Havana_6801950990-300x200Cuba has undergone its most significant political change since the 1959 revolution in electing Miguel Díaz-Canel as its new president. He takes office at a time of growing economic difficulties in the country. According to the World Bank, the economy is growing at its slowest pace since the 1990s.

In 2011, Raúl Castro implemented reforms to the communist system which allowed some Cubans to buy and sell houses as well as become self-employed. Today, there are over half a million self-employed Cubans. These entrepreneurs had advocated for further economic reforms to help the private sector grow.

However, the ruling Communist Party was unwilling for further changes to take place. Last year, Castro halted the issuing of most new licenses for private enterprises. In doing so, he took responsibility for what he described as his earlier “errors” in the reforms. Continue reading

Miguel_Diaz_Canel-187x300The Cuban parliament has chosen Miguel Díaz-Canel as its candidate to take over from Raúl Castro who stands down as president on 19 April.

In 2006, Raúl Castro took over from his brother, Fidel, who had led the country since 1959. On 24 February 2013, Castro was elected to a second term as president. On the same day, Castro announced he would retire at the end of his second term as president.

Also on 24 February, Díaz-Canel was named First Vice President, a process which began his grooming for the presidency. Even before this, he had a distinguished political career in Cuba. It was when he was a college professor that he began building ties to the Communist Party. He became a liaison to Nicaragua in 1987 and later became party secretary in his local province back in Cuba. Continue reading

Philipgoldberg-215x300On the eve of the biggest political change in Cuba since the 1959 communist revolution, the number of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana has dropped to just ten people.

The U.S. State Department published an updated embassy roster on March 22, which showed there are no political, economic, public affairs, or cultural officers left at the embassy. The majority of positions remaining are focused on the internal functioning of the embassy, its security, or its maintenance.

The new embassy head is Philip Goldberg, who holds the title of Charge d’Affairs, an official who temporarily stands in for an ambassador. Goldberg is expected to remain in role for six months, when he will likely be replaced with another Charge d’Affairs and not a permanent ambassador. Continue reading

Miami-Dade_County_FL_USA_-_panoramio_31-300x200The U.S. Department of Transportation has provisionally approved new flight routes from the USA to Havana in Cuba. The proposals are currently open for public comment, and a final decision on these routes is expected by the end of April.

These new flights reverse the trend seen in 2017, which saw carriers reducing their services to Cuba. President of tour company Insight Cuba, Tom Popper, explains demand has recently been rising for U.S.-Cuba routes after the dip in interest last year. Continue reading

Cubana_aircraft_at_Havana_Airport-300x195Under laws passed during recent reforms in Cuba, it has become easier for exiles living in the United States to regain some of their rights in Cuba. If they do so, they run the risk of losing the benefits they gained in the United States.

In 2013, the Cuban government changed their migration laws to make it possible for people who fled the island to return. This process of “repatriation” as it is known gives returnees the ability to receive free health care on the island as well as buy a home, work, and even start a business. Continue reading

Raul-castro-2016-292x300The Cuban government has opened its first wholesale food market in Havana. The new market is intended to sell staple items to private-sector cooperatives.

By opening the Mercabal wholesale market, the government hopes to address concerns from the private-sector food industry that they had no alternative but to buy supplies from retail stores. This not only meant they were paying high prices, but it has also led to shortages in those stores for ordinary consumers.

Mercabal will sell a limited array of the products most in demand in cafes and bars. These staples include sugar, salt, beans, beer, chicken, and hamburgers. Products are sold at prices between 20 and 30 percent less than in retail stores.

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https://www.attorneycuba.com/files/2018/03/U.S._Flag_Flaps_Outside_U.S._Embassy_in_Havana_Cuba_25998479275-300x200.jpgThe United States government has announced that, effective in March, it is making staffing cuts to its embassy in Havana permanent. These cuts are expected to have significant consequences for Cuba’s economy and its citizens, and they send US-Cuba relations to their lowest point since normalization began four years ago.

 

Staffing levels at the embassy were initially reduced in the wake of the “health attacks” on the embassy which began in 2016. The cause and exact nature of these attacks are still unknown. The U.S. government has not accused the Cuban government of any wrongdoing, but says the Cubans were responsible for the safety of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana.

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https://www.attorneycuba.com/files/2018/01/cuba_canada.jpg.size-custom-crop.1086x0-300x200.jpgOn March 11, Cubans will go to the polls as the country continues to move towards a new political reality. Then, on April 19, the freshly elected National Assembly will select a new president.

For the first time in nearly 60 years, that president will not be a member of the Castro family. In 2013, Raúl Castro announced he would retire at the end of his second term as president of Cuba. Coming at a time of tension in the economic and social spheres, Cubans are bracing for a period of transition.

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China, Cuba Cigar DealHabanos S.A.’s revenue from international sales rose 12 percent to a record ~$500 million in 2017 thanks to the growing Cuban cigar market in China, the company announced Monday at the annual cigar festival in Cuba.

Habanos S.A., jointly owned by Cuba’s state-run Cubatabaco and Britain’s Imperial Brands, owns the trademarks of every brand of Cuban-made cigars and cigarettes exported globally, including high-end brands like Montecristo, Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagas.

The company announced that sales in China rose 33 percent in value last year. The Chinese export market is the company’s third largest after Spain and France.

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Congressional-delegation-meets-with-Castro-300x169Cuba has been using two currencies for over 20 years now but it may soon go back to one, according to a U.S. congressional delegation visiting the island this week.

“Cuban officials repeatedly said this was the year to get it done, to unify the currency,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

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