Daily Briefing – January 30, 2018

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

U.S. travelers to Cuba report symptoms that resemble diplomat’s injuries: The State Department said 19 U.S. citizens have reported symptoms similar to those suffered by at least 24 U.S. diplomats and family members stationed in Havana. The State Department received the 19 complaints after it issued a travel warning for Cuba and announced a 60 percent staff withdrawal from its Havana embassy on Sept. 29.  “Ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping,” are some of the symptoms described in the travel warning. Cuba received a “reconsider travel” warning in the State Department’s recent rollout of a new travel advisory system. Even though “reconsider travel” is softer than the “do not travel” warning that Cuba received on Sept. 29, the State Department said its position on the island has not changed. (Miami Herald)

Travel groups hold event to say Cuba is safe for visitors: U.S. travel group insightCuba sponsored a meeting on Monday in Havana to tell members of the press that it is safe for Americans to travel to Cuba. InsightCuba President Tom Popper was joined by representatives from U.S. and Cuban travel groups. “Traveling to Cuba is legal and safe, something that many Americans do not fully understand,” Popper said. He said most travel that was allowed under former President Barack Obama remains legal under President Donald Trump’s tightened restrictions. Monday’s meeting began before the Miami Herald published a story about U.S. visitors to Cuba reporting symptoms similar to those suffered by U.S. diplomats in Havana. (Xinhua)

Sliding tourism arrivals follow record year: Cuba’s tourist arrivals fell 10 percent on the year in December, and is down 7 to 8 percent this month, according to Jose Manuel Bisbe York, president of Cuban state travel company Viajes Cuba. Destruction from Hurricane Irma and the Trump administration’s tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba contributed to the drop in tourist arrivals. Arrivals from the United States took the worst hit, falling by about 30 percent last December, Bisbe York said. Arrivals from Canada, Cuba’s largest source of tourists, were down 4 to 5 percent. (Reuters)

Canceled sugar exports: The president of Azcuba, Cuba’s state sugar monopoly, said the country canceled its sugar exports this month and is struggling to meet local demand. Heavy January rains and damage from Hurricane Irma have contributed to the low sugar production. Azcuba planned to produce 1.6 million tons of sugar this season, compared to the 1.8 million tons produced last season, according to a Reuters source. Sugar is one of the country’s most lucrative exports. Cuba typically consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tons of sugar annually. It sells 400,000 tons to China and the rest on the open market. (Reuters)

Dutch transit visa rule for Cubans kicks in: A group of Cuban LGBT activists spent Monday night at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport waiting for authorities from the Netherlands to respond to their request for asylum. The group used the Amsterdam layover of a Havana-Moscow flight to request asylum in the European Union. Dutch authorities recently noticed a spike in Cuban asylum requests, so on Monday they implemented a new airport transit visa requirement for Cubans. Cubans who must pass through a Dutch airport to go to a destination outside the Schengen area must now apply for a transit visa at a Dutch consulate or embassy, according to a government website(Local 10 News)

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