Weekly Briefing – July 30, 2018

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Lawmakers in Cuba Endorse New Constitution: The biggest news last week was the endorsement by more than 600 legislators in Cuba’s National Assembly of the nation’s new constitution. The approval reforms the 1976 constitution with key changes. Among them: Legalization of gay marriage; elimination of “communism” as state policy; term limitations for the presidency; power sharing between the president, a prime minister and regional governors; recognition of private property and private business as part of “Cuba’s socialist economy.” The next step is for the constitution to be vetted by the public, which can suggest changes until Nov. 15, at which point the National Assembly can include rewrites prior to a nationwide approval referendum. (CNN)

New Cabinet Retains Most Old Ministers: Cuban lawmakers, along with approving the draft of a new constitution last week, also approved the cabinet named by President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Most of the minsters from ex-President Raul Castro’s government were kept in place, including revolutionary commanders Ramiro Valdes, Ricardo Cabrisas and Gen. Ulises Rosales del Toro. Also retained were Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and Finance Minister Lain Peraza. The main change was the absence of Marino Murillo, the minister for economic reforms. (ABC News)

Despite New Constitution, Cuba Faces Deep Challenges: In many ways, the new constitution in Cuba merely ratifies initiatives already put in motion of ex-President Raul Castro, writes The Economist. What has not been addressed is a weak banking system that encourages cash transactions and prevents the raising of capital; the state’s monopoly on a limited wholesale market; regulations that limit the selling of services to foreigners and commercial imports. The other initiative badly needed by ignored by the new constitution is currency reform, notes the Miami Herald. Cuba currently has two competing currencies, the Cuba peso (CUP) used by the population and the convertible peso (CUC) used by foreigners, entrepreneurs, and some state enterprises. Without unification, foreign investment will continue to lag. (Economist; Miami Herald

Panasonic Suspends Business with Canadian Supplier of Cuban Cobalt: Batteries supplied by Panasonic to car maker Telsa will no longer use cobalt supplied by Canadian energy producer Sherritt International Corp. A spokesperson for the battery maker said it was concerned that the cobalt they were using came from Cuba, and hence violated U.S. restrictions on doing business with the island nation. With the third largest reserves worldwide, Cuba produces more than five times more cobalt than the U.S. (Clean Technica)

Cuban and French Foreign Ministers Meet in Havana: Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s minster for Europe and Foreign Affairs, met over the weekend with the Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s head of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment. Le Drian is the first European foreign minister to visit Cuba since the election of Miguel Díaz-Canel are president of Cuba April 19. The meetings were a follow up of discussions in Paris in May between the foreign ministers of Cuba and France. (Prensa Latina)

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