Daily Briefing – March 12, 2018

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

Cuba holds elections in key step toward historic political transition: Cuba held one-party elections on Sunday that marked a final step toward picking the first person outside the Castro family to lead the island since the 1959 revolution. Voters are essentially ratifying a list of 605 candidates for 605 seats in the National Assembly, which will pick President Raúl Castro’s successor next month. Delegates to provincial assemblies were elected, too. The candidates, most members of the ruling Communist Party, were selected by government-linked organizations. The government billed the vote as a show of unity. Cuban exiles and some U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), urged President Trump not to recognize the results, calling them a mockery meant to legitimize dictatorship. (Reuters, EFE in 14ymedio)

Cuba’s likely next president promises more responsive government: First Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, considered the likely successor to President Raúl Castro, said that Cuba’s next government will be more responsive to the Cuban people. “The people will participate in the decisions that the government takes,” Diaz-Canel said in the central city of Santa Clara during Sunday’s legislative elections. “There has to be a focus on ties to, links with, the people, to listen to the people.” He also said that voting in the country’s legislative elections Sunday gave citizens a chance to defend their sovereignty as relations with the U.S. worsen under the Trump administration. Diaz-Canel said turning out to vote amounted to a tribute to the Cuban revolution and its late leader, Fidel Castro, who died in 2016. (The Associated Press, Prensa Latina)

Japan opens Havana office to oversee infrastructure projects: The Japan International Cooperation Agency has opened a Havana office as part of an effort to increase support for infrastructure development in Cuba, especially repairs to roads and public transportation. The office, which opened Friday, was established in response to a request from the Cuban government for help transportation, energy, and other key areas. Cuba’s Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Minister, Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, said the new office will help the two countries expand their cooperation. (NHK)

Some airlines drop Cuba flights, while others battle for more: Several U.S. airlines have dropped their Cuba flights due to low demand and rising U.S.-Cuba tensions, but the remaining carriers are battling for vacant slots. The Transportation limited daily round-trips to Havana at 20 when it reopened passenger service to Cuba in 2016. Since then, Frontier, Spirit, and Alaska airlines have bowed out, and Delta dropped some JFK to Havana service. Meanwhile, American is requesting to add daily service between Miami and Havana with Boeing 737-800s, while Delta is requesting Frontier’s Miami-Havana slot. United and Mesa airlines jointly requested more flights, some with smaller regional jets, while JetBlue said it should get more flights, arguing that American, Delta, and United already have 60 percent of the available runs. (USA Today)

Hotel project to boost tourism capacity in Sancti Spiritus province: Construction has begun on a 400-room hotel that will be the first property run by the Spanish chain Meliá Hotels International in the Ancón peninsula area of the central Cuban province of Sancti Spiritus. The all-inclusive beachfront hotel will significantly add to the resort capacity in the area, which now has a total of 652 rooms at the Trinidad del Mar, Ancón, and Costasur resorts. The three-story hotel, being built near María Aguilar Beach, is owned by Cubanacán SA. (Escambray)

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