitCNBC. Log onto cnbcprime.com/the-profit-in-cuba/ for more details.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

US Abstains on UN Vote on Cuba Embargo

Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power: U.S. Abstains on UN Vote on Cuba Embargo Resolution

Friends –

 

Please see below the remarks delivered this morning by Ambassador Samantha Power on today's General Assembly Vote on the Cuba Embargo Resolution. Historically, the United States has always voted against this UN resolution calling for an end on the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Today, for the first time, the United States abstained their vote in yet another important step towards normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

 

Link: https://usun.state.gov/remarks/7510  

 

 

Remarks at a UN General Assembly Meeting on the Cuba Embargo

 

Ambassador Samantha Power

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York City

October 26, 2016

 

AS DELIVERED

 

For more than 50 years, the United States had a policy aimed at isolating the government of Cuba. For roughly half of those years, UN Member States have voted overwhelmingly for a General Assembly resolution that condemns the U.S. embargo and calls for it to be ended. The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today the United States will abstain.

 

Thank you. Let me explain why. In December 2014, President Obama made clear his opposition to the embargo and called on our Congress to take action to lift it. Yet while the Obama Administration agrees that the U.S. embargo on Cuba should be lifted, I have to be clear, we don't support the shift for the reason stated in this resolution. All actions of the United States with regard to Cuba have been and are fully in conformity with the UN Charter and international law, including applicable trade law and the customary law of the sea. We categorically reject the statements in the resolution that suggest otherwise.

 

But the resolution voted on today is a perfect example of why the U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba was not working – or worse, how it was actually undermining the very goals it set out to achieve. Instead of isolating Cuba, as President Obama has repeatedly said, our policy isolated the United States. Including right here at the United Nations.

 

Under President Obama, we have adopted a new approach: rather than try to close off Cuba from the rest of the world, we want the world of opportunities and ideas open to the people of Cuba. After 50-plus years of pursuing the path of isolation, we have chosen to take the path of engagement. Because, as President Obama said in Havana, we recognize that the future of the island lies in the hands of the Cuban people, of course.

 

In the nearly two years since President Obama announced the shift in our approach, we have amended the regulations implementing the embargo six times – most recently on October 14 – finding ways to increase engagement between our governments and our people. We have re-established diplomatic relations with the Government of Cuba; re-opened embassies in our respective capitals; resumed regularly scheduled commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba; facilitated people-to-people travel; eased restrictions on American businesses and entrepreneurs who want to do business in Cuba; and stopped limiting how often Cuban Americans can visit their families on the island. President Obama memorably became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928; and, in a much more modest journey here in New York, I made the first visit by a U.S. Ambassador to the UN to Cuba's mission to the United Nations since the Cuban revolution. Today, we add to that list the first-ever U.S. abstention on the UN General Assembly resolution calling for the embargo to be ended.

 

Abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not. We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people – including arbitrarily detaining those who criticize the government; threatening, intimidating, and, at times, physically assaulting citizens who take part in peaceful marches and meetings; and severely restricting the access that people on the island have to outside information.

 

As President Obama made clear when he traveled to Havana, we believe that the Cuban people – like all people – are entitled to basic human rights, such as the right to speak their minds without fear, and the right to assemble, organize, and protest peacefully. Not because these reflect a U.S.-centric conception of rights, but rather because they are universal human rights – enshrined in the UN Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which all of our 193 Member States are supposed to respect and defend. Rights that are essential for the dignity of men, women, and children regardless of where they live or what kind of government they have.

 

Let me be among the first to acknowledge – as our Cuban counterparts often point out – that the United States has work to do in fulfilling these rights for our own citizens. And we know that at times in our history, U.S. leaders and citizens used the pretext of promoting democracy and human rights in the region to justify actions that have left a deep legacy of mistrust. We recognize that our history, in which there is so much that makes us proud, also gives us ample reason to be humble.

 

We also recognize the areas in which the Cuban government has made significant progress in advancing the welfare of its people, from significantly reducing its child mortality rate, to ensuring that girls have the same access to primary and secondary school as boys.

 

But none of this should mean that we stay silent when the rights of Cuban people are violated, as Member States here at the United Nations have too often done. That is why the United States raised these concerns directly with the Cuban government during our historic dialogue on human rights in Havana on October 14, which shows that, while our governments continue to disagree on fundamental questions of human rights, we have found a way to discuss these issues in a respectful and reciprocal manner. We urge other Member States to speak up about these issues as well.

 

The United States believes that there is a great deal we can do together with Cuba to tackle global challenges. That includes here at the United Nations, where the decades-long enmity between our nations has at best been a distraction – and at worst, an obstacle – to carrying out some of the most important work of this institution and helping the world's most vulnerable people.

 

Let me close by giving just one example – a very moving example. In 2014, we were confronted with the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in our planet's history. The most dire projections estimated that more than a million people could be infected within a few months. Yet while experts made clear that the only way to stop the epidemic was to confront it at its source, the international community was slow to step up. Many were paralyzed.

 

It was in that context that President Obama decided to deploy more than 3,000 U.S. personnel to the epicenter of the outbreak, where they joined hundreds of Americans working for non-governmental organizations and humanitarian agencies in the hardest hit areas. President Obama also set about rallying other Member States to do their part. One of the very first countries to step forward was Cuba, which sent more than 200 health professionals to the region – an awe-inspiring contribution for a country of just 11 million people.

 

One of them was a 43-year-old Cuban doctor named Felix Sarria Baez, who was dispatched to an Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone. In the course of treating those infected, Dr. Baez came down with the symptoms of the virus – and he quickly went from being the doctor to being a patient. As his condition deteriorated, he was airlifted to Geneva, where, for two days, he drifted in and out of consciousness. He nearly died, yet miraculously he pulled through, and eventually returned to Havana, where he says he regained his strength by cradling his two-year-old son.

I'd like you to think, just for one moment, about what it took to save the life of Dr. Baez – a man who risked his life to save people from a country on the other side of the world. He was initially treated in the clinic where he worked, which had been built with the help of a U.S.-based NGO. From there, he was transported to a clinic run by doctors from the British ministry of defense. Then he was airlifted to Switzerland aboard a medical transport plane operated by an American charter service. Upon arriving at the hospital in Geneva, he was treated by Swiss doctors with a Canadian-developed experimental treatment.

 

Look at all the nations that played a part in saving the life of that brave doctor – a doctor who, after recuperating in Havana, actually chose to return to Sierra Leone, so that he could rejoin his colleagues in the field, saving the lives of Sierra Leoneans. Dr. Baez and all his colleagues belonged to Cuba's Henry Reeve Contingent – which responds to international disasters and epidemics – and takes its name from a young American born in Brooklyn, who at the age of 19 traveled to the Cuba to join the country's struggle for independence, and gave his life in 1876 fighting alongside Cubans for their freedom.

 

When Dr. Baez returned to Sierra Leone, he was asked why he had come back after all he had been through. He said, simply, "I needed to come back. Ebola is a challenge that I must fight to the finish here, to keep it from spreading to the rest of the world."

 

That – what I've just described – is what the United Nations looks like, when it works. And noble efforts like these are precisely why the United States and Cuba must continue to find ways to engage, even as our differences persist. Today, we will take another small step to be able to do that. May there be many, many more – including, we hope, finally ending the U.S. embargo once and for all.

 

I thank you.

###

 

 

 

 

Rumana A. Ahmed

Senior Advisor to the Deputy National Security Advisor

Global Engagement/Press

The White House

 

 

Monday, May 23, 2016

#LASA2016 - NYC - LGBTIQ Activism in Today's #Cuba


523 // GEN - Panel - Saturday, 2:30pm - 4:00pm, Liberty 2
Comunidad LGBTIQ. Un acercamiento al activismo en Cuba 

Session Organizer: Norges Carlos R. Rodríguez Almiñan
Chair: Yaima Pardo La Red, AHS-UNEAC-ACAV

1. "Más allá de La Habana: El activismo LGBTIQ y sus expresiones en el Archipiélago Cubano" - Taylor E. Torres Escalona
2. "Los 'colores' políticos del activismo LGBTIQ en Cuba" - Norges Carlos R. Rodríguez Almiñan
3. "Un paneo nacional a las comunidades LGBTIQ desde el audiovisual participativo" - Yaima Pardo La Red, AHS-UNEAC-ACAV

Discussant: Taylor E. Torres Escalona

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Asedian a activistas LGBT anticapitalistas

En estos momentos agentes de la Seguridad del Estado asedia a los activistas LGBTI Jimmy Roque y Yasmín Machado, quienes asisten a la Jornada contra la Homofobia con un gran cartel que dice: "No más violencia policial contra nosotr@s".

Ambxs activistas forman parte del Proyecto Arcoiris Anticapitalista r Independiente, y del Observatorio Crítico cubano.

El cartel hace referencia a las recientes redadas policiales contra personas LGBT en Cárdenas.

Denunciamos esta represión y recabamos solidaridad.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ASCE Student Paper Prize for 2016

ASCE Student Paper Prize for 2016

THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY
asce@ascecuba.org
www.ascecuba.org

PO Box 28267
Washington, DC
20038-8267

ANNOUNCES ITS 2016 GRADUATE AND UNDERGRADUATE PAPER COMPETITION

The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) is a nonpolitical, professional international association dedicated to the study of the Cuban economy in its broader political, social, and cultural context.

The Jorge Pérez-López Student Award Competition
ASCE Student Award Committee is accepting nominations for the 2016 Jorge Pérez-López Student Award Competition.

A panel of scholars will judge all submissions on the basis of relevance, originality, quality, contribution, and clarity of presentation. Papers should not be co-authored with an instructor or teaching assistant. At a minimum, all papers must outline a thesis statement, present evidence or data supporting it, not exceed 5,000 words double-spaced length, and follow one of the standard academic writing and citations styles. The 5,000-word limit will be STRICTLY ENFORCED.

Self-nominations are welcomed. All correspondence must be accompanied by a letter stating the name, university affiliation, mailing address, phone number, and email address of the nominee, as well as a brief statement describing the merits of the nomination.

A condition of submission is that the paper will be considered for publication in Cuba in Transition at the discretion of the committee if it wins any prizes and whether or not the author is able to present it at ASCE's meetings. However, authors are free to submit revised copies of their papers elsewhere.

All submissions are expected to conform to ethical and publication guidelines published by the professional association of the author/s field of study.

Graduate Awards
• First prize $600 & up to $600 for domestic travel or $800 for overseas travel.
• Second prize $150 & up to $600 travel.

Undergraduate Awards
• First prize $400 & up to $600 domestic travel or $800 for overseas travel.
• Second prize $100 & up to $400 travel.

All participants receive a one year complimentary ASCE membership and may attend the annual meeting in Miami including the luncheon for free. First and second prize winners will also receive an additional two years of complimentary ASCE membership.

Deadline: May 30, 2016

Submission and Information
Send MS Word or PDF via email to:
Dr. Enrique S. Pumar,
Chair Student Award Committee
Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy
pumar@cua.edu & asce@ascecuba.org.

* * *

2016 Concurso Estudiantil
Jorge Pérez-López

La Asociación para el Estudio de la Economía Cubana (ASCE) es una organización sin fines de lucro ni afiliación política alguna, radicada en el Estado de Maryland, Estados Unidos. ASCE ha tenido como su objetivo fundamental el promover el estudio de los problemas económicos de Cuba en su más amplio sentido social, político y cultural.

El Concurso Anual para el Premio "Jorge Pérez-López"
El Comité de ASCE del Concurso Estudiantil Jorge Pérez-López está aceptando nominaciones para el concurso del año 2016. Un panel de expertos juzgará a los trabajos sometidos basado en su relevancia, originalidad, calidad, contribución y la claridad de su presentación. Los trabajos no deben tener como coautor a un instructor, profesor o asistente. Como mínimo, todos los trabajos deben incluir una tesis, evidencia o datos que la apoyen, y seguir uno de los estilos académicos. Un límite de 5.000 palabras será ESTRICTAMENTE APLICADO.

Las auto-nominaciones son bienvenidas. Toda la correspondencia debe ir acompañada de una carta indicando el nombre, afiliación, dirección postal, número de teléfono y correo electrónico del candidato, así como una breve descripción de los méritos de la candidatura. Se entiende que cualquier trabajo sometido será considerado para ser publicado en Cuba in Transition, a discreción de ASCE si gana algún premio y si el autor lo presenta en las reuniones de la ASCE. Sin embargo, los autores pueden enviar copias revisadas de sus trabajos a otras publicaciones. Se espera que los trabajos sometidos se ajusten a las normas éticas y de publicación de la asociación profesional del campo del estudio.

Premio de postgrado
• Primer premio: $600 y hasta $600 para gastos de viajes o $800 gastos de viaje internacional.
• Segundo Premio: $150 & $600 para gastos de viaje.

Premios de pregrado
• Primer Premio: $400 y hasta $600 para gastos de viajes o $800 en gastos de viaje internacional.
• Segundo Premio: $100 & $400 en gastos de viaje.

Todos los participantes recibirán una membrecía en ASCE por un año y podrán asistir a la reunión anual en Miami y el almuerzo de la conferencia de gratis. Los ganadores del primer y segundo premio también recibirán dos años adicionales de membrecía en ASCE.

Fecha límite: 30 de mayo de 2016

Bases para la selección de premios
Un grupo de académicos juzgará los ensayos sobre la base de la pertinencia, la originalidad, la calidad, la contribución y la claridad de la presentación.

Presentación e información
Adjunte el ensayo en formato MS Word o PDF y la carta de nominación a:
Dr. Enrique S. Pumar
Presidente del Comité del Premio Estudiantil
Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy
pumar@cua.edu y asce@ascecuba.org.

Monday, April 25, 2016

UPDATE: POSTPONED - Internet and Economy: Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow (May 25-26, 2016) Hilton Midtown Hotel – New York City

Regretfully, we have decided to postpone for a future date our previously announced symposium "Internet and Economy: Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow," originally scheduled to take place on May 25-26, 2016 in New York City just prior to the LASA conference.

The logistical and financial challenges of organizing such an ambitious event with so little time have proven impossible to overcome for the time being. We regret this change of plans but do hope to hold this event in the near future. 

Sincerely, 

Ted, Taylor, and Norges
Click here for preliminary program
Want to meet some of the creative Cubans behind the tech start-ups that President Barack Obama will be learning about during his historic trip to Havana this week? 

Join us in NYC on May 25-26 for the following event!

* * *

Internet and Economy:
Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow

May 25-26, 2016
Hilton Midtown Hotel – New York City


With the support of Baruch College, CUNY, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), we are pleased to announce: “Internet and Economy: Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow,” a two-day seminar that will take place on May 25-26, 2016 at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City.

Building on the success of the previous event, “Internet y Economía: Perspectivas y Oportunidades para el futuro de Cuba,” that took place at Havana’s Royal Norwegian Embassy on October 1-2, 2015, the New York event aims to take advantage of the synergies generated by the attendance of leading academics, policy makers, and practitioners in the world of Cuban Information and Communication Technologies (ITC) at the annual Latin American Studies Association International Congress (LASA) on May 27-30, 2016.


Objective:
The main objective of the seminar is to bring before a broader industry, policymaking, and academic audience the current state of and debate over ICT in Cuba, focusing on public access, competing models and uses of the Internet, and the development of a digital economy on the island in order to promote greater connectivity and prosperity for the Cuban people.

Seminar speakers will include Cubans who have developed some of the island’s most popular mobile apps, Cuban and American academics, Cuban journalists, leading independent media organizations, representatives of international NGOs, and U.S. government officials. Invited guests also include representatives from leading U.S. tech companies, tech journalists, and representatives from Cuba’s permanent mission to the United Nations.

Seminar topics will include:
• Digital economy and tech startups
• Public policies for ICT development
• News media and digital technology
• U.S. engagement with Cuban ICT

Preliminary Program

Rationale:
The development of ICT has transformed societies in recent decades. The falling cost of technological equipment and increasing levels of broadband access have facilitated this development. So great has been this transformation that we commonly refer to it as the “Digital Revolution,” one that will rival the industrial revolution in its impact on society. This revolution cuts across all sectors of society, transforming economies, politics, international relations, and the media.

However, due to Cuba’s low rate of Internet access and weak telecommunications infrastructure, it has not been able to fully benefit from the dynamic effect ICTs are having on the global economy. Still, Cuba remains a leader in the skill and competence of the population in ICT use, a fact especially noteworthy among Cuba’s many often underemployed computer science graduates.

Some Cubans have creatively overcome the barriers imposed by low connectivity by developing offline mobile apps and coming up with ingenious ways to use flash drives to distribute digital data across the island without the Internet. Others have used alternative modes of data transmission to build an independent media-sphere that successfully competes with the state media monopoly. All this has generated new social dynamics and significant commercial activity that, paradoxically, remain beyond the reach of the country’s antiquated legal framework.

Thus, Cuba faces a scenario where access to digital technology will be crucial for economic development both in the short and long term. Despite this, there is no clearly defined public policy toward ICT. Recently, the Cuban government announced its intention of achieving “massive” public access to the Internet so that by 2020, 50% of households would enjoy broadband connectivity. In fact, during 2016 Cuba will roll out its first-ever pilot program for household Internet access.

The recent rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuban governments provides an important opportunity for the development of Cuban ICT given that the twin issues of Internet access and entrepreneurial expansion are among the top issues in bilateral negotiations. This situation is especially important given that one of the reasons for Cuba’s low connectivity has been the lack of access to modern technology and telecom services provided by U.S. companies.

Nevertheless, this situation has changed in recent months given the Obama administration’s relaxation of previous restrictions on telecom companies doing business in Cuba and the roll out on the island of Cuba’s first-ever Wi-Fi hotspots.

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