CUBA BRIEF: New U.S. Cuba Regulations May Make Compliance There Easier; 175 Cuban dissidents tried to run for office. Here’s how Castro’s government reacted.

In this issue: The Wall Street Journal reports that some see a silver lining under the Trump administration’s new mesures reversing parts of Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba. According to the Miami Herald almost two hundred Cuban dissidents tried to run for office but the regime responded with “quick trials, arrests and intimidation;” while Havana Times says that Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara was released by the police, but awaits trial “for having some bags of sand and cement at his home.”  Finally, a court in Pinar del Rio province ratified a three year sentence for economist Karina Galvez Chiu. Her home, where independent think tank “Convivencia” held some of its programs, was confiscated by a deployment of state security, and police.                      

November 10, 2017


New U.S. Cuba Regulations May Make Compliance There Easier

By Samuel Rubenfeld

View of the facade of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Though new rules from the Trump administration pare back the opening to Cuba started by former President Barack Obama, they also produce brighter lines that may make it easier for companies to identify who exactly they can do business with when trying to operate on the island, two experts said.

The changes, which go into effect Thursday once published in the Federal Register, put in place plans announced in June by President Donald Trump. They largely restrict individual travel and limit financial transactions by Americans. The administration alsoprovided an initial list of Cuban entities owned or controlled by the government to avoid, and it made some changes to the export-control rules on Cuba.

While acknowledging that the changes mean less opportunity for doing business in Cuba by U.S. companies, there were some benefits they could derive from the announcement, experts said.

Peter Harrell, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who previously served as a deputy assistant secretary for counter-threat finance and sanctions in the U.S. State Department, tweeted that while the U.S. cracked down on trade with the Cuban government, it made trade easier with the country’s private sector. In a follow-up email, Mr. Harrell pointed to the export-control changes, saying that the U.S. Commerce Department will allow the sale of all non-controlled goods and some lightly controlled goods to the private sector, so long as they don’t provide benefit to the state.

“Overall the announcement will definitely result in less U.S. business in Cuba, because the Cuban government remains the dominant economic force in Cuba. But it was interesting and heartening to see the administration simultaneously try to simplify the rules for U.S. companies trying to sell goods to the Cuban private sector,” he said.

Mr. Harrell also noted in the email that the State Department made clear in its frequently-asked-question document that entities not on its restricted list, even if they’re subsidiaries of those on the list, aren’t restricted until they themselves appear on the blacklist, which simplifies questions of due-diligence.

“This should actually help make both business decisions and compliance easier because U.S. companies won’t have to worry as much about figuring out if the Cuban company they want to do business with is somehow owned by one of the companies on the restricted parties list,” he said.

Certain transactions already underway are allowed to continue, which is unusual for U.S. sanctions changes, noted Glen Kelley, a partner in the international-trade focused firm Jacobson Burton Kelley PLLC. Direct financial transactions with entities on the restricted list are grandfathered in, and guidance on this from Treasury “will be interpreted broadly,” he said.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration met its goal to restrict American companies from engaging in the Cuban market, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a New York-based trade group, in an emailed statement.

“There are few senior executives of U.S. companies who will argue for, lobby for, and do so publicly, a preference or a desire for wide latitude to engage with military-controlled entities in Cuba, rather than seek alternative opportunities within Cuba or to forgo those opportunities,” he said.

Write to Samuel Rubenfeld at Follow him on Twitter at @srubenfeld.


Miami Herald

175 Cuban dissidents tried to run for office. Here’s how Castro’s government reacted.


NOVEMBER 10, 2017 6:11 AM

Clinging to hope that Raúl Castro’s promise to step down in February will open the door to a political transition in Cuba, more than 100 dissidents launched an island-wide effort to place themselves on the ballot of upcoming elections.

The Castro government response? Not happening.

Not one of the 175 independent candidates who were part of the #Otro18 campaign made it to onto the ballot in the Nov. 26 elections for municipal Peoples Power councils, the lowest level of government in Cuba.

Quick trials, arrests and intimidation were some of the strategies used by authorities to block dissidents from becoming candidates, several opposition activists have publicly stated.

The Cuban government and the police “violated election laws from one end to the other, in a thousand ways,” said Manuel Cuesta Morúa, coordinator of the #Otro18 campaign.

Officials interfered systematically with the “nominating assemblies,” in which residents of electoral districts gather to approve the candidates who will be listed in the ballots, Cuesta Morúa told el Nuevo Herald.

“In some cases they arrested would-be candidates on the day of the assemblies and took them to distant places, creating a climate of pressure and intimidation among voters,” he said. “In other cases they disqualified candidates. They could not intimidate the community, so they invalidated their candidacies.”

Cuba’s electoral laws ban candidates with criminal records. At least four opposition hopefuls were convicted in “express trials” in order to disqualify them as candidates, Cuesta Morúa added.

José Cásares Soto was sentenced to five years on a charge of contempt that had been pending since 2012.

And Armando Abascal was convicted in a speedy trial on charges of “incitement to commit a crime” after he was identified as the leader of a September protest in the Southern Cuba town of Perico. Protesters were complaining about the slow restoration of electricity and water after Hurricane Irma. Many of Abascal’s neighbors had promised to support his efforts to become a candidate, but Cuban authorities quickly arrested him.

Some 12,215 candidates will be elected to municipal councils across the island of 11 million people. Provincial and national balloting will conclude with the election of the national parliament, then the selection of a new head of state to replace Castro will follow.

In theory, those elected to municipal councils can then run for the provincial assemblies and the national legislature. But “candidate commissions” made up of groups controlled by the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) in fact select the candidates at the provincial and national levels.

“No political parties other than the Communist Party are legal. Although most local candidates are not party members and the law prohibits the party from endorsing candidates, it has the ability to influence elections by mobilizing its members against candidates it regards as dissidents,” William LeoGrande, an American University expert on Cuba, wrote recently in World Politics Review. “That’s what it did in 2015, when two dissidents nominated by their neighbors as candidates for municipal councils in Havana were both easily defeated in the general election.”


William LeoGrande, American University

Even against the odds, part of the Cuban opposition wanted to try the electoral road, to expand their legitimacy if they won or prove that the process is unfair if they were blocked, several dissidents said. Others, like Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzalez, frown on the idea of participating in a process they branded as “a farce.”

Even though the opposition’s chances of success were minimal, the Cuban government took the challenge very seriously.

A leaked video of a CPC meeting in February showed Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is Castro’s apparent successor, saying that the government planned to “discredit” candidates it viewed as “counterrevolutionaries. He added: “We are totally engaged in this process, in this battle we are fighting.”

Another organization that backed independent nomination campaigns, Candidatos por el Cambio – Candidates for Change in Spanish – also reported several detentions designed to block its members from winning endorsements in the nominating councils.

Zelandia de la Caridad Pérez Abreu told Martínoticias that State Security agents summoned her to a meeting at a police station at 5 p.m. on Oct. 23, the same time that her electoral district was holding its nominating council. Police did not free her until after 9 p.m. when the council had ended.

The independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported 578 arbitrary detentions for political motives during the month of October, the highest number this year.

In other cases, the methods used by the Cuban government to turn away dissidents from the electoral process were less dramatic — as simple as hiding the date and time of the nominating gatherings.

In the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, none of the residents of one building were notified about their district’s gathering because they were all going to vote for an independent would-be candidate, said Cuesta Morúa.

“In other cases, they posted police and State Security agents around the places where the nominating councils were to be held to intimidate the neighbors,” he added.

“I was surprised that the government worked so hard to prevent any of the Otro18 candidates from even being nominated,” LeoGrande said. “Díaz-Canel’s video indicates that the state was very concerned about these candidates, and I think it indicates a realization of how much discontent there is at the grassroots in Cuba.”

Candidatos por el Cambio also complained about the government’s decision to postpone the balloting from October to November to avoid interfering with the work to recover from Hurricane Irma. Dissidents said the delay was designed to allow time for tempers to cool, because of the snail’s pace of recovery.

The government’s attempt to sell articles that had been donated for hurricane relief, the delays in assistance deliveries to some heavily affected areas and the fact that neither Castro nor Díaz-Canel ever toured those areas generated “discomfort among the people,” said Félix Yuniel Llerena, a Baptist church activist in western Cuba.

“The problems are growing sharper,” Llerena said. The next round of balloting “could see a lower turnout, more abstentions, votes left blank or voided.


Havana Times

Havana Alternative Biennial Promoter Luis Manuel Otero Released on Bail

November 10, 2017 |

Yanelis Nuñez Leyva

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.27.04 AM.png

Luis Manuel Otero

HAVANA TIMES – Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara was released on bail from Police custody on Thursday at 4 in the afternoon. His legal situation is still complicated because he is awaiting trial, without a precise date, under the charge of “reception” (for having some bags of sand and cement at his home).

We want to thank everyone who participated in the campaign demanding Luis be released. We will be giving you details of the next stages of this judicial process plagued by fissures.
We also want to ratify our firm position to organize together with all the collaborators and interested artists the # 00Bienal de La Habana.

#00BienaldeLaHabana #freeLuisMaAlcantaraSinCargos #encadaEstudioUnaBienal #enCadaEstacionUnPerformance #artecubanoUnido