Daily Briefing – March 9, 2018

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

Cuba gears up for Sunday elections: Cuban election authorities are making final preparations for Sunday’s elections to fill all seats in the island’s National Assembly of People’s Power, and name delegates to provincial and municipal assemblies. The National Assembly will pick President Raúl Castro’s successor in April. Castro followed his brother Fidel Castro, who stepped down in 2008 and died in 2016, into power. His replacement will be the first person other than one of the Castro brothers to lead the country since the 1959 revolution. Cuba on Thursday condemned former presidents Andres Pastrana of Colombia and Jorge Quiroga of Bolivia for attempting to enter Cuba this week to accept an award from a dissident group, calling the event a “destabilizing” stunt to disrupt Sunday’s elections. (Channel News Asia, Xinhua)

Cuba marks first million visitors of 2018: Cuba has welcomed its first million tourists of 2018, putting it roughly on track to reach its goal of more than five million visitors this year, the Ministry of Tourism announced Thursday. Reaching the target for the year would set a record for the island. Canada sends the most tourists to Cuba, with large contingents also arriving from Germany, Russia, and Spain. Visitors from the U.S. hit a record of 619,777 in 2017 due to a relaxation in travel rules during the Obama administration. Trips from the U.S. have fallen since the Trump administration issued a travel warning last year following State Department allegations that U.S. diplomats in Havana had been targeted in mysterious sonic “attacks.” (EFE in 14ymedio)

Cuba, U.S. hold meeting on sea-rescue cooperation: The Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue System of the Republic of Cuba participated in a tabletop search-and-rescue exercise in Key West this week at the invitation of the U.S. Coast Guard. The meeting was part of ongoing cooperation between the two services, which conduct maritime rescues from opposite sides of the Florida Straits, under an agreement signed in January 2017. The Cuban delegation proposed another exercise by the end of 2018 in Havana. (Cuba’s Representative Office Abroad)

Beach resort adds hotel capacity: Cuba’s Jardines del Rey tourist destination expanded its capacity to 8,400 rooms in 18 hotels this week with the opening of the five-star Grand Muthu Cayo Guillermo Hotel. The new hotel is near Playa Pilar in the keys on Cuba’s northern coast in the central province of Ciego de Avila, an area hit hard by Hurricane Irma last year. The hotel opened with 425 rooms and is expected to have a total of 500 once completed. The all-inclusive, beachfront resort belongs to Cuba’s Gaviota S.A. hotel group. The area’s beaches face one of the world’s largest coral reefs. (Prensa Latina, Cuban News Agency)

Cuban, U.S. discuss joint efforts to battle Gulf spills: Officials from Cuba and the U.S. met in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday and Thursday to establish a plan for implementing their cooperation agreement on responding to discharges of oil, gas, and other potentially hazardous pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits. The Cuban team consisted of representatives of the ministries of Transportation, the Interior, Energy and Mines, Science, Technology and the Environment, Foreign Affairs, and National Civil Defense. The U.S. representatives came from the State Department and the Coast Guard. Cuba’s government said the meeting reflected the importance both countries place on cooperating to protect the marine environment. (Cuba’s Representative Office Abroad)

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