Daily Briefing – June 13, 2017

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

Elected to lead, not to read: Even though President Donald Trump is expected announce changes to Cuba policy on Friday, a White House spokesperson told El Nuevo Herald that the president has not read the final policy recommendations or made a decision in regards to the island. “The president has not seen the final proposal and has not approved it. He is a very independent president in his way of thinking and it would not be the first time he throws something back to be reviewed,” said White House spokesperson Helen Aguirre Ferré. (El Nuevo Herald)

The impact of restricting deals with military-run entities: White House spokesperson Helen Aguirre Ferré confirmed Monday that a proposal to restrict deals between U.S. companies and Cuban firms controlled by the military is “one of the many possibilities under discussion.” This is a big deal because experts estimate that the Revolutionary Armed Forces’ GAESA conglomerate controls nearly 60 percent of the Cuban economy. The conglomerate’s holdings include hotel chains, rental car agencies and sales companies, banks, credit card and remittance services, supermarkets, real estate development companies, gas stations, import and export companies, and shipping companies, among others. Telecommunications and agriculture are among the few sectors where GAESA does not operate. (Miami Herald)

Cuba says it is ready to deal: A high-level Cuban government official told CNN that President Raúl Castro is open to making a new agreement with President Donald Trump. Cuba has not yet said what would constitute a “better deal” for Trump. (CNN)

Republicans show support for Cuba travel, trade: About two thirds of Republicans support relaxing the Cuba trade embargo, while 19 percent oppose it, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the anti-embargo Engage Cuba lobby group. (The Hill)

Cuban-American organizations ask Trump not to roll back opening: Members of the CubaOne Foundation, which takes Cuban-Americans on immersive trips to the island, wrote a letter to the Trump administration asking it to not roll back the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. “Pepe” Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, said now is not the right time to reverse changes. (CBS Miami)

Venue apparently set for Trump’s Cuba announcement: Little Havana’s Manuel Artime Theater is likely to be the location where President Trump will announce his new Cuba policy. The White House has not yet released Trump’s schedule, but a spokeswoman said the Artime theater is one of several locations under consideration. Theater managers told at least one group that it would need to move its scheduled rehearsal to accommodate an “emergency meeting” on Friday.  (Miami Herald Naked Politics)

Travel in limbo: The boom in American travel to Cuba could dampen if the Trump administration tightens travel restrictions on the island. Even though the White House has not yet confirmed changes, some are expecting the administration to revert to regulations that require Americans to apply for a specific license to travel to Cuba, rather than traveling under a “general license.” That change would force American travelers to deal with more paperwork. Stricter rules may also spook potential travelers, said the president of a company that has organized travel to Cuba for decades. (New York Times)

Obama’s Cuba negotiator sounds off: Ben Rhodes told a crowd at the eMerge Americas conference in Miami that President Trump cannot completely reverse the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. “Nothing that I have seen seems to indicate that it will change completely,” Rhodes said. He added that tightened travel and trade restrictions would hurt Cuba’s nascent private sector. (Martí Noticias)

A tech group’s case for continuing normalization: Tech Freedom, a libertarian think tank that advocates for less tech regulation, argues that reversing the Obama administration’s Cuba opening will hurt U.S. companies and Cuban entrepreneurs. The group says U.S. tech platforms are already helping Cubans, and that a reversal will allow Russia and China to have the most influence on the island’s burgeoning tech and telecom sectors. (Medium)

Dissidents split, but agree Trump should prioritize human rights: Opponents of the Castro regime, both inside and outside Cuba, have diverse opinions on what the Trump administration should do in regards to the island. Some say Trump should support democratization movements, while others say the administration should promote private sector economic opportunities for Cubans. However, most agree the administration should demand Castro to respect civil liberties on the island.  (Martí Noticias)

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