CUBA BRIEF: Russia renews talks of a military base in Cuba, What Trump’s Cuba crackdown will look like, and Regime forces arrest artist.

In this issue: “Russia renews talks of a military base in Cuba,”  a release from the Cuban Studies Institute, “What Trump’s Cuba crackdown will look like,” published by The Miami Herald, and  “Regime forces arrest artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara” in Cuba, published by Diario de Cuba, an independent online newspaper.

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November 9, 2017

A publication of the Cuban Studies Institute
by Alvaro Alva*  

In Russia, for several years, generals and legislators have been advocating the opening of a military base in Cuba. The first mention of returning to a permanent Russian base in Cuba occurred in February 2014.  It was in the midst of the political crisis in Ukraine and the plans of a Russian invasion of Crimea. The Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, spoke of the need to expand Russia’s military presence outside its borders, and cited Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

In May 2014, an agreement known as the Cooperation and Joint Work between the Security Council of the Russian Federation and the National Defense Council of Cuba was signed. Colonel Alejandro Castro Espin, son of Cuba’s ruler general Raul Castro was a signee.    

In May 2015, the now head of Russian espionage, Sergei Naryshkin, visited Cuba and invited the Cuban government to join the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This military group unites the former Soviet republics in the country, military and political arena. Narishkin emphasized that Cuba was one of the most reliable allies of the Kremlin in the Americas.

At the beginning of November 2017, in the Upper Chamber of the Russian parliament the “need” to have a military presence in Latin America and Asia was discussed. Russian Senators from the Defense Committee, including its president, and the International Relations Committee, said that “the deployment of a Russian military base in Cuba would help the security interests” of Russia and Cuba.

The Russian logic comes from what in Moscow is considered an increase in “American aggression” worldwide and an intensification in sanctions against Russian companies and officials. A military presence in Cuba “would be in the interest of the security” of Russia.

According to the Russian legislators, the Kremlin military presence in Cuba until 2001, helped to stop the expansion of the United States in areas of Russian strategic interests. An active policy of NATO member countries that border the largest of the Russian republics is considered a “frank intervention in the internal affairs of the historical partners of Russia”, and should accelerate “our return to Latin America. “

All those who advocate for the military bases, agree that they must coordinate the installations with Havana. Other legislators asked not to hasten the plans.  They consider that the restoration of a Russian base in Cuba could exacerbate the confrontation between Moscow and Washington and turn the event into a second Caribbean Crisis, as the Missile Crisis of 1962 is referred to in Russia.

Today Russia has two permanent military bases in Syria, one naval in Tartus, and another air base in Latakia. With Vietnam they signed an agreement for the joint use of supply units in Cam Ranh.  Aircrafts Il-78 and Tu-95MC use Vietnamese air bases when patrolling the area.

The Russians may opt for periodic visits of Russian naval vessels to Cuba.  The distinction may be the availability of Cuba to accommodate the Russian Navy, without the need to establish a Russian base.  It could be explained as Cuban bases for the Russians.

If a Russian base reopens in Cuba, the island would again be a critical part of Moscow’s foreign policy; a piece to put pressure on Washington or to trade it for a U.S. base in Europe. Some might call it a spectacular show of the Kremlin’s muscle and a reminder to the U.S. that the doors are never closed between Moscow and Havana.
*   Alvaro Alba is a Supervisory Managing Editor in Internet Division of OCB.  Alba is an author of the books “Twin Souls: A comparative analysis between Joseph V. Stalin and Fidel Castro” (2002) and “The pupil of the Kremlin” (2011) and” Russia: The Stalin Heritage” (2012), all published in Madrid, Spain.  Alvaro is a Senior Research Associate at the Cuban Studies Institute (CSI).

What Trump’s Cuba crackdown will look like | Miami Herald


 NOVEMBER 08, 2017 9:00 AM

The days of Americans legally staying at Ernest Hemingway’s Old Havana haunt, the Hotel Ambos Mundos, or making purchases at Havana’s only luxury shopping arcade, will be over under new regulations the Trump administration issued Wednesday as part of a crackdown on U.S. business and travel to Cuba.

Americans will be banned from doing business with 180 entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence and security services, including 83 hotels, stores, marinas, tourist agencies, industries and even two rum makers owned by the government. U.S. companies will be barred from investing in a sprawling economic development zone in Mariel that Cuba envisions as crucial to its commercial future.

President Trump announces toughening of Cuba policy in Miami

President Donald Trump powered into East Little Havana and announced a sweeping change in relations intended to rebuke his predecessor’s opening toward the island.

José A. Iglesias Miami Herald

The long-awaited rules will take effect Thursday. The regulations, intended to cut off cash to Cuban leader Raúl Castro’s government and tighten U.S. travel to the communist island, stem from a directive President Donald Trump signed in Miami in June that outlined his new policy. Trump has distanced himself from former President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba, criticizing him for getting a “one-sided” deal.

 “We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

However, Miami Republican lawmakers who had cheered Trump’s more restrictive Cuba policies were openly critical of the new regulations Wednesday, saying they did not go far enough in punishing the Cuban government.

“Today’s announced regulations include some positive first steps,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “I am disappointed, however, that the regulations do not fully implement what the President ordered. It is clear that individuals within the bureaucracy who support the former administration’s Cuba policy continue to undermine President Trump.”

James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, which supports closer ties to the island, said he found the timing of the regulations release puzzling, coming while Trump is on an official visit to China.

“The Trump administration has yet again shown their hypocritical approach to human rights,” Williams said. “The great irony of releasing these regulations while President Trump stands in Communist China is dumbfounding.”

The Treasury, Commerce and State departments, together with the National Security Council, worked for months on the regulations, which took longer than some members of Congress and U.S.-Cuba policy experts expected. Sanctions against other countries, most notably North Korea, took priority for the administration, which continues to be understaffed in State and other agencies.

The White House also had to deal with the ongoing mystery over an alleged sonic attack against U.S. diplomats in Havana. While Washington has not accused the Cuban government of causing the attacks, it holds Havana responsible for not protecting Americandiplomats while on Cuban soil and has reduced its embassy staff by 60 percent.


But an administration official said at a morning briefing that the regulations had “nothing to do with the acoustic incidents.”


Regime forces arrest artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara

DDC | La Habana | 9 de Noviembre de 2017 – 14:33 CET. | 

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. (ÑANDUTÍ DIGITAL)

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Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is being held at the police station at Cuba and Chacón in Old Havana, and his study in the same municipality has been searched, art historian Yanelys Núñez Leyva told DIARIO DE CUBA.

DIARIO DE CUBA was able to verify the police operation at the building, led by State Security forces, and saw some officers load trucks with sacks of some kind of cement-like material.

Otero and Núñez Leyva head up the team that is organizing Havana’s #00Bienal. The original event’s 13th edition was postponed by a decision of the National Council of Plastic Arts and the Wifredo Lam Center, until 2019.

At 5:00 pm this Monday a press conference was slated about this event, which they had proposed to organize independently. At that time the police squad was still active at the site on the Calle Damas 955, between San Isidro and Avenida del Puerto, in Old Havana.

Núñez Leyva was also driven away in one of the police vehicles. The DDC tried to communicate with the young lady, but her phone was either off or didn’t have a signal.

They had planned to make their announcement on Monday, along with the rest of the information related to the Bienal, which they had slated for May 5 – 15, 2018.

The artists explained in advance that their intention was “to support the development of Cuban culture, as the country is experiencing a strong crisis of faith, an increase in banality, and hopelessness, by upholding the emancipatory and progressive power of art.”

They considered it “essential not to delay the event, and to go forward with it, even with minimal resources.”

The two are carrying out the “Museum of Dissidence” project in Cuba, a website embracing the meaning of “dissident” endorsed by the Royal Spanish Language Academy, and featuring figures from Cuban history as disparate at Chief Hatuey, José Martí, Fidel Castro and Oswaldo Payá.

In April Otero presented an act of performance art in front of the luxurious Manzana Kempinski Hotel, where he protested the disappearance of the bust of Communist leader Julio Antonio Mella, which was removed to transform this building into the first ultra-exclusive, five-star hotel in Cuba.