Daily Briefing – June 20, 2018

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Credits from Abroad Funding Cuban Telephony: For some time now Cuban citizens have been using cell phone minutes as a medium of exchange, and as a way to transfer funds from abroad. Now the state phone company Etecsa is encouraging such transfers with discount offers for payments from overseas, reports the Miami Herald. Tania Velázquez, vice president for business and technology strategies for Etecsa, says the priority given to such payments is a way to obtain hard currencies for the state company. Nonetheless, she says that only 20 percent of refills come from abroad. (Miami Herald)

Cuba Continues to Emerge as a Prime Tourist Destination: Despite President Trump’s attempts to isolate Cuba, it is emerging as a new star in global tourism, reports the UK’s Independent. Tourism hotels and other facilities are sprouting across the country, with a falloff in American tourists being replaced by Canadians, Europeans and Chinese. Former British Embassy diplomat Nigel Baker predicts that British tourism will more than double, from 200,000 to 500,000 visitors a year, citing plans by UK developers to build beach and golf course complexes. The report also notes an uptick in foreign ownership of private property in Cuba. (Independent)

Miami-based Group Asks Trump for More Cuba Restrictions: The Inspire America Foundation, which includes many prominent Cuban Americans, has sent a list of requests to President Trump on the anniversary of his announced reversal of policies to engage Cuba. Among the requests: Restrict all travel and commerce until new elections are held and Cuba agrees to resolve U.S. property claims; stop granting visas to Cubans, including artists; declare Cuba a state sponsors of terrorism; and downgrade the U.S. embassy to an interest section. Members of the foundation include former Florida International University president Modesto Maidique and former Miami mayor Tomas Regalado, now director of Radio and TV Marti. (Free Beacon)

Can the U.S. Connect Cuba to the Internet? The latest efforts by the U.S. to expand internet access for Cuban citizens – the Cuba Internet Task Force – is still a long way from taking any action, according to a comprehensive report. The first objective of the State Department task force, which was launched in February, is to produce recommendations by October of 2019. The idea is that Internet access is key for developing a civil society, independent journalism, human rights, and economic development. While the Cuban government sees CITF as an attempt to undermine its authority, it has since 2016 increased Internet access via deals with Google and U.S. telecom carriers such as T-Mobile. (Global Voices)

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