Daily Briefing – June 12, 2017

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

The moment we’ve all been waiting for: President Donald Trump will visit Miami on Friday to announce some rollbacks to the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. The specifics of the rollback aren’t yet clear, but sources close to the administration’s Cuba policy review say it was influenced by pro-embargo hardliners Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.). Many do not expect Trump to close the U.S. embassy in Havana or reinstate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. It’s not yet clear where Trump will make the announcement. (Politico)

Congressional Republicans urge Trump to not reverse Cuba opening: Two groups of pro-engagement House and Senate Republicans sent letters to the White House asking the administration to not reverse the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. The Republican lawmakers argue that a rollback will hurt Cuban entrepreneurs and make it more difficult to resolve national security issues. (ABC News)

Concerns about Russia, China swooping in: The pro-embargo congressmen who sent a letter to the White House also warned that changing course with Cuba could allow Russia and China to become the dominant players on the island. If the two countries decide to fill the vacuum, it “could have disastrous results for the security of the United States.” (Daily Caller)

Flake’s message on Cuba: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), one of the most prominent voices on engagement with Cuba, argues that a Cuba policy rollback will hurt a private sector that has only recently started to prosper. “Do we really want to turn back the clock?” he wrote. (Medium)

Human rights group defends Cuba opening: Amnesty International USA argues that rolling back the Obama administration’s Cuba opening will hurt ordinary Cubans most. The group says Obama’s trip to Cuba finally opened the door for international human rights groups to observe the island with scrutiny and transparency. Amnesty International USA said it was ironic that the Trump administration cited the Cuban government’s human rights abuses as a justification for the policy adjustment. “More travel, more communications’ access and more dialogue with Cuba are the way forward for human rights in Cuba,” the group wrote. (Medium) 

Cuba Study Group sends a message to Trump: The Cuba Study Group and its business allies sent a letter to the Trump administration asking it to continue normalizing relations with Cuba. It argues that a rollback of the Cuba opening will hurt the U.S. economy, damage Cuba’s nascent private sector, make it more difficult to resolve bilateral national security issues, and hurt the U.S. standing in Latin America. “Returning to a policy of isolation would only contravene the wishes of most Cubans and Cuban-Americans and threaten U.S. national security, commercial opportunities and jobs,” part of the letter reads. (Cuba Study Group)

A drug smuggling warning from Havana: Two officials at Cuba’s Interior Ministry said they are seeing an increase in drug smuggling now that U.S.-Cuba relations are wavering. They say smugglers who once brought Cuban migrants to the U.S. are now increasingly delivering drugs across the Straits of Florida. At the same time, the officials said two scheduled meeting with their U.S. counterparts were either canceled or postponed as the Trump administration conducted its full-review of Cuba policy. (CNN)

Rubio pushes back against Comey questioning accusations: Rubio denied accusations that he made a deal with the Trump administration to ask soft a line of questions to former FBI director James Comey in exchange for a hardline Cuba policy. The senator said the focus of his questioning was to make sure Trump didn’t ask Comey to get rid of the Russia investigation. Rubio’s questioning drew criticism on social media and from a Miami Herald columnist who suggested he deliberately defended Trump in exchange for a hardline Cuba policy from the White House. “This isn’t from @TheOnion it’s a ‘real’ column. & why would I care about Cuba? Same writer says I’m not really Cuban,” Rubio tweeted. (Politico)

Filmmakers in Cuba wait for Trump’s announcement: Film production in Cuba has hit a lull because filmmakers are waiting for the Trump administration to craft a definitive policy, said participants at a film panel that discussed producing movies for a global audience. (Deadline)

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