Daily Briefing – September 19, 2017

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

U.S. to press Cuban officials on mysterious health incidents on diplomats Havana: The Trump administration will meet Cuban officials in Washington this week to express concerns with unexplained incidents that left at least 21 people linked to the U.S. Embassy in Havana with symptoms such as permanent hearing loss and concussions. U.S. diplomats will meet Josefina Vidal, who served as Cuba’s chief negotiator for U.S. affairs during the rapprochement period, as well as other Cuban officials. Vidal was recently named Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, whose diplomats also suffered similar symptoms. The Trump administration will be represented by John Creamer, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Cuba. (Associated Press and ABC News)

Top U.S. security official harmed by mysterious health incidents in Havana: The regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Havana is among at least 21 Americans affected by mysterious incidents that triggered symptoms such as hearing loss and concussions, according to two sources who spoke to CBS News. A list of personnel obtained by NBC News shows that victims of the suspected health attacks “include both top officers and lower-level employees whose duties range from diplomacy and security to medical services and maintenance.” (CBS News)

Panamanian president urges U.S. to keep embassy open in Havana: Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said the U.S. should keep its embassy in Havana open, according to Russian state-controlled media outlet Sputnik. “I think that dialogue is the solution to any political situation,” Varela said Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. He added that diplomatic ties should not be severed while both countries recover from Hurricane Irma. (Sputnik)

Updated U.S. travel warning to potential Cuba visitors: On Monday, the State Department advised U.S. citizens to “carefully consider the risks” of travel to Cuba while it recovers from Hurricane Irma. “Major roads are now open in Havana and power and water service has been restored in most of the city, but some parts of the country may be without power and running water,” the warning said. Monday’s warning was an update to a more expansive warning issued on Wednesday. The State Department advises U.S. citizens against going to the U.S. Embassy in Havana as it “suffered severe flood damage.” (Miami Herald)

Cuba keeping an eye on Hurricane Maria: Hurricane Maria, which blasted Dominica as a Category 5 storm on Monday night, is not expected to severely impact Cuba. Projections from the National Hurricane Center show the eye of the storm reaching waters to the northwest of western Cuba on Saturday morning. Richard Patterson, the Cuba director for CARE International, said it would be a blow for the island to get hit by Hurricane Maria while it recovers from Hurricane Irma. Many Cubans are still in emergency shelters and hotels are doing their best to recover in time for peak season, Patterson added.  (Radio Canada International)

Municipal elections postponed: The Cuban government announced it is postponing the first two rounds of municipal elections because of the “serious damage caused by Hurricane Irma.” The first two rounds of municipal elections will now take place on Nov. 29 and Dec. 3, as opposed to Oct. 22 and Oct. 29. The municipal vote is the only part of Cuba’s election that allows the participation of ordinary Cubans, though campaigning is not allowed. (Granma)

Facebook blocks, then unblocks the account of Castro’s daughter: Facebook blocked a profile belonging to Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuban leader Raúl Castro, after she solicited monetary donations for Hurricane Irma recovery. Facebook restored Mariela Castro’s profile after she reported it was blocked via Twitter. “We are very sorry for this error, the publication was mistakenly deleted and restored as soon as we could investigate,” a Facebook spokesperson said. The Cuban government’s decision to open a bank account to receive donations from abroad has created some controversy, which may explain why the profile was blocked. Government opponents and exiles argue the money will only enrich the government and military instead of helping hurricane victims. (14ymedio)

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