Daily Briefing – June 9, 2017

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

From Russia. With love?: Russia is once again shipping oil to Cuba and government officials have discussed reopening a military base on the island. Those actions have raised questions, but few answers, about the Kremlin’s geopolitical ambitions. Could those actions be timed to coincide with a potential reversal of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening? (Cuba Trade Magazine)

Airbnb backs Cuba engagement: Airbnb sent a letter to lawmakers and White House officials on Thursday to show its support for the Cuba opening. “We support your efforts in maintaining the opening that has been made with Cuba and your efforts in opposing further restrictions,” the letter said. The letter was sent several days after Airbnb reported that its Cuban hosts have been paid $40 million in the last two years. (The Hill)

What does Cuba have to do with Comey?: A potential U.S. policy shift on Cuba may have influenced Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) questioning of former FBI director James Comey during Thursday’s historic Senate hearing, suggests Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago. She says Rubio seemed most interested in getting Comey to publicly admit that President Trump “was not under investigation.” Rubio’s defense of Trump comes uncomfortably close to a yet unscheduled visit by the president to Miami to announce a rollback, she argues. (Miami Herald)

The Cuban government’s mixed message to businesses: On June 1, the Cuban Parliament legally recognized the existence of small- and medium-sized businesses, which were semi-legal before. At the same time, the Parliament also reminded private businesses that the accumulation of wealth is not allowed. (The World)

Who does an agricultural export tax punish?: It’s unclear whether a tax on agricultural exports to Cuba will create a breakthrough on bilateral relations, argues WLRN’s Tim Padgett. The export tax, which is being considered for a bill being drafted by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), would be used to compensate people with certified claims of property stolen by the government. There are few ways to determine whether that proposal will be popular with U.S. farmers, the Cuban exile community or the Cuban government. (WLRN)

Tour guides are busy, but worried about the future: Tour guides in Cuba say they have seen a marked increase in the number of Americans visiting the island. But they also said they are concerned that tourist arrivals could dip if the Trump administration fulfills a campaign promise to reverse the Cuba opening. (Fox News)

More worries from the tourism industry: Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, says a new Cuba policy from President Trump could damage progress made in the island’s tourism sector. “You have millions that work directly or indirectly with the tourism sector who are benefitting from the visit of Americans and travelers from other places in the world, so everyone is kind of waiting to see what will happen,” Laverty said. (Local 10)

 Cuba explores domestic oil prospects: With Venezuela slashing its cheap oil deliveries to Cuba, the island is drilling for its own crude. State oil monopoly CUPET hopes to tap part of a reserve which it estimates to hold 11 billion barrels of oil. A lot is riding on that potential breakthrough, because the company’s on-shore platforms have run dry and attempts to drill in the Gulf of Mexico have been unsuccessful. (Yahoo News and AFP)

Paris-Havana flights: French airline Corsair inaugurated its twice-weekly service between Paris and Havana on Thursday. Corsair’s president says the airline plans on adding a weekly flight between Paris and Thursday by next winter. (14yMedio and EFE)

Miami art museum inaugurates first of three Cuban exhibits: The Pérez Art Museum Miami inaugurated the first of three planned exhibits showcasing contemporary Cuban art. The exhibits will include the work of artists who live on the island, as well as those who don’t. (Diario De Cuba)

Miami politics as usual: A Miami candidate for the Florida House who blasted his GOP primary opponent for taking engagement photos in Havana has ties to a Cuban exporter. Jose Mallea once worked as a lobbyist for Ariel Pereda, a Miami businessman known for exporting food and supplies to Cuba through legal exemptions. Mallea recently ran an ad attacking Daniel Perez for taking a trip that feeds “the dictatorship while the Ladies in White are beaten, while dissidents are repressed, and while exiles long for their homeland.” (Miami New Times)

Tito Puentes dies at 88 in France: Legendary trumpet player Ernesto “Tito” Puentos, who earned international praise for fusing jazz and salsa, died Thursday morning in Montpellier, his agent confirmed. He was 88. (14yMedio and EFE)

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