Daily Briefing – October 19, 2017

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

Following through on debt payments: Cuba paid the second installment of a $2.6 billion renegotiated debt to 14 member states of the Paris Club, according to diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The debt payment is part of a 2015 agreement by some Paris Club members to forgive $8.5 billion of the $11.1 billion official debt Cuba had defaulted on through 1986, plus charges. Cuba agreed to pay the remaining debt in annual installments through 2033. Cuba made its first $40 million payment last year. The agreement allows creditors to swap old debt, and in some cases current debt, for an equity stake in local development projects. (Reuters)

Tourist worries he may have been targeted by mysterious “attack” in 2014: Chris Allen of Charleston, South Carolina says he cut his 2014 trip to Havana short after he felt numbness in his limbs within minutes of climbing into a Hotel Capri bed. He spent thousands of dollars undergoing medical tests as his symptoms continued to recur. Allen has joined a growing list of private U.S. citizens asking if they were targeted by the same unexplained “attacks” that harmed at least 22 U.S. government workers in Havana. It’s not yet possible to determine whether Allen was targeted by the same “attacks” because the U.S. and Cuba have provided no answers about the weapon, culprit or motive linked to the mysterious incidents. (Associated Press)

Florida officials criticize Trump’s Cuba policy during Havana trip: Tampa and St. Petersburg city council members said during a visit to Havana that they do not agree with the Trump administration’s response to the mysterious “attacks” that harmed U.S. government workers. Tampa City Council Chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin said she is “greatly disappointed in the recent position taken by the Trump administration.” St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice said “we share your distress about unsupported hasty comments made without evidence.” (Local 10 News)

AG Sessions deflects questions on mysterious incidents: During a Senate judiciary committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he couldn’t confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into the mysterious “attacks” that harmed U.S. government workers in Havana. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) reminded Sessions that it’s already clear the U.S. is investigating the event. Sessions responded by saying he doesn’t believe an investigation has been confirmed by an authoritative government agency and that he’s “just not able to comment.” (Washington Examiner)

Back to business: Havana businesses that have recovered after Hurricane Irma are urging tourists to return to the island. They say many parts of the city have been ready to welcome tourists for several weeks. Some businesses that have not yet fully recovered said they expect to be operational by November. (Cuba Trade)

State media says Central Cuba still needs help after Hurricane Irma: Parts of Sancti Spiritus province in central Cuba still look like “the hurricane just passed,” according to state-controlled newspaper Escambray. Many residents in central Cuba are still staying in shelters with substandard amenities. Even though the government and some aid groups have assisted some communities in central Cuba, several residents have criticized the slow pace of recovery efforts. (El Nuevo Herald)

Melia reopens more hotels: Meliá Cuba has begun reopening hotels in Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Varadero that were affected by Hurricane Irma. The Spanish hotel group said it received support from Cuban tourism authorities to repair damages. Some hotels in Varadero and Jardines del Rey reopened this week, while others expected to reopen by Nov. 15.  (Travel Weekly)

Mosquito-borne diplomacy: Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Peter Agre was inducted into the Cuban Academy of Sciences for collaborating with Cuban scientists on infectious tropical disease research. Agre’s partnership with Cuban scientists builds on historical ties between U.S. and Cuban scientists. In 1900, American physician Jesse William Lazear and his Cuban counterpart Carlos Finlay discovered that mosquitos were responsible for the spread of the deadly yellow fever virus. (Cuba Trade)

State-controlled media outlets share tips: A delegation from Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Vietnam, visited the offices of Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. The two media outlets discussed online publishing, ways to incorporate multimedia, and how Nhan Dan could launch an online newspaper in Spanish. (Diario De Cuba)

Europe’s last dictator eyes Cuba visit: Belerus President Alexander Lukashenko said during a meeting with Cuba’s Ambassador to Belarus that he wants to visit the island in the near future. He said he wants to see his “friend” Raúl Castro and that he needs to pay his respects to Fidel Castro at his tomb. The two countries have strong economic and political ties. Bilateral trade reached $50.4 million from January to August.  (Belarus News Agency)

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