CUBA BRIEF: Bloomberg attracting American tourists a tough sell. Businessmen Beware


Globe Newswire put out a public relations release this morning about Vancouver’s Cuba Ventures corporation’s CEO Steve Marshall visiting the lobby group Engage Cuba and “pro-Cuba congressman Adriano Espaillat [Democrat, New York] and  to promote business with the island. 

Cuban Ventures trumpeted $260,000 “in unaudited net sales for the month,” adding that “net sales are calculated as gross revenue less cancellations and refunds.” A $260,000 unaudited monthly sales is small change in the context of foreign trading. Mr Marshall is promoting “further opportunities” for companies interested in the Cuban market. But Bloomberg reported on March 10th that “Attracting American Tourists to Cuba Remains a Tough Sell”… “JetBlue became the third U.S. carrier to announce cuts in service to the island” “now that Cuba is open Americans aren’t going”  []

For a businessman sponsored by a lobby group to visit a member of Congress is usually not considered newsworthy. The Cuban market suffers from several problems: companies selling products to the island are often surprised when Havana fails to pay and Cubans average salary is less than $30 a month.



Skift, March 10, 2017


Attracting American Tourists to Cuba Remains a Tough Sell

Mac Margolis, Bloomberg – Mar 10, 2017
Skift Take

Americans are not flocking to Cuba, and there’s not enough infrastructure on the island to support large-scale tourism. Who could have seen this coming? Probably everyone who was paying attention.

— Brian Sumers

When JetBlue flight 387 took off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Cuba last August 31 — the first commercial flight to the island since 1961 — its vapor trail seemed to write history. A new beachhead in the Antilles for U.S. airlines! A long forbidden destination opened at last for U.S. tourists! Suitcases of dollars for ordinary Cubans catering to the new arrivals!

But hold the mojitos.

One month before spring break, JetBlue became the third U.S. carrier to announce cuts in service to the island. No one is pulling out, but the travel industry’s new mandate is adjusting to the reality beyond the Cuba hype. Pricey cabs, so-so infrastructure, limited internet and scalper-level hotel room rates, which reached $650 last year according to the Economist Intelligent Unit, have put off travelers. As a recent Bloomberg story put it, “Now that Cuba is Open Americans Aren’t Going.”



The Miami Herald, March 10, 2017

Propagandistic film financed by Jorge Perez isn’t worthy of Miami Film Festival

By Fabiola Santiago

The documentary “Embargo” is technically flawed, tedious, confusing – and not up to the standards of a Miami Film Festival with a track record of excellence on films about Cuba, whether they’re made on the island or abroad.

The work of a novice filmmaker, Jeri Rice, a Portland woman who went to Cuba some years ago and met Fidel Castro, the film asks a good question: Why do we have an embargo?

But it delivers a propagandistic answer straight from the Cuban government playbook about the historical oppression the U.S. has exerted over Cuba, with no counterbalance whatsoever about the myriad crimes the Castro regime committed that merited sanctions. No mention of the millions of dollars in aid Cuban-Americans have been sending to Cuba every year. No mention that after President Barack Obama restored relations and began to unilaterally chip away at the embargo, opening travel and trade, Raúl Castro responded with more repression.


Mimi Whitefield’s opinion column mistakenly published as news. In an article on a Barry University conference titled “Doing Business in Cuba: Legal, Ethical and Compliance Challenges” Ms Whitefield shared with us some of her provocative ideas focusing on a comment in gest  by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine that the article erroneously identified as a likely candidate for Florida Mayor about the United States invading its closest neighbor. The column deals with things like recent statements by Governor Rick Scott and one speaker out of a panel of three speakers, out of seven panels and of 25 speakers most of whom dealt with the subject of the conference:  legal, ethical and compliance challenges. Those interested in the discussion will have to go elsewhere to find serious reporting on the event. Perhaps the proceedings will be made available by Barry University which filmed the conference.


The Miami Herald, March 10, 2017 1:16 PM

In Miami, politicians struggle with ethics of doing business with Cuba

By Patricia Mazzei and Mimi Whitefield

The panel of three local mayors discussing how the United States should approach doing business with Cuba was going predictably Friday until Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a likely Democratic candidate for Florida mayor, brought up a word that, once upon a time in Miami, might have caused a political maelstrom: invasion.

“Why aren’t we discussing the invasion of the island?” Levine said.

He wasn’t endorsing the idea of a military incursion. A few moments earlier, Levine had argued that the best way to help Cubans themselves was to engage in open commerce with the island.

But he had no support for the expanded-business position from his colleagues, Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason and Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez. Cason, a Republican former head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, had in fact espoused the opposite view, questioning the ethics of any business that would enrich the pockets of the Cuban military.


When Cuba’s government failed to obtain a drug that Professor Omara Ruiz Urquiola urgently needed, her brother went on a hunger strike. In a formidable international campaign to acquire the drug in which the Cuban exile community participated donations were received and Dr. Ruiz was able to travel to Spain for treatment. Despite Raul Castro’s boasts of Cuba’s great medical system the cancer patient had been without the Roche medications for two months due to the negligence of the Ministry of Public Health. While Cubans around the world call on friends to help her she was surprised when she learned that they were mobilized to help her because as she said “I knew nothing because, without internet you are cut off.”

Diario de Cuba, March 10, 2017

The case of Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola

Boris González Arenas | La Habana | 10 de Marzo de 2017

This interview is important in many ways. But, if I had to choose one, it would be how it illustrates the existence of Cuba’s civil society. Castroism has endured by enfeebling the individual, fomenting his social diminution and geographical dispersion. The testimony of Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola vividly reflects this, expressing our limitations under a totalitarian regime … but also our possibilities and strength as a civil society. It also conveys the transnational nature of this civil society thanks to the magnitude and patriotic commitment of a community of expatriates that has developed over nearly six decades of dictatorship.

Omara Urquiola Ruiz is a professor of the History of Design at the Advanced Institute of Design (ISDI) in Havana. She has had breast cancer since 2005. Since 2006 she has received a successful treatment with Trastuzumab, since 2015 combined with Pertuzumab, two drugs produced by the Swiss firm Roche.

In November of 2016 she became famous when her brother, Doctor of Biological Sciences Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, went on a hunger strike to get the first of these drugs for her after, due to the negligence of the Cuban representatives of the firm Roche and authorities at the Ministry of Public Health, Omara had been without the medication for two months.




Amnesty International prisoner of conscience sentence to be announced March 20, 2017. Cuba Brief asks human rights activists around the world to circulate the enclosed January 31, 2017 Amnesty International urgent action appeal.

Amnesty International Urgent Action

Demand release of human rights defender

Five days after Fidel Castro’s death, human rights defender Eduardo Cardet was detained and has since been held in provisional detention in Holguín, south-east Cuba. He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) since 2014 was arrested in Holguín on 30 November 2016, five days after the death of the former leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Eduardo Cardet has spent two months in the provisional prison (prisión provisional) of Holguín. He has been refused bail on three occasions, according to his wife.

According to five witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International by telephone on the condition of anonymity, Eduardo Cardet was pushed off his bicycle and violently detained in the early evening of 30 November by at least four plain clothed and one uniformed police officer as he returned home after visiting his mother. It is not clear on what grounds Eduardo Cardet was initially detained. According to his wife, who witnessed her husband’s detention with their two children, Eduardo Cardet is charged with attacking an official of the state (atentado). This offence is covered under Article 142.1 of the Criminal Code. One officer is alleging that Eduardo Cardet pushed him during his arrest. All witnesses who spoke with Amnesty International counter this allegation, and state that Eduardo Cardet was quickly and violently restrained by plain clothed officials, placed in handcuffs, and beaten, and had no opportunity for self-defense. The witnesses believe that Eduardo Cardet was arrested for his beliefs and ideas.

Prior to his arrest, Eduardo Cardet had given interviews published in international media in which he had been critical of the Cuban government. In an interview with Madrid-based radio station esRadio, aired two days before his arrest, he described the mourning in Cuba following the death of Fidel Castro as imposed, and said: “Castro was a very controversial man, very much hated and rejected by our people”. According to the MCL’s website, Eduardo Cardet’s lawyer informed the family on 27 January that the Public Prosecutor is seeking three years of prison.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

Calling on the authorities to release Dr. Eduardo Cardet immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;

Calling on them to guarantee the peaceful right to freedom of expression, assembly and association including for dissident, opponent or activist voices and to repeal all legislation which unduly limits these rights;

Urging them to ensure that, pending his release, he is provided with any medical care he may require; that he is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated; and that he is granted regular access to family and lawyers of his choosing.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 14 MARCH 2017 TO: President Raúl Castro Ruz, Presidente de la República de Cuba, La Habana, Cuba Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba Office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN) Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN) Salutation: Your Excellency

Attorney General  Dr. Darío Delgado Cura, Fiscal General de la República, Fiscalía General de la República Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba  Salutation: Dear Attorney General/ Señor Fiscal General

UA: 32/17 Index: AMR 25/5601/2017 Issue Date: 31 January 2017