Daily Briefing – September 20, 2017

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President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead.

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

U.S. and Cuban officials meet against backdrop of mysterious health incidents: Cuban and U.S. officials met in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as part of an ongoing series of “Bilateral Commission” meetings created by the Obama administration’s Cuba opening. The meeting highlighted growing fractures between the two countries. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the Trump administration is considering closing the recently reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana because of unexplained incidents that left at least 21 Americans with symptoms such as permanent hearing loss and concussions. President Trump’s new Cuba policy that bars U.S. businesses from engaging Cuban military-linked entities and tightens travel rules is also expected to take effect by the end of the year. The Cuban delegation denounced Trump’s Cuba policy and denied involvement in the alleged attacks. (Cuba Trade Magazine)

A case for not shutting down the U.S. Embassy in Havana: Closing the U.S. Embassy in Havana would punish Cuba for actions whose perpetrators remain unidentified, argues William LeoGrande, author of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana. The science and rationale for the alleged attacks on U.S. and Canadian diplomats is still too unclear for the Trump administration to make hasty actions, added LeoGrande. (Cuba Trade Magazine)

Trump’s tough talk on Cuba, Venezuela at UNGA: In his first remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump reiterated his administration’s promise not to lift sanctions on Cuba unless it makes “fundamental reforms.” Trump also criticized Cuba’s most important ally, Venezuela. He thanked Latin American countries for stepping up pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, and called on other nations to be prepared to do more to address the crisis. (Cuba Trade Magazine)

U.N. launches $55 million disaster relief plan for Cuba: The U.N. launched an action plan on Tuesday to assist the urgent needs of more than 2 million Cubans severely impacted by Hurricane Irma. The U.N. says the plan requires about $55.8 million, and it will include projects with a focus on shelter, food security, water, hygiene, health, education and coordination. Special attention will be given to groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, infants and young children. (UN News Center)

Cubans eager to get back to business: One of the best ways to help the Cuban people after Hurricane Irma is to visit the island, argues Cuba Educational Travel founder and president Collin Laverty. Cubans are eager to get back to business, but they need a steady stream of foreign customers who aren’t intimidated by reports of widespread devastation, added Laverty. (America’s Quarterly)

A plea to loosen customs restrictions: Cubans impacted by Hurricane Irma say they would like the Cuban government to loosen restrictions on bringing goods that were purchased abroad to the island. Cubans say Irma’s aftermath increased demand for food, clothing footwear and appliances, but customs fees and limits have not changed to reflect that demand. (14ymedio)

Sounding an early alert for Hurricane Maria: Cuba’s National Civil Defense Office issued an “early warning” on Tuesday for eastern Cuba ahead of Hurricane Maria’s projected path that takes it through waters to the northeast of Cuba by the weekend. The National Civil Defense Office warned that waves in eastern Cuba could top ten feet, and that there might be heavy rainfall in mountainous areas. Maria blasted through Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday. (EFE and 14ymedio)

A hit to the sugar industry: Hurricane Irma damaged more than 430,000 hectares of sugarcane fields, as well as the roofs of more than 20 sugar production facilities, according to the state-owned Azcuba sugar company. Azcuba said about 338,000 hectares of sugarcane were flattened, while 92,000 hectares were flooded. Almost all the flooded sugarcane fields have been drained and refineries are getting ready to process thousands of tons of raw sugar, according to Azcuba. Cuba’s sugar industry was counting on a high yield for the 2016-2017 harvest. (Diario De Cuba)

China-Cuba renewable energy cooperation: China’s Risen Energy said it won a bid to assist Cuba with the construction of solar park that will add up to 3.9 megawatts of power to the country’s electricity grid. The company will supply products for the solar parks. The value of the deal was not revealed in a Risen Energy press release. (MarketWatch)

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