Daily Briefing – October 23, 2017

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

Two more victims confirmed: The State Department increased the official tally of American government workers harmed by the mysterious “attacks” in Havana from 22 to 24. Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the victims “do not reflect new attacks,” and the most recent attack is believed to have happened near the end of August. The State Department said it can’t rule out “additional new cases.” (Associated Press and ABC News)

Countering a demographic downturn: Cuba is a difficult place to raise a child, and that has discouraged many Cubans from having children. The impact of fewer children is that Cuba has an aging population. While Cuba’s demographic challenges are multifaceted, the rise of private daycares may convince some prospective parents that it is possible to raise multiple children while maintaining a demanding job. (Cuba Trade)

“American” travelers dominate U.S. flights to Cuba: More non-Cuban U.S. travelers flew to Cuba from the U.S. in the first half of 2017 than Cubans and Cuban-Americans, according to the Havana Consulting Group. The number of non-Cuban U.S. air passengers who visited Cuba in the first half of 2017 surpassed the total number of non-Cuban U.S. air passengers in 2016. (Cuba Trade) 

Cuba’s industrial gamble: The Mariel Special Economic Development Zone and its adjacent port and container terminal have regularly been billed as Cuba’s foreign investment future. Cuba envisions the complex to become a commercial city built on high-tech, advanced manufacturing and sustainable development. So far only 27 companies, including firms from Cuba itself, have been given the green light to set up shop in the development zone. Only nine are currently operating. Mariel aims to become a transshipment hub for the Americas, but standing in the way of that lofty goal is competition from other ports and the ever-present U.S. trade embargo. (Miami Herald) 

UN downgrades projected 2017 growth: The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) downgraded Cuba’s projected economic growth for 2017. CEPAL’s October projection estimates that the Cuban economy will grow by 0.5 percent in 2017 – a reduction from the 1 percent growth it predicted earlier in the year. Destruction from Hurricane Irma, reduced oil deliveries from Venezuela, less revenue from the exportation of service professionals, and low global nickel prices are likely contributing to the downgrade. The Cuban economy shrank by 0.9 percent last year. (CEPAL)

Lessons for refurbishing apartments in Havana: An American who is partnering with Cubans to rebuild modernized apartments in Old Havana to host tourists shared some advice for entrepreneurs with a similar mission. She says success will come to those who develop and hire local talent, build the infrastructure, lead with heart, create alliances with other entrepreneurs, create opportunities for people-to-people exchanges, and collaborate to build capacity. (Forbes)

Korea sends aid to Cuba: South Korea will assist Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in Cuba by providing the island humanitarian assistance worth $300,000. South Korea will also provide humanitarian assistance to other hurricane-affected countries such as Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Antigua and Barbuda. (ReliefWeb)

Peru homebuilding supplies to Cuba: Peru sent 14 tons of humanitarian aid to Cuba on Saturday. The donation mainly consists of bedding and materials Cuba can use to build temporary houses. Peruvian authorities said the donation is a way of thanking Cuba for helping it during a recent string of deadly floods. (AFP and El Universo)

Cuba sends aid to Dominica: A Cuban ship with 300 tons of humanitarian aid arrived in Dominica on Friday, according to a state television report. The delivery includes cement, steel bars, water, food and other materials to help Dominica deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. At least 30 people in Dominica died and 80 percent of the island’s buildings were destroyed because of the Category 5 storm.  (EFE and El Nuevo Herald)

Amid deteriorating relations, a gift from the U.S.: Cuba unveiled a bronze replica of a New York City statue of independence hero José Martí on Friday in central Havana. The nearly 19-foot tall statue was delivered from the U.S. about two weeks ago, while both countries dealt with the fallout of the mysterious “attacks” that harmed at least 24 U.S. government workers in Havana. The original statue sits at the south entrance to Central Park, not far from Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. Eusebio Leal, the official Havana City Historian, said the statue intentionally faces the Florida Straits and suggested it represents a future with improved U.S.-Cuba relations. (Reuters)

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