Weekly Briefing — August 6, 2018

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Forum: Will Cuba’s New Constitution Bring Major Changes? In a survey of leading pundits about the new Cuban constitution, approved in draft form July 22 by the National Assembly, The Dialogue’s Latin American Advisor examines the pros and cons. On the pro side, most agree that the new constitution takes a major step forward by recognizing and protecting both private property and foreign direct investment as part of socialist Cuba. Most also concur that term-limits for the presidency, and power sharing with a prime minister and provincial governors, will create greater government efficiency. However, most concur that the ultimate power will still remain with the Communist Party, and that the economy will remain under tight state control, with high taxes and stringent regulations to be imposed on the private sector. (The Dialogue)

Input on New Constitution to Include Citizens Living Abroad: The Cuban government announced last week that the public debate over the new constitution – to include meetings at 35,000 work places and community centers, well into November – will also include Cubans citizens living abroad. The government said it would make the proposed changes available on the internet, and include a form that citizens overseas can fill out with their opinions and proposals. All such input will be considered before a final draft is submitted for national referendum, authorities said. Some two million Cubans, including those born outside of Cuba, live aboard; 11 million live on the island. (Reuters)

Connecticut Governor Attacked After Praising Cuban Health Care. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said last week that Cuban’s health care system was the best in the Western Hemisphere, including that of the United States. Gov. Malloy was promoting a $10 million investment in the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center in New Haven when he made the remarks, noting that U.S. health care had deteriorated significantly since WWII. Gov. Malloy came under immediate attack by state legislator Sen. Art Linares, who cited Cuba’s political repression. Gov. Malloy cited a Rand Corporation study and a Commonwealth Fund study, both of which cited high life expectancy and low infant mortality rates, despite expenditures less than one-tenth per capita than that the of U.S. (Newsweek)

Confused Americans Opting for Cruise Travel to Cuba: U.S. visitors to Cuba increased by 5 percent in June (to 68,000), but for the first half of 2018 the overall numbers were down 24 percent. More importantly, during that period, half of all U.S. visitors arrived by cruise ship, up from one quarter last year. Cuba recorded a record 4.7 million visitors in 2017, including 619,000 Americans. But since November, when “people-to-people” trips were eliminated by the Trump administration, some 55 percent of Americans say they do not understand the current travel restrictions, according to a survey by Allianz Global Assistance. This has led to a 27 percent fall in interest by Americans in travel to Cuba, according to the same survey. The result has been a sharp increase in the cruise line alternative for individual travel. (Forbes)

Cuba to Study Climate Change for Sugar Harvests: In the face of shrinking sugar harvests, Cuba is studying whether to adjust its sugar-harvest calendar in response to damaging changes in the island’s climate, according to government media. Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel has ordered state sugar company Azcuba to work with the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment to carry out a study and make necessary changes. Cuba’s most recent harvest fell below one million tons for the first time last year; the Cuban annual harvest exceeded 7 million tons in the early 1990s. (ENCA)

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