CUBA BRIEF: Foreign meddling in Venezuela?The flag officers and the Ambassador. To trade or not to trade?

Foreign meddling in Venezuela?
Raul Castro’s government continues to warn against “foreign countries meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela,” while Cuban security forces continue to train President Maduro’s political police. This week again hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including house wives and studentscontinue to demand on the streets a transition to democracy for their country. Several students were killed by the police. The Washington Post published today an Associated Press article “Cuba cautions against foreign meddling in Venezuela’s crisis.”  The AP reports that “human rights organizations and countries including the United States have accused Venezuelan security forces and pro-government groups of using excessive violence against protesters.”

The flag officers and the Ambassador
Mark Twain was right, it is easier to fool some folks than to convince some folks that they have been fooled. More than a dozen retired military officers journeyed to Cuba recently and met only with government officials because meeting with other Cubans “was not the purpose of this trip but to listen to government people, [and] have an idea of how it works and what their concerns are.”                                     

Now, Retired Army Brig. Gen. David McGinnis, and 15 other officers have appealed to President Trump to continue Mr. Obama’s policy because “there is a need to make sure Cuba does not reach out to U.S. adversaries…,”  to protect the national interest and to prevent America’s enemies from filling up a void. But Russian spy ships returned to Havana while Mr. Obama was acquiescing to General Raul Castro’s demands. Havana and Moscow intend to reopen a Russian spy station on the island and Cuba was caught in 2013 smuggling war planes to North Korea. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is better informed: earlier this week she raised the issue of potential civil strife in North Korea, Iran and Cuba at the UN Security Council.

To trade or not to trade?
In a release just distributed Knowledge @ Wharton asked the questions “Should U.S. Companies Hit ‘Pause’ on Doing Business in Cuba?” The article is a long interview with Gustavo Arnavat, an attorney who served in the Obama Administration. He acknowledges some of the complexities of dealing with Cuba but shares President Barack Obama’s Cuba narrative. Some of the serious issues of dealing with Cuba such as the lack of an independent judiciary that could resolve disputes between foreign investors and entities of the Cuban government is given short shrift. There is no reference in the article about Cuba’s inability to pay its foreign creditors. Or that the United States by insisting on a cash and carry arrangement for American products sold to Cuba has saved the American taxpayers many millions of dollars.  The Knowledge @ Wharton’s interview errs when it says that “major financial institutions around the world, specially in the US,” that have run afoul of US regulations, have been “hit with a multi-billion dollar fine.”  The folks at Wharton should know the difference between a “multi-billion” dollar fine and a multi-million dollar fine.

“It would be crazy for anyone right now to be trying to invest in Cuba, even in those areas we can invest, because at any moment, the Trump administration may come out and totally reverse what was done previously,” Mr. Arnavat said.

The Washington Post, April 19, 2017

Cuba cautions against foreign meddling in Venezuela’s crisis

By Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal — A senior Cuban official is warning foreign countries against meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is facing down mass protests.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez says foreigners should avoid any interference that could encourage violent extremism, including a coup.

Rodriguez, whose government has close relations with Maduro, said during an official visit to Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday that Venezuelans fear foreign action against their country.

Maduro late Tuesday charged the U.S. State Department with encouraging a military intervention.

Human rights organizations and countries including the United States have accused Venezuelan security forces and pro-government groups of using excessive violence against protesters.

Members of the Organization of American States have also criticized what they view as Venezuela’s turn toward authoritarianism.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

14yMedio, April 19, 2017

Over 100 People Trapped in Collapsed Building in Havana

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 18 April 2017 — About 120 people are trapped in a Central Havana building after the interior stairs to the apartments collapsed this morning.

The property, located on Amistad and San Miguel Streets has been in danger of collapse for years due to lack of maintenance. A loud noise alerted neighbors to the collapse of the old stairs. Police forces and firefighters were mobilized to help the residents and to evacuate their few belongings.

In the evening hours, the authorities installed an external elevator through which paramedics and health personnel have accessed the building. So far no injuries have been reported, but according to one police officer at midday, “there are elderly among the trapped,” some with blood pressure problems.

“My cousins ive there. They have been complaining about the bad condition of the stairs for five months and although the authorities visited the place nothing was fixed,” says a neighbor, indignant at the lack of government action. [More]