Daily Briefing – June 15, 2018

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Cuba to Cut Sugar Exports to Meet Local Demand: Facing a disastrously low sugar output this year, Cuba will have to reduce exports and draw on reserves to meet domestic demand, reports Reuters. Last year Cuba produced 1.9 million tons of sugar, of which it exported 1.1 million tons. This year, estimates Reuters, Cuba’s harvest fell to 1.1 million tons, due to a prolonged drought followed by Hurricane Irma in September. Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tons annually. Lourdes María Castellanos, director of international relations for Azcuba, said that Cuba will start this year’s harvest early to make up for some of the shortfall, and will “cut a little” its exports rather than slash national consumption. (Reuters)

Political Detentions in Cuba Drop Dramatically: According to the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the number of people held for political reasons has declined since President Trump took office. The Havana-based organization reported 5,155 cases last year, compared to 8,616 and 9,940 during the last two years of Obama’s administration. This year the number of cases ranged from 319 to 347 monthly during the first trimester, then fell to 128 cases in May, according to the independent commission. According to the commission, there are an estimated 120 political prisoners in Cuba today. (Miami Herald)

US Renews Call for Cuba to Solve Health Attacks: At yesterday’s opening meeting of the U.S.-Cuba Bilateral Commission in Washington, DC, the U.S. State Department again raised the issue of the mysterious health “attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Havana. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. is renewing demands that the Cuban government determine the source of these illnesses that affected some two-dozen U.S. employees and prompted the virtual shutdown of the U.S. embassy in Havana. Cuba has denied any blame, and its offers of cooperation with U.S. officials have been largely ignored. Similar illnesses of U.S. diplomatic employees in China have also been reported. (Associated Press)

Spain and Cuba to Meet Today in Havana: Spain’s Secretary of State for Trade, Marisa Poncela, is heading up a delegation scheduled to begin meetings today in Havana as part of the Cuba-Spain Business Committee. Representatives of more than 70 Spanish companies, largely in the energy, tourism and construction sectors, are part of the delegation from Spain. Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, along with the head of the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, Orlando Hernández, will chair the meetings, reports Cuban media. The program will include a tour of the Mariel Special Development Zone. (Escambray)

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