Cuba

Changes in Cuba warrant U.S. policy responses

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Significant changes being implemented by the Cuban government to permanently alter the island's economy have so far fallen on deaf ears in Washington.

A new report by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, Cuba’s New Resolve: Economic Reform and its Implications for U.S. Policy, identifies a number of measures the Obama administration should take to support and facilitate the economic reform process in Cuba. According to the report, Cuba is undergoing the most significant changes to its socialist system since the 1959 Revolution. Despite moves to increase the private sector, decentralize decision-making, increase autonomy for farmers and "a fundamental shift in economic thinking," the Obama administration has downplayed the reforms as insufficient.

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End the Case of the Cuban Five

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As a follow-up to our blog on "La Colmenita" (the Cuban children’s youth theater) last week, today we are happy to host a guest blog post from Wayne Smith of the Center for International Policy and former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 1979-1982.

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La Colmenita vs. The Old World

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On Monday, October 17th, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, expressing grave concerns over the U.S. performances by the National Cuban Youth Theater, “La Colmenita.” In her letter, she questions the decision of the State Department to issue visas to the children’s group and demands an explanation for granting the visas, in addition to a “detailed accounting of all funding for educational programs with Cuba.” Her reasoning? To ensure that the State Department is not misusing taxpayer funds to promote exchange with Cuba. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also claims that the group, which is comprised of 5-16 year olds, poses a national security threat, as one of the plays they perform is inspired by the story of the Cuban Five, un-registered agents of the Cuban government who were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and are currently serving long sentences in U.S. prisons. The Economist, a United Kingdom-based newspaper (with offices in the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia), conducted an interesting poll last week about the fairness of the trial (which was held in Miami) of the Cuban Five; see the results here.

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Obama and Romney Out of Touch on Cuba

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The Latin America Working Group is pleased to re-post this piece on U.S.-Cuba policy from our colleague at the Washington Office on Latin America, Geoff Thale. At LAWG, we are trying to maximize the opening recently made available by President Obama for increased travel to Cuba -- people-to-people travel, educational travel, religious travel, cultural travel. We are encouraging and educating the public on "how-to" travel to Cuba. See our on-line brochure, "How-to Travel to Cuba" here . We are very aware of how tenuous this small opening is, and how far it is from "Travel for All" with no restrictions. And we are aware that with just a stroke of the pen from a new President, these advances could be erased. We ask for your help in preventing that roll-back. Sign up for our Cuba policy updates and action alerts here.  And "like" our "End the Travel Ban on Cuba" Facebook page here

The 2012 presidential race is effectively underway, and the two leading candidates have both recently made statements about Cuba. While they may differ in emphasis, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney clearly share one thing: they are both out of touch when it comes to Cuba and what U.S. policy should be towards the island.

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New U.S. cities to open direct flights to Cuba

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Big news! Havanatur Celimar, which is the branch of Cuban tour operator Havanatur that handles the U.S. travel market, has reported that Cuba has approved a bundle of U.S. airports, plus charter service providers and relevant airlines, for landing rights in a variety of Cuban airports (Havana, Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Santa Clara, and Manzanillo). These U.S. airports have already received U.S. permission to begin charter flights to Cuba, as directed by President Obama in January of this year.

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Cuban Americans Don’t Want This

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Regarding a recent attempt by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL 21st) to restrict Cuban-American family travel to Cuba, it is reported that Rep. Diaz-Balart maintains that an overwhelming 90% of the Cuban-American community supports his amendment.

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How Art Bridges the Florida Straits

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On Tuesday, June 21st, Cuban contemporary artist Sandra Ramos spoke about her work at the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art. Her art represents deeply personal accounts of the connection between herself, society and Cuba. Sandra breaks through censorship issues to present an honest view of Cuba by discussing issues such as migration, political education and cultural contradictions.  The paintings and exhibits that she creates make audiences take an introspective look at the effects of various influences in their lives and how those aspects affect them.

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A Traveler's Tale: Shattering Stereotypes on Both Sides of the Florida Straits

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Studying abroad in Cuba was an experience that is impossible to forget. People’s eyes bulge whenever I mention that I lived in Cuba for five months. A torpedo of questions always follow; “Did you feel safe? How did you survive? Isn’t Cuba communist?” While I love to discuss my time spent in Cuba, it’s questions like these that make my mind race and my blood boil.

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A Lost Connection

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On February 26, 2007, the New York Philharmonic performed in Pyongyang, North Korea. This was the first time a U.S. cultural organization had stepped foot on North Korean soil; and not only were the musicians  welcomed into the insulated country, but they were given a five minute round of applause during their final bows.

The Philharmonic’s performance, dubbed “Symphonic Diplomacy” by the New York Times,  didn’t create instant harmony (even though there is harmony in dissonance, so I’m told by my friend, Emily) between Washington and Pyongyang. But the performance did make an impact.

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Obama Raises Cuba in Chile Speech

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Yesterday, in a speech given at the Centro Cultural Palacio Moneda in Santiago, Chile, President Obama gave his first Latin America speech since the 2008 Summit of the Americas. While he spoke of many important issues regarding the region – and LAWG will be reviewing the speech in detail, so keep checking our blog and website for that – the Cuba team wanted to share the substantial Cuba portion of the speech with you today.

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