Daily Briefing – June 14, 2017

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

Trump advisors worry president could go off-message: President Donald Trump has a draft plan to partially reverse the Obama-era Cuba opening, but some of his trusted advisors told McClatchy he could change his mind spontaneously. “I believe in nothing until the president says it because of what we’ve seen, especially with what happened with Article 5 and NATO,” said an unnamed person familiar with White House discussions. (McClatchy DC)

The fight to influence Trump: Those in favor and against engagement with Cuba are scrambling to insert their interests into President Trump’s Cuba policy announcement. Dissidents, exile advocacy organizations, human rights organizations, entrepreneurs, university professors, and politicians from both U.S. political parties have all penned letters to the White House. (Miami Herald)

Human Rights Watch weighs in: Human Rights Watch is urging the Trump administration not to roll back the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. On Tuesday, it wrote: “Reversing the Obama administration’s changes in United States policy toward Cuba will not improve respect for human rights on the island.” (Human Rights Watch)

Amnesty International sends a warning: Amnesty International says it will be more difficult to independently scrutinize human rights issues if President Trump reinstates trade and travel restrictions on Cuba. “If President Trump returns to the cold-war rhetoric of isolation, we will revert to a politicization of human rights abuses on both sides, which will be detrimental to advancing independent scrutiny of Cuba’s human rights situation,” said Marshella Goncalves Margerin, advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA. (Amnesty International)

Dissidents ask for some change: Many dissidents in Cuba agree President Trump should apply some pressure on the Castro regime, but they have different opinions on the best way to accomplish that. The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) wrote that “this is the moment for a maximum reversal of some policies that only benefit the Castro regime and does very little or nothing for the oppressed people.” Another group is asking Trump to support a citizen initiative for a plebiscite seeking democratic changes in Cuba. Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas says a proposal to limit U.S. companies from doing business with companies linked to the Cuban military goes “directly to the jugular of the regime.” (Miami Herald)

Tillerson signals hardline policy, despite plea from Democrats: One day after a group of 14 Democratic senators urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to roll back the Obama administration’s Cuba opening, he signaled a hardline Cuba policy. Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama approach inadvertently provided financial support to the Castro regime and the new policy will focus on human rights. (Cuba Trade Magazine)

Female entrepreneurs look to Ivanka: A group of 55 female entrepreneurs in Cuba wrote a letter to Ivanka Trump, whose official title is assistant to the president, to preserve Obama-era Cuba policies they say have benefitted their businesses. “Please support travel, trade, and exchanges between our two countries,” the entrepreneurs wrote in a letter organized by the anti-embargo Engage Cuba lobby group. (Cuba Trade Magazine)

Billionaire takes on billionaire: South Florida political mega donor Mike Fernández isn’t holding back on his criticism of President Trump’s expected reversal of some Obama-era Cuba opening policies. “In just a few days, Trump, one of the least trusted men in America, will come to Miami claiming he is doing something for Cuban Americans here and on the island. We will be lied to, and some in Miami will cheer,” the Cuban American healthcare businessman wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed. (Miami Herald)

Cuba’s election cycle begins: Cuba’s Council of State announced Wednesday that voting for municipal assemblies will take place on Oct. 22. It did not announce a date of voting for municipal elections, which selects the new Council of State and the president. Above the municipal level, Cubans can only choose candidates approved by the Communist Party. This election cycle is likely to be the last of Raúl Castro’s presidency, who is expected to step down in February. (ABC News and AP)

Beloved Miami ambassador not allowed to represent city in Havana: Ron Magill, Zoo Miami’s charismatic communications director, did not receive approval from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to represent the zoo at a conference in Havana, says Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago. Magill attended the conference on his own time, and with money he raised, but he called the experience “embarrassing.” (Miami Herald)

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