Daily Briefing – August 8, 2017

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

Cuban government tries to reassure nervous private sector: The Cuban government said Monday that the recent freeze on issuing new licenses for some private sector jobs would not last years. Last week, the government said it was freezing new licenses in order to “perfect” the private sector, creating fears that Cuba is backpedaling its plans to open up its centrally planned economy. The government also recently ordered the closure of a fast-growing cooperative that specializes in accounting and business consulting services.  (Reuters)

Then they came for the taxi drivers: The government is pushing a plan to organize private taxi drivers into cooperatives that are controlled by the state and have regulated prices. Many private taxi drivers who use old American cars oppose the plan, which they say will put them on a meager state salary. Increased regulation on private sector transportation will also impact many Cuban-Americans who invested in their relatives’ taxi businesses. The government says it will not directly force private drivers to join cooperatives. However, the government intends to limit private drivers by giving cooperative drivers access to better routes, cheaper gasoline, spare parts at wholesale prices and ideal parking locations. (El Nuevo Herald) (WLRN)

Dashing U.S. tourism hopes: Many Cubans and Americans who were counting on the diplomatic thaw in relations to boost their tourism businesses say they are dismayed by President Donald Trump’s policy toward the island. Some businesses have already reported losses in bookings, even though the regulations are not yet in effect. (PBS Newshour)

No blessing in disguise in Trump’s Cuba policy: There are no silver linings for Cuba in the Trump administration’s tightened restrictions on U.S. travel to the island, wrote Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith in response to a FiveThirtyEight piece that claimed the travel restrictions were a blessing in disguise. Smith says the travel restrictions will hamper business travel to Cuba, and not only tourism. Less business travel means less foreign direct investment, forcing Cuba to continue using outdated technology. (Bloomberg Opinion)

To weaken Maduro, weaken Castro: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson must press Cuba in order to create real change in Venezuela, argues Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady. She says the Venezuelan military and National Guard answer to Cuban generals, and that Cuba keeps files on political opponents in Venezuela. (Wall Street Journal and The Australian)

The long journey to the Saint Louis Art Fair: Painter Rey Alfonso attempted to flee Cuba 13 times as a teenager. Now, the Saint Louis Art Fair is using his work in its promotional images. (St. Louis Public Radio)

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