Daily Briefing – August 4, 2017

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A daily look at deals, events and transactions of note for trade and investment in Cuba.

Government introduces new taxi service: Amid fuel shortages and strains on existing transportation services in Havana, the government introduced a new service known as “taxis ruteros.” The system works by circulating about 60 cars and microbuses through the streets of Havana. The vehicles can pick up multiple passengers because it is a shared service. Cuban officials say about 2,600 use the service daily. (Local 10 News)

Cuba’s stakes in the Venezuelan crisis: Venezuela remains Cuba’s most important commercial trading partner, despite the political and economic crisis that has engulfed the nation. Economist Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva says Cuba must look at sending its highly skilled labor to oil-rich countries such as Angola and Algeria instead of Venezuela. It’s unlikely Angola and Algeria will be able to offer Cuba the same sweetheart deals offered by Venezuela, but it may cushion the blow of depending on a nation in turmoil. (El Nuevo Herald and 14ymedio)

A familiar playbook in Venezuela: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is officially a dictator after copying the Castro’s Cuba playbook for years, writes Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago. U.S. condemnation of Maduro from the Obama and Trump administrations have not stopped his power grab, which is now emboldening Cuba to change course on its own economic modernization. (Miami Herald and Omaha World-Herald)

China’s flagship airline sets up shop: Air China opened a commercial office in Cuba on Thursday. The office intends to boost tourism between the two countries. Air China has had 19-hour direct flights between Beijing and Havana since the end of 2015. About 24,000 travelers of different nationalities have used the route since it began, said Air China’s general manager in Cuba. (Xinhua)

Trump exaggerates the Cuban-American vote: U.S. President Donald Trump told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over the phone that he won 84 percent of the Cuban-American vote in 2016, according to a leaked transcript published by the Washington Post. The available statistics demonstrate he only won about 50 to 55 percent of the Cuban-American vote. Experts don’t appear to know where the 84 percent figure originated. (El Nuevo Herald)

Padura on the changing times: Leonardo Padura, who is arguably Cuba’s most famous author, discussed his work, censorship, and the changes happening in Cuba with the Financial Times’ John Paul Rathbone. On President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse parts of the Cuba opening, Padura said: “The embargo has been a nightmare. Obama was a passing dream. Now we are back to the nightmare again.” (Financial Times)

More controversy at Cuban studies institute: University of Miami President Julio Frenk is attempting to cover up an attempt to close the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS), writes outgoing ICCAS senior scholar José Azel. The decision to dismiss all ICCAS staff without an explanation and without immediately announcing an interim director is indicative of a cover up, argues Azel. (El Nuevo Herald Opinion)

Politics less involved in Miami music: Younger audiences and increased travel between the U.S. and Cuba has made Miami’s Cuban music scene less interested in politics. It is not uncommon to see Cuban artists perform in Miami shortly after a show in Cuba. Still, there are occasional flare-ups, especially when artists mention the Castros. (Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald)

The making of a song of the summer: Cuban musician Descemer Bueno, who collaborated with Enrique Iglesias for “Súbeme La Radio,” is considered to be one of the best songwriters in Cuba. His rise comes after decades of dabbling with different genres and collaborating with a diverse group of artists from around the world. (NPR)

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