Daily Briefing – February 8, 2018

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

Trump’s Cuba Internet Task Force holds its first meeting: The Trump administration’s new Cuba Internet Task Force held its first meeting on Wednesday, with leaders in the group saying Cuba was restricting internet access to silence dissent. President Trump issued a memorandum last year ordering the creation of the task force to find ways to help expand online access and free expression on the island. “Mr. Castro, tear down this firewall,” said Andre Mendes, acting director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Office of Cuba Broadcasting. The task force agreed to form two subcommittees, “one to explore the role of media and freedom of information in Cuba, and one to explore Internet access in Cuba,” the State Department said. The Cuban government has protested the initiative as “subversive.” Some Cuban media outlets have rejected it, too, saying taking U.S. help would damage their credibility as independent journalists. (The Associated Press, State Department)

Cuba approves visa for new top U.S. diplomat in Havana: Cuba has granted a visa to a senior U.S. diplomat, Philip Goldberg, who will take over as the top representative of the Trump administration in Havana. Goldberg will take charge of a U.S. embassy stripped of most of its staff last year after what the State Department has described as “sonic attacks” that affected 24 Americans. The Cuban government denies any involvement, and a new FBI report casts doubt on the theory that a sonic device caused the symptoms reported by U.S. citizens and, more recently, other foreigners. Goldberg will be the highest ranking U.S. diplomat ever to serve as charge d’affaires in Havana. His selection and Cuba’s acceptance of him was seen as a possible sign that both countries are eager to maintain open communication despite a deterioration of relations since President Trump took office. (Reuters, The Associated Press)

Maine theater group raises money for Cuba cultural exchange: A Maine community theater organization is holding a Feb. 10 art auction fundraiser in a restaurant in upscale Bar Harbor for The Cuban American Chekhov Exchange, a new effort to foster cultural exchange between the U.S. and Cuba. The initiative seeks to send a production of a Maine community theater group to Cuba next month, and bring the Teatro El Portazo theater group from Matanzas, Cuba, to the U.S. in 2019. The project was launched by the Barn Arts Chekhov Club, which meets monthly to read, discuss, and perform work by writer Anton Chekhov. The Maine and Cuban organizations are collaborating on a project based on the short Chekhov play “The Harmful Effects of Tobacco.” (Mount Desert Islander)

Researchers to gather for education conference in Havana: More than 500 Cuban researchers will gather with an expected 2,000 international participants next week for the 11th International Congress on Higher Education, Universidad 2018, in Havana. At the event, researchers and university professors will exchange ideas and experiences related to the theme, “The University and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Cuban Minister of Higher Education José Ramón Saborido Loidi said the gathering is one of the region’s main regional higher-education conferences, due to the number and diversity of participants, the research exchanged, and the novel themes participants address. (Granma)

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