Daily Briefing – June 15, 2017

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

Racing to send a message to the White House: Lawmakers, business leaders, dissidents, exile groups and human rights organizations are working overtime to try and influence President Donald Trump’s expected reversal of parts of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. Even though the White House has been tight-lipped on the specifics of Friday’s announcement, many Cuba experts predict Trump will tighten travel restrictions and discourage U.S. businesses from making deals with Cuban entities tied to the military. (Washington Post)

Rubio hints at a “better deal”: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is arguably the most prominent opponent of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening, signaled President Trump is going to announce a hardline policy toward the island Friday. “Economic practices that benefit the Cuban military at the expense of the Cuban people will soon be coming to an end #BetterDealforCuba,” he tweeted. (Marco Rubio Twitter)

Rubio interferes in Cuba-Colombia power play: A Rubio aide told Politico that Colombia suggested it might skip a Central America security conference hosted in Miami if Trump did not delay his Cuba policy announcement. Rubio told the White House to send a message to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that those actions would jeopardize the $450 million “Peace Colombia” initiative that President Obama pushed. (Politico)

Marriott stands to lose: A spike in Marriott’s lobbying expenses on Cuba travel issues suggests it is concerned about expected policy changes from the Trump administration. The president is expected to discourage businesses from conducting transactions with entities linked to the Cuban military. That would harm Marriott, because its Starwood subsidiary has managed the military-owned Four Points by Sheraton in Havana since summer 2016. Starwood has also signed on to manage two other hotels in Havana, but work on those properties has been delayed. (Washington Free Beacon)

South Florida businesses could feel the pinch of a Cuba rollback: President Trump is expected to discourage U.S. businesses from making deals with Cuban entities linked to the military during a speech in Miami Friday. Since the military operates in some way in nearly every sector of the Cuban economy, that would have an impact on South Florida businesses that have recently established a foothold in the island. Those businesses include cruise lines, airlines and shipping companies. (South Florida Business Journal)

Leahy sounds off: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), one of the most prominent advocates for engaging Cuba, argues President Trump’s expected hardline policy toward the island benefits Russia. “Bullying and ultimatums have proven ineffective with Cuba, and a backward move by the president would not only eviscerate his credibility on human rights, it could contribute to setting the United States and Russia on a track toward a next Cold War,” Leahy wrote in a The Hill op-ed. (The Hill)

An agriculture export advocate’s case for not reversing the Cuba opening: Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas.) argues a reversal of the Cuba opening will harm U.S. businesses and Cuban entrepreneurs. Poe also called on President Trump to expand agricultural trade with the island, and to support his introduced legislation that allows U.S. agricultural exporters to offer credit to Cuban buyers.  “I call on the president to listen to the will of the American people and the pleas of American farmers and continue to strengthen relations between our two countries,” he wrote in a The Hill op-ed. (The Hill)

Prominent anti-Castro exile group advocates reversal: The Center for a Free Cuba sent a thank you letter to President Donald Trump for his expected reversal of some of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. “We welcome the president to Miami because we know this is a first step,” Frank Calzon, the center’s executive director, told reporters Wednesday. (Miami Herald)

“New ammunition to the Cuba’s dictatorship”: Even though the Obama administration’s Cuba opening failed to improve human rights, Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer argues a partial reversal of that policy may make things worse. “It may backfire, by shifting world attention away from the Cuban regime’s oppression of its people to what Cuba will now claim is a new ‘U.S. aggression’ against the island,” he wrote. (Miami Herald)

The potential damage of a hardline policy: A partial reversal of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening will provide the Castro regime an excuse for the country’s economic failures, argues Christopher Sabatani, an international and public affairs lecturer at Columbia University. A partial reversal also does not guarantee human rights improvements and it surrenders U.S. leverage in negotiations with Cuba, he says. (New York Times Opinion)

The visa conundrum: Even though U.S. commercial airlines have sent travelers to Cuba since August 2016, the process of acquiring visas is still daunting to many potential visitors. Airlines have worked hard to educate travelers on how to meet one of the 12 categories for authorized travel to Cuba. The airlines are also using varying strategies to give passengers Cuban entry permits. (Miami Herald)

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