CubaBrief: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today that Cuba policy must be “done in full compliance with our existing statutes, and not provide financial support to the Cuban regime.” The Secretary also said that the current policy provides “financial support to the Cuban government, which would violate U.S. law.” It is too bad that some business interests not only put profits over principles but that are willing to do so illegally. The Reuters story “Tillerson signals tough Trump administration stance on Cuba” follows.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 14th an appeal to President Donald Trump will be released. The letter is signed by more than a hundred former Cuban political prisoners, American ambassadors, professors, business leaders, and others at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami. The letter applauds Mr. Trump’s beginning to dismantle Mr. Obama’s executive orders on Cuba that were negotiated in secret. The Institute is the preeminent research center on Cuba in the United States. The notice follows.
Cubanet reports in Spanish today about recycling at Cuban hospitals. The government reuses “disposable products,” including syringes, surgical gloves, rectal and gastrointestinal tubes, accessories and other medical supplies which should be discarded, risking infections. The recycling does not apply to Cuban medical facilities set aside for foreigners. The Ministry of Public Health has begun the controversial program in light of “the chaos and shortages” impacting Cuban hospitals. The Cuban patients are not asked if they are willing to accept these risky practices. The influx of American tourists dollars have yet to be felt in the public health care system which has been greatly downgraded in recent years. A few weeks ago the CubaBrief reported that The New York Times published an article datelined Havana indicating that an increase in food shortages in Cuba was due to the need for greater food supplies for tourists visiting the island.
The Miami Herald reports today that “GAESA, the Spanish acronym for Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A., is the business conglomerate owned by [Cuba’s] Revolutionary Armed Forces and controls more than 50 enterprises, although the exact details are difficult to establish.” Raul Castro’s anti-American initiatives and his regime involvement in repression in Venezuela, as CubaBrief has reported, are financed by American tourist dollars.
Reuters, June 13, 2017
Tillerson signals tough Trump administration stance on Cuba
Days before Trump is expected to announce a change in U.S. policy on Cuba, the secretary of state testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesdaysaid Cuba "must begin to address human rights challenges" if it wants Washington to preserve a move toward more normal relations started under former President Barack Obama.
Tillerson, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee days before President Donald Trump is expected to announce a change in U.S. policy on Cuba, said the opening to the Communist-run island has led to an increase in U.S. visitors and U.S. business ties to the country.
However, Tillerson added: "We think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba, restricting their people, and it has little incentive today to change that."
Reuters reported last week that Trump was expected to visit Miami as early as Friday to announce a new Cuba policy that could tighten rules on trade and travel, rolling back parts of his Democratic predecessor's opening to the island.
Many of Trump's fellow Republicans, and some Democrats, objected to Obama's policy shift, saying America's former Cold War foe has not done enough to allow any easing of the 50-year-long U.S. embargo on trade and travel.
Under questioning from Democratic Senator Tom Udall, Tillerson agreed that moves toward more normal relations with the United States have helped some Cubans lift themselves out of poverty and provided opportunities for U.S. companies.
However, Tillerson said there is a "dark side" to relations with Cuba, noting that the government in Havana continues to jail political opponents and harass dissidents.
"If we're going to sustain the sunny side of this relationship, Cuba must, absolutely must, address these human rights challenges," Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the broad State Department budget.
He said the Trump administration's view is that the new U.S. policy is providing financial support to the Cuban government, which would violate U.S. law.
"We are supportive of the ... economic development, as long as it is done in full compliance with our existing statutes, and not provide financial support to the Cuban regime," Tillerson said. "That's the focus of our current policy review."
Obama implemented his normalization measures through executive actions, and Trump has the power to undo much of them.
CUBA IS MORE THAN A TOURIST DESTINATION
You are cordially invited
To a press conference
On the release of an appeal to President Trump
about US Cuba policy, Raul Castro’s support of violence overseas and the increase of repression on the island.
This Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 9:30am
Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, Casa Bacardi
University of Miami
1531 Brescia Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33146
Cuban former political prisoners, former American ambassadors,
business leaders, writers, human rights activists, lawyers, housewives,
physicians, and scholars speak out
on the need to start dismantling Mr. Obama’s executive orders on Cuba
which were negotiated in secret with General Raul Castro’s regime
without consulting the Congress, the American people
and the Cuban American community
The Miami Herald, June 12, 2017
High on Cuba policy proposal: restricting U.S. business deals with Cuba’s military-run entities
By Nora Gámez Torres
Cuban-American members of Congress have been pushing the Trump administration to restrict deals between U.S. companies and Cuban firms controlled by the island's military, as part of the new Trump policy toward Cuba expected to be announced this week in Miami.
White House spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré confirmed Mondaythat the proposal is under consideration, but added that it was "one of the many possibilities under discussion."
The possibility of restrictions put a spotlight on the military-run companies, which are just about everywhere on the island.
If you're a U.S. traveler in Cuba and you buy a bottle of water in the supermarket or a souvenir in a store, or you rent a car or a hotel room, it's very likely that you're putting money into the pockets of the military-run GAESA, which experts say controls nearly 60 percent of the Cuban economy.
GAESA, the Spanish acronym for Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A., is the business conglomerate owned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces and controls more than 50 enterprises, although the exact details are difficult to establish.
GAESA operates in virtually every profitable area of the Cuban economy, controlling hotel chains, car rental agencies and sales companies, banks, credit card and remittance services, supermarkets, clothing shops, real estate development companies, gasoline stations, import and export companies, shipping and construction companies, warehouses and even an airline.
Heading the conglomerate is army Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Calleja, who, according to various reports, is married or was married to a daughter of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro. [More]