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#CubaNow Briefing: Building A Better Cuba

David Gomez

#CubaNow Briefing

Jan 29, 2016


This week the Treasury and Commerce Departments announced updated Cuba regulations that impact a variety of sectors from sporting events to film production, but the change that arguably stands to benefit the Cuban people most is in regards to financing. American banks will now be able to provide direct financing for a wide range of exports (with the exception of agricultural commodities due to the outdated provisions of the 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act). The U.S. will also allow exports on a case-by-case basis to entities owned by the Cuban government, provided they primarily benefit the Cuban people. That expansion significantly broadens Americans’ ability to help Cuba develop its infrastructure on any number of levels. As USA Today's Alan Gomez wrote:

"Under the new rules, U.S. companies can sell to government agencies that help the Cuban people, including those in the fields of agricultural production, education, food processing, disaster preparedness, public health, sanitation, residential construction, public transportation, energy production and water supplies."

The Cuban government has already made sustaintable development goals a national priority, and these changes present them with an opportunity to advance them. As it should: the country faces an aging demographic, imports up to 80% of its food, relies heavily on fossil fuels, and is vulnerable to climate hazards ranging from droughts to tropical storms. As one Cuban explained in a conference this week, the embargo has restricted access to many of the tools and instruments we take for granted in the United States. These revisions open up the means to address virtually all of these issues and more in ways that directly benefit the 11 million people living on the Island.

And while the ball is in Havana's court to seize this opportunity, those of us stateside should not hesitate to push for more, or lose sight of what the changes to U.S.-Cuba policy are all about. In a Huffington Post column published shortly before the regulations were announced, Tomas Bilbao, formerly of the Cuba Study Group, addressed the need to do away with the tired mentality that one should visit Cuba “before it’s ruined” and instead embrace the idea of investing in its peoples’ future. As he explained, ”[e]conomic development and an increase in the quality of life for ordinary Cubans don’t have to mean the erosion of Cuba’s allure.”

Bilbao is right. The idea that Cuba will lose its “charm” with the disappearance of its dilapidated infrastructure and ‘50s era cars diminishes its people. It is difficult to romanticize the scarcity of resources on the Island at a time when our own embargo policies have not helped and when we continue to see a flow of Cuban migrants making dangerous trips to the U.S. in search of a better life. The new regulations and surge in U.S. engagement are a chance to help Cuba address longstanding problems while modernizing in a way that promotes good governance--not just towards a political climate that respects human rights but towards a sustainable society ready for the long road ahead.

Thank you for your support,

David Gomez
Political Director, #CubaNow

Obama Administration Issues Sweeping New Regulations On Cuba

New Revised Regulations Will Allow U.S. Banks To Provide Financing For Any Exports Besides Agricultural Commodities. “The revised rules that will take effect on Wednesday will allow United States banks to provide direct financing for the export of any product other than agricultural commodities, still walled off under the trade embargo. Until now, American products sent to Cuba had to be paid for in advance in cash or routed through a third country, a costly and burdensome process. Items that have been banned for decades because they might benefit the Cuban government, such as textbooks, construction cranes or sanitation equipment, can now be approved by the American government case by case.” [New York Times, “U.S. Eases Restrictions on Financing Exports to Cuba,” 1/26/16]

Financing Of Agricultural Exports To Cuba Is Still Banned By The Trade Sanctions Reform And Export Enhancement Act Of 2000. “In disappointing news for agriculture states, which have seen exports to Cuba fall since the rapprochement, the financing of agricultural exports is not included in the new regulations. Through November 2015, U.S. agriculture and food exports to Cuba, which are allowed under exceptions to the embargo, fell 37 percent compared to the previous year. Some of that decline, however, is because of falling commodity prices. Financing of food and agriculture products is excluded from the new regulations because it is prohibited by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, said Augusto Maxwell, an international lawyer with Miami’s Akerman law firm. Most aspects of the embargo also remain in place.” [Miami Herald, “U.S. regulations allow financing some exports to Cuba, 1/26/16]

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker: Administration Has Been “Working Tirelessly To Maximize The Beneficial Impact Of U.S. Regulatory Changes On The Cuban People.” “The new set of regulations follow a visit by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker last fall. ‘Following the first ever U.S.-Cuba Regulatory Dialogue and my fact-finding trip to Cuba in October, we have been working tirelessly to maximize the beneficial impact of U.S. regulatory changes on the Cuban people,’ Pritzker said. She noted that allowed exports to Cuba will now include those intended to help in disaster preparedness and in support of education and agricultural production, such as pesticides, fertilizers and farm equipment. Exports related to artistic endeavors, food processing and public transportation also will be allowed for the first time since the embargo went into effect more than five decades ago.” [Miami Herald, “U.S. regulations allow financing some exports to Cuba, 1/26/16]

Former Assistant Secretary Of State Jose W. Fernandez: “It Is Becoming Harder For The Cuban Government To Stand Pat In The Face Of The New American Policy.”
 “But lawyer Jose W. Fernandez, a former assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs, said the new regulations further the president’s strategy of increasing contacts with the Cuban private sector and civil society to ‘help loosen the Castros’ chokehold on power. It is becoming harder for the Cuban government to stand pat in the face of the new American policy and continue to blame the embargo for its economic woes.’ President Barack Obama has said he would like to visit Cuba before the end of his term — but White House officials say that the trip is dependent on Cuba making progress in human rights, allowing more access to information and the Internet on the island and permitting a greater role for the Cuban private sector.” [Miami Herald, “U.S. regulations allow financing some exports to Cuba, 1/26/16]

New Regulations Make It Easier For U.S. And Cuban Airlines To Expand Commercial Flights. “The new regulations also make it easier for U.S. airlines to work with their Cuban counterparts to expand commercial flights between the countries. The State Department announced in December that it had reached a deal with Cuba to fly up to 110 round-trip flights a day, quadrupling the current flow of air traffic between the two countries. Tuesday's announcement expanded on that by making it easier for airlines to work with and operate in Cuba.” [USA Today, “U.S. approves more business trade with Cuba, 1/26/16]

Regulations Will Allow U.S. Companies To Sell To Government Agencies That Help Cuban People In Areas Including Disaster Preparedness And Public Health. “Under the new rules, U.S. companies can sell to government agencies that help the Cuban people, including those in the fields of agricultural production, education, food processing, disaster preparedness, public health, sanitation, residential construction, public transportation, energy production and water supplies. The new regulations will continue to prohibit sales to the government in other areas, such as tourism.” [USA Today, “U.S. approves more business trade with Cuba, 1/26/16]

Regulations Allow Greater Artistic And Media Work In Cuba, As Well As Authorized Organizing Of Events.
 “Under the new regulations, professional media or artistic productions will be allowed to travel to Cuba to film or produce a movie, television show, music video or other informational material, and certain personnel operating or servicing a vessel or aircraft will be allowed to stay in Cuba to continue their work. Travel will also be authorized to those organizing a professional meeting, conference, public performance, clinic, workshop or athletic competition, and the list of authorized humanitarian projects will be expanded to include disaster preparedness and response.” [The Hill, “Obama eases more restrictions on Cuban travel, trade,” 1/26/16]

Lawyer Saul Cimbler: New Rules Will Make It “Much Easier” For U.S. Companies To Sell Energy-Efficient Technology To Cubans. 
“Lawyer Saul Cimbler, who has been exploring opportunities for deploying LED, solar and other energy-efficient technologies in Cuba, said the new regulations will give him and his partners ‘more legal authority to go in.’ Before, they had been contemplating trying to come in under the umbrella of construction materials, which are allowed to be exported to Cuba under a rule change from last year as long as they are used for private construction. But the new rules specifically allow U.S. companies to sell energy production exports to state-owned companies as long as they ‘provide goods and services to the Cuban people.’ That rule change, said Cimbler ‘makes it much easier.’” [Miami Herald, “New Cuba regulations provide more ‘wiggle room’ for U.S. businesses,” 1/27/16]

Cimbler: “This Really Escalates The Ability Of American Companies To Look At More Possibilities In Cuba.” “The new rules also allow case-by-case licensing of trade to support education, food processing, disaster preparedness, public health, sanitation, agricultural production, residential construction, public transportation, wholesale and retail distribution for consumption by the Cuban people and to treat public water supplies. Companies interested in those areas will have to apply for an OFAC license. ‘This really escalates the ability of American companies to look at more possibilities in Cuba,’ said Cimbler. ‘There are some real bells and whistles in this.’” [Miami Herald, “New Cuba regulations provide more ‘wiggle room’ for U.S. businesses,” 1/27/16]

New Regulations Could Be A Boon To Cuba’s Growing Number Of Paladares. “The new regulations also could be a boon to Cuba’s growing number of paladares, or private restaurants, that could receive everything from meat slicers, coffee machines and cooking utensils under the food processing provision. Even though previous sets of rule changes allow authorized American businesses to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba and U.S. financial institutions to open correspondent accounts at Cuban banks to handle processing of authorized transactions, nearly all U.S. banks have remained on the sidelines.” [Miami Herald, “New Cuba regulations provide more ‘wiggle room’ for U.S. businesses,” 1/27/16]

Center For Democracy In The Americas’ Sara Stephens: The Administration’s New Regulations Are “Ensuring That The Cultural Bridge That Artists Build Works In Both Directions.” “Sara Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, pointed out that a decade ago, the U.S. government banned the entry of some Cuban artists on the grounds they were security risks. In contrast, she said, ‘the Obama administration has not only welcomed more Cuban artists into the U.S. but with the new regulations is now ensuring that the cultural bridge that artists build works in both directions. This means that U.S. musicians, writers, actors and movie makers will have a much easier time working and performing in Cuba and engaging with Cubans in the process of creating art.’” [Miami Herald, “New Cuba regulations provide more ‘wiggle room’ for U.S. businesses,” 1/27/16]

NSC Spokesman Ned Price: Cuban Government Should Reciprocate U.S. Action By Making It Easier For Cubans To Engage In Commerce And Get Online. “Tuesday's move appears designed to jumpstart commerce between the two countries and remove some of Cuba's biggest excuses for not opening its economy to trade with the U.S. ‘Just as the United States is doing its part to remove impediments that have been holding Cubans back, we urge the Cuban government to make it easier for its citizens to start businesses, engage in trade, and access information online,’ National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said. Among a host of other measures, the new regulations allow U.S. firms to offer Cuban buyers credit on sales of non-agricultural goods, addressing a longstanding Cuban complaint about a ban on credit.” [AP, “Obama administration loosens Cuba embargo with new measures,” 1/26/16]

U.S. Official: “Practical Impact” Of New Regulations Will Depend Largely On How Cuban Government Responds. “The practical impact of the latest round of U.S. sanctions relief for Cuba will depend in large part on action the Cuban government may take to liberalize its economy, U.S. officials told reporters on Tuesday. ‘The impact of those will depend to a great extent on the steps that the Cuban government takes,’ said an Obama administration official who asked not to be identified. The official said U.S. companies had raised issues including Cuban currency reform and allowing foreign companies to hire Cubans directly.” [Reuters, “Effect of U.S. sanctions relief depends partly on Cuban action,” 1/26/16]

Investing In A Sustainable Future For Cuba

Tomas Bilbao: “Go Before Cuba Is Ruined” Ignores Opportunity To Enhance Cuba Through Sustainable Development. “With the increased travel, it has become routine to hear from friends, coworkers and neighbors who have visited and are eager to share their impressions. What has also become common is the all-too-often repeated phrase: ‘I want(ed) to go before Cuba is ruined.’ This view ignores the very real possibility that many of the qualities that make Cuba such a special destination can be maintained and even enhanced through sustainable development.” [Huffington Post, “So You Want to Visit Cuba ‘Before It’s Ruined’?”, 1/26/16]

Bilbao: Cuba’s Economic Reforms And Foreign Investment Aren’t Reason To Assume It Will Lose Its Culture Or Heritage. “Some fear that as Cuba attracts foreign investment and continues reforming its economy, development and economic growth will fundamentally change what makes Cuba alluring. While it is possible that most people who hold this view do so with the best of intentions -- wanting to preserve Cuba's unique culture and heritage -- implicit in this statement are two sad and patronizing assumptions: first, that economic growth, development and increased prosperity for the Cuban people are somehow undesirable and will hurt Cuba's appeal to tourists; and second, that Cuba will ignore the need to preserve its own culture and heritage.” [Huffington Post, “So You Want to Visit Cuba ‘Before It’s Ruined’?”, 1/26/16]

Bilbao: Cuba Already Takes Conservation Seriously. “But, Cuba already is a leader in conservation. It is home to nine UNESCO world heritage sites and has protected approximately 20 percent of its territory and waters. The efforts of the Historian of Havana to preserve and revitalize Old Havana are an example of how preservation can be done in coordination with, and to support, economic development. Chapter XV of Cuba's foreign investment law establishes that foreign investment must respect and contribute to the country's sustainable development, environmental conservation efforts and the responsible use of natural resources. Foreign investors should proactively prioritize these conservation, preservation and environmental protection efforts.” [Huffington Post, “So You Want to Visit Cuba ‘Before It’s Ruined’?”, 1/26/16]

Ted Henken: Engaging With Entrepreneurs Allows Americans To Build “Relationships Of Trust And Mutual Benefit With The Cuban People.” “Engaging directly with Cuba's entrepreneurial sector -- while we push for an end to our pernicious trade embargo -- allows us to remove the U.S. as the Cuban government's bête noir and empower more Cubans to be the masters of their own fates. Some hardliners in the U.S. would argue that engaging any sector in Cuba is helping the monopolistic and undemocratic Cuban government consolidate its power. However, the last 50 years have shown that isolation has only aided the Cuban government in strengthening its monopolies while deflecting blame for its failing economy onto the U.S. embargo. Engagement with cuentapropistas, on the other hand, gives us the chance to begin to build relationships of trust and mutual benefit with the Cuban people.” [Huffington Post, “Why the U.S. Should Embrace the Rise of Cuba’s Entrepreneurs,” 1/25/16]

Henken: Embargo Supporters Criticize Cuba’s Restriction Of The Free Market On The Island While Supporting A Policy That Does The Same. “It is ironic that many embargo supporters rightly critique the Cuban government for restricting the free market inside the Island while simultaneously supporting an embargo that unfairly restricts American businesses abroad and any benefits they could bring to Cuba's struggling entrepreneurs and its people. By allowing Americans to bring business and investment to the Island, we will grow our own economy while supporting the Cuban people, including cuentapropistas, in the process.” [Huffington Post, “Why the U.S. Should Embrace the Rise of Cuba’s Entrepreneurs,” 1/25/16]

U.S. And Cuba Hold Talks On Improving Internet And Telecom Access

US And Cuba Hold Talks Over Telecoms And Internet. “Cuban officials say they have held two days of talks with their U.S. counterparts about telecommunications and the Internet. A Foreign Ministry statement says the two sides exchanged views on using the Internet for ‘economic and social development.’…Cuban officials also raised complaints about the U.S. Embargo's negative impact on island communications. It said U.S. telecom executives accompanied the delegation to Cuba, but did not give details. Washington and Havana have advanced talks on several areas of cooperation in the year since they announced they would restore diplomatic relations. Internet access in Cuba remains rare and restricted. Last year the government opened up dozens of public Wi-Fi hotspots, though the cost is prohibitively expensive for many islanders at $2 per hour.” [AP, “Cuba, U.S. officials hold talks on Internet and telecoms,” 1/24/16]

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sepúlveda: Biggest Obstacle To Progress In Talks Is Mutual Trust. “After a second round of meetings in Havana, Daniel Sepúlveda, the U.S. point man on telecom policy toward Cuba, says the United States feels an urgency to make progress and sign deals while President Barack Obama is still in office but Cuba appears to want to take its time. Sepúlveda, the coordinator for international communications and Information policy in the State Department, led a 14-member delegation that held talks Wednesday through Friday with their Cuban counterparts to discuss U.S. regulations that allow American telecom and Internet companies to engage in a wide array of commercial activities on the island — if Havana wants to take them up on their offers…‘We’re doing as much as we possibly can on our side. At this point, the biggest thing that is missing is trust’ -- on both sides, Sepúlveda said Monday in an interview with the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.” [Miami Herald, “Cuba still wary of U.S. telecom and Internet offers, 1/25/16]

Sepúlveda: Cuban Government Relayed That Internet And Telecom Weren’t Currently One Of Their Main Economic Priorities. “The feedback the U.S. delegation got from the Cubans was they would take the cable and other joint venture overtures under consideration, but that the Internet/telecom industry wasn’t currently one of their main economic priorities, said Sepúlveda. The message from the Cuban side, he said, was that while they are open to seeing the U.S. ideas, they ‘want to move very carefully’ and ‘Cuba is going to move forward in its own way.’ Sepúlveda said his response was: ‘Fine and good but we have a window of opportunity here.’ Obama, who announced the historic opening with Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014, is in the final year of his term and some Republican presidential hopefuls said they plan to reverse his overtures toward Cuba.” [Miami Herald, “Cuba still wary of U.S. telecom and Internet offers, 1/25/16]

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: It’s “Unclear…Just How Anxious” The Cuban Government Is To Build Out Internet Infrastructure. “A group of top U.S. officials and business leaders visited Cuba last week to urge the government there to more rapidly build out its Internet infrastructure and make it more widely available. U.S. officials said they recommended that the country ‘leapfrog’ current buildout of aging technology, such as DSL and 3G mobile service, for faster technology such as fiber and high-speed mobile. Officials also urged the country to relax regulations that are preventing many in Cuba from getting Internet in their homes, along with other censorship or blocking policies. But expectations were muted after the trip. ‘We pledged our support and the support of U.S. companies to achieve this. It is unclear, however, just how anxious the Cuban government is to open up expanded network capabilities,’ FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post Wednesday.” [The Hill, “Expectations muted after US delegation pushes Cuba on Internet,” 1/27/16]

Washington Post On “Marco Rubio’s Cold War” On Cuba Policy

Washington Post: Despite Most Americans’ Support For Cuba Policy Shift, Sen. Marco Rubio Positioning Himself As The Move’s “Biggest Foe.” “At a time when most Americans support a landmark shift in U.S. policy on Cuba, Rubio has positioned himself as that move’s biggest foe. He champions a Cold War approach that many think is outdated, even as it runs counter to his image as the youthful leader of a new generation. ‘I said, “Marco, how can you hit Hillary Clinton for being the candidate of yesterday when you are supporting policies that date to the 1960s?” ’ said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee with Rubio.” [Washington Post, “Marco Rubio’s Cold War,” 1/24/16]

WaPo: Many Believe Rubio Stays Critical Of Cuba Policy Because He Doesn’t Want To Turn On Donors Who Launched His Political Career. “Some wonder whether Rubio decided to stick with being the lead voice in the Senate critical of the new Cuba policy rather than risk being called inconsistent, especially after being slammed for helping craft an immigration-reform bill and then retreating from it. But many believe he doesn’t want to turn his back on the donors and supporters who launched his political career.” [Washington Post, “Marco Rubio’s Cold War,” 1/24/16]

Rubio Criticized By Fellow Republicans And Latino Members Of Congress For Holding Up Ambassador Nomination To “Stick A Finger In The Eye Of The President.” “There has been no U.S. envoy in Mexico City since August because Rubio is holding up the nomination of Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who led negotiations with Cuba as the United States moved toward more engagement. ‘He is trying to stick a finger in the eye of the president’ over Cuba by blocking her, said Flake, the Arizona Republican. Flake thinks it’s a mistake. So do 19 Latino members of Congress who signed a letter to Rubio protesting his hold on her nomination. They argue it has nothing to do with her qualifications and is a slight to Mexico, a key ally and trading partner.” [Washington Post, “Marco Rubio’s Cold War,” 1/24/16]

Cuban Migrants Arrive In Miami

Miami Seeing Biggest Influx Of Cuban Migrants Since 1994. “Miami hasn’t seen an influx of Cuban migrants like this one since the 1994 exodus that led to the current U.S. policy of turning away those fleeing the island who are intercepted at sea, commonly known as ‘Wet foot, dry foot.’ Large waves of Cubans arrived in the city in the early 1960s, shortly after Fidel Castro assumed power, and then in 1980, when the communist government expelled thousands of political prisoners in what became known as the Mariel boatlift.” [Fox News, “Miami sees biggest boom of Cuban migrants since 1994 exodues,” 1/25/14]

Local Leaders And Experts: Newest Wave Of Migrants Unlikely To Change Miami The Way Past Exoduses. “But unlike past exoduses, this wave of Cuban migrants is not likely to leave a lasting impact in the city politically or socially, community leaders and experts say. ‘I don’t think it will change the fabric of our community,’ said Raquel Regalado, a member of the Miami-Dade Public Schools Board, which recently voted to request federal aid to deal with thousands of new Cuban students. ‘This exodus is nothing like El Mariel or 1994. Miami-Dade has become too diverse for it to create political or social change.’ Armando Ibarra, a principal for Ai Advisory, a Coral Gables government affairs and political research firm, concurred. ‘I don’t see this influx being as impactful as the rafter crisis of the mid-1990s or El Mariel, which were more massive,’ Ibarra said. ‘And Miami is a much bigger place. There are a lot of people immigrating from other countries.’” [Fox News, “Miami sees biggest boom of Cuban migrants since 1994 exodues,” 1/25/14]

Fundacion Exodo 94’s Alicia Garcia: Recent Cuban Migrants Don’t Seem To Be Staying In Miami. “Many of the new immigrants are part of the 8,000 Cubans who have been stranded in Costa Rica in recent months, after Nicaragua stopped accepting Cuban travel visas. Still, these figures pale in comparison to the 124,000 Cubans who emigrated to the U.S. in 1980 and the roughly 35,000 Cubans who made the perilous trek from Cuba to Florida during a five-week span in 1994. Alicia Garcia, founder of Fundacion Exodo 94, a Miami non-profit that helps migrants find shelter and jobs, said another major difference is that the current crop of Cubans are not as inclined to establish roots in South Florida like their predecessors. Since 2014, Fundacion has provided assistance to roughly 500 Cuban migrants, Garcia said. Of those, only 13 remain in Miami.” [Fox News, “Miami sees biggest boom of Cuban migrants since 1994 exodus,” 1/25/14]

Cuban Infrastructure “Maxed Out” By Surge Of American Visitors

Cuba Struggling To Accommodate Surge Of American Visitors. “Cuba's tourism industry is under unprecedented strain and struggling to meet demand with record numbers of visitors arriving a year after detente with the United States renewed interest in the Caribbean island. Its tropical weather, rich musical traditions, famed cigars and classic cars were for decades off limits to most Americans under Cold War-era sanctions, but those restrictions are fading. Once a rare sight, Americans are now swarming Old Havana's colonial squares and narrow streets along with Europeans and Canadians. Entrepreneurs and hustlers have responded by upping prices on taxi rides, meals, and trinkets. Cuban women who pose for pictures in colorful dresses and headwraps while chomping cigars are now charging $5 instead of $1. Cuba received a record 3.52 million visitors last year, up 17.4 percent from 2014. American visits rose 77 percent to 161,000, not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans.” [Reuters, “Surge of Americans test limits of Cuba’s tourism industry,” 1/26/16]

Cuba Travel Organizer: “Infrastructure Is Maxed Out.” “The opening has benefited Cuba's small private sector, which offers restaurants and rooms for rent in family homes. But the tourism infrastructure, with just 63,000 hotel rooms nationwide, is still largely a function of the state and has languished under decades of U.S. economic sanctions and underdevelopment. ‘From offloading at the airport to restaurant availability, infrastructure is maxed out,’ said Collin Laverty, founder of Cuba Educational Travel, which organizes tours for legally permitted travel for Americans.” [Reuters, “Surge of Americans test limits of Cuba’s tourism industry,” 1/26/16]

Cuban Farmer Says The Island’s Agriculture Is Like Playing In A Band: “We Need The Instruments So We Can Play”

Cuban Farmer Isis Salcines: Organic Farming Is A Necessity Without Tools And Implements Available In The U.S. “Many of the nearly 2,000 attendees at the 36th annual Ecological Farming Conference here got into organic farming as a matter of choice, often over a sense of ecological stewardship or a desire to improve what people eat. ‘We don’t have a choice,’ said Isis Salcines, a farmer from Havana, Cuba. ‘For us, it’s hard to copy what you do here because you have more tools and implements.’ That includes fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals commonly used here that farmers in Cuba simply can’t afford or, in many cases, can’t be obtained there, she said. That’s due, in part, to the United State’s embargo on the tiny island nation since the early 1960s because of its communist regime. ‘So we have to farm organic,’ said Salcines, who came for the four-day conference that ended Saturday with two other Cuban farmers and a Haitian man studying farming at Universidad Agraria de La Habana (Agrarian University of Havana).” [The Californian, “In Cuba, Haiti it’s organic farming by necessity,” 1/26/16]

Salcines Said Farming In Cuba Is Like Being In A Band: “We Have The Passion, We Have The Music, But We Need The Instruments So We Can Play.” “Salcines likened farming in Cuba to being in a band: ‘We have the passion, we have the music, but we need the instruments so we can play.’ ‘And what we have is old,’ said Salcines, noting noting that her family’s seeding house, built to have a 10-year lifespan, has been in operation more than 70 years because her family can’t get the supplies to construct an adequate replacement. About 70 percent of the food grown in Cuba is organic, she said, adding that most of it stays in the country. Sugar, the country’s biggest export, has suffered since the fall of communism in the 1990s.” [The Californian, “In Cuba, Haiti it’s organic farming by necessity,” 1/26/16]

Human Rights Watch: Cuban Government’s Poor Human Rights Record Continues

Human Rights Watch: Cuban Government Continues To Repress Dissent. “The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.” [Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2016: Cuba,” January 2016]