Daily Briefing – October 16, 2017

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

U.S. visas for Cubans: The State Department announced it will transfer current immigrant visa applications and schedule visa interviews for Cubans at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. Applicants must be physically present, making the visa application even more difficult for Cubans. The State Department stopped processing visas in Cuba indefinitely in response to unexplained “attacks” that harmed at least 22 U.S. diplomats and family members in Havana. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tampa Bay Times)

Calling back Canadians: Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said the island’s tourism industry has fully rebounded from the ravages of Hurricane Irma. Marrero Cruz made the comments during a visit to Toronto, which was his first foreign trip since Irma’s Category 5 winds slammed Cuba last month. Almost 944,000 Canadians have visited Cuba so far this year, and Marrero Cruz said he is determined to hit the one million mark by the end of the year. (CTV and the Canadian Press)

Trump nominates opponent of Cuba opening to State Department post: The Trump administration nominated Yleem Poblete to be the assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance. Poblete has worked with the House Foreign Relations Committee for nearly two decades. She also worked closely with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who thanked the Trump administration for selecting her for the post. Poblete is a staunch opponent of the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. (14ymedio and El Nuevo Herald)

Household internet on the way: Household internet service will be available in selected areas of seven municipalities in Havana by the end of October, according to state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. The Nauta Hogar service will be available to some homes with fixed-lines in the municipalities of Old Havana, Central Havana, Plaza de la Revolucion, East Havana, San Miguel del Padrón, La Lisa and Playa. ETECSA announced it changed the price of the service from 15 CUC per month for 256 kbps to 15 CUC per month for 1 Mbps. Customers will have a 30-hour monthly limit on using household internet. (EFE and Debate)

Casting doubt on “sonic attacks:” Many Cubans are skeptical of U.S. claims that a string of unexplained attacks harmed at least 22 U.S. diplomats and family members in Havana. The skepticism stretches from government supporters to its detractors. Some Cubans say the incident is being used to discredit the Cuban government. Others say talk of “sonic attacks” sounds like something out of Star Wars. The government has also expressed a more skeptical tone lately. (Associated Press and ABC News)

Tampa and St. Petersburg explore opportunities in Cuba: City council members, business leaders, and port authorities from Tampa and St. Petersburg will participate in a business meeting in Cuba on Monday, according to state-controlled media. The U.S. delegates will also meet authorities from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Transportation, and the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone, in addition to several other Cuban institutions. Some Cuban-Americans in Tampa and St. Petersburg oppose the city council trip. (Granma)

Legendary Cuban singer opens private restaurant: Omara Portuondo of the Buena Vista Social Club inaugurated a private restaurant called La Covacha in Havana on Saturday. “A place for meeting, music and good food. I wait for you with open arms,” Portuondo wrote on Facebook about the restaurant opening. (Ciber Cuba)

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