Daily Briefing – March 7, 2018

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

Cuba imposes new import restrictions to curb debt: Cuba has imposed new restrictions on imports by state-run companies as the island’s government tries to curb growth of foreign commercial debt, Reuters reported Tuesday. State-run firms now must get a letter of credit from the central bank before buying foreign goods worth $100,000 or more. The move is aimed at making sure the companies have enough money to pay their foreign bills to avoid piling up debt. A western banker speaking anonymously told Reuters the move would likely spark a short-term reduction in imports and a slowdown in the contracting of supplies. (Reuters)

U.S. urges Cuba to focus on investigating sonic ‘attacks’: The State Department on Tuesday urged Cuba to focus on investigating the alleged sonic “attacks” that affected 24 U.S. Embassy employees in Havana last year, instead of criticizing Washington for indefinitely extending reductions in embassy staffing. The U.S. said Friday it was keeping last year’s staff cuts in place because the cause of the diplomats’ injuries remained a mystery. Cuban authorities called the move “political” and insisted that U.S. diplomats and tourists are safe in Cuba. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called on Cuba to “focus more on research and less on whether it is political.” (EFE in 14ymedio)

Clandestina t-shirt shop in Cuba enters U.S. online market: A hipster t-shirt shop in Havana called Clandestina has become the first Cuban company to set itself up to sell goods online in the U.S. The store made the move just as tightened U.S. travel restrictions made it harder for U.S. citizens to get to the shop in person. Clandestina’s co-founders, Idania del Rio and Spanish citizen Leire Fernandez, started selling used t-shirts with silk-screened phrases such as “99% cubano” and “Actually, I’m in Havana” in 2014, marketing them at first out of one of Cuba’s first private retail shops. Last year, they started selling them online, uploading the graphics for a South Carolina company, Frenzy, to print onto shirts and ship to foreign customers. Clandestina’s Cuba-based employees can be paid with the proceeds thanks to an embargo provision letting U.S. companies pay private workers on the island. (Cuba Trade)

Cleveland dancers begin collaboration in Cuba: Members of Cleveland’s Verb Ballets are rehearsing in Havana to perform with Cuba’s ProDanza under the name Cleveland Havana Ballet. “I still can’t believe it’s really happening,” said Verb dancer Kate Webb last week before the trip. “It means we’re a part of history, something bigger than ourselves.” The collaboration was announced in December. The dancers will perform “Yarini,” a new ballet by Ivan Alonso, grandson of the founder of the world-renowned Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Alicia Alonso. The central character in the work is Alberto Yarini, a pimp during Cuba’s war of independence who after his death “became a symbol of the Cuban spirit, a hero for the underdog,” said Verb artistic director Margaret Carlson. (The Plain Dealer)

Drum festival launches in Havana: The 17th Drum Festival “Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam” kicked off Tuesday in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood. The event is dedicated to the memory of Guillermo Barreto, considered one of the region’s great percussionists of all time. Among the drummers who committed to participating in the event are Samuel Formell, director of the legendary orchestra Los Van Van, and Rodney Barreto, an instrumentalist in the group of maestro Jesús ‘Chucho’ Valdés. (Prensa Latina)

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