Strengthened US sanctions on Cuba disappoint scientists

Cuba has been subjected to an economic embargo by the United States since 1962. Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty

US President Donald Trump plans to roll back policies that aided collaboration between US and Cuban scientists.

On 16 June, US President Donald Trump announced that he would strengthen travel and trade restrictions against Cuba, reversing his predecessor’s attempts to normalize relations with the country. The move is a blow to scientists who hoped that former president Barack Obama’s push to relax US restrictions on Cuba would make it easier for researchers there to travel and to collaborate with colleagues in the United States.

“People feel very disappointed,” says Pedro Valdés-Sosa, vice-director of Cuba’s neuroscience research centre, CNEURO, in Havana. “They feel like we’ve all moved on beyond the cold war stage, and it isn’t good for the Cuban people. This is just politics.”

Since 1962, US companies have been banned from selling products to Cuba. Because this embargo encompasses reagents and scientific machinery that contain even a few components made in the United States, it has been difficult for Cuban scientists to acquire modern research equipment and materials.

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Farmers Urge Caution on Cuba Policy

Importing $2 billion worth of food each year, Cuba represents the kind of growth opportunity U.S. farmers and ranchers need during this challenging economic period, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said recently as he encouraged the administration to tread lightly in making new rules for doing business with Cuba that would limit U.S. agricultural export opportunities.

President Trump’s recently announced policy changes relate to travel, tourism and benefits to the Cuban military. Under new regulations to be released from the Department of the Treasury, Americans traveling to Cuba will be audited to ensure that they are complying with regulations. In addition, Americans visiting Cuba and businesses will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with any entity that has ties to the Cuban military.

While none of the policy changes are directly related to U.S. farm and ranch goods, they likely won’t help grow U.S. agriculture’s mere $200 million sliver of the Cuban food import market.

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Congresswoman Clarke’s Statement on Donald Trump’s Reversal of President Obama’s Cuba Policies

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke released the following statement on Donald Trump’s reversal of President Barack Obama’s policy of opening relations between the United States and Cuba. Trump announced that he will limit travel by American citizens to Cuba and restrict financial transactions with many sectors of the island nation’s economy.

“President Obama worked to transcend past mistakes and build a future defined by the common interests and aspirations of the United States and Cuba. Collaboration on issues such as family reunification, human rights, the interdiction of narcotics, and investment offer enormous benefits to the people of both nations. Now, Donald Trump wants to undermine those achievements, and turn toward a policy of mutual mistrust. The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats understand that the Cold War policy separating families and restricting economic development has outlived its usefulness. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate to join in an effort to restore President Obama’s practical, common-sense approach.”

clarke.house.gov, June 19, 2017

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Cuban Cyclist Marlies Mejias Wins 2nd in USA North Star Grand Prix

Minneapolis, US, Jun 19.- Cuban cylist Marlies Mejias, competing for professional club Shimano Ladies Power Team, won the 5th stage, and with that, the second place in the general classification list of the North Star Grand Prix in Minneapolis, US.

In the last stage, Mejias won for a 2nd consecutive day, this time at 14 laps in a circuit of 2.3 kilometers.

Mejias, 24 years old, winner of the intermediate sprints, commented to Cuban sport website JIT that the race had been quite hard, with ascents of even 700 meters over sea level.

Mejias was also the winner of two second places in Minneapolis.

The competition took Emma White, of Rally Cycling Women, as the champion who although she could not win over Mejias in the sprint, retained the leader’s T-shirt on having crossed the finish line with the same time.

Before this Grand Prix, Mejías stood out in two previous ones that granted points for the world ránking of the International Cycle Union (ICU).

Mejias, the seventh place in the test of ómnium of the Olympic Games of Rio in 2016, made a debut in the middle of May successfully in the Wilmington of Delaware on a 40 kilometer trajectory.

Also in Arlington (Texas) she won the first stage, and was fourth in the following one to conquer the award.

The team Shimano will move by highway to Milwaukee, the biggest city of the state of Wisconsin, to the north of Chicago and close to the Lake Michigan, to cover in three days the Tour de Daryland, a draft of five stages, all in circuits and punctuable for the ICU. (Prensa Latina)

Radio Cadena Agramonte, June 19, 2017

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Havana to Host 18th Arte en La Habana Fair

Havana, Jun 19 (Prensa Latina) The 18th edition of the Arte en La Rampa Cuban Culture Fair will open its doors in Havana on June 30, with many varieties and proposals, until September 3, its organizers reported here Monday.

As usual, the event will be hosted by Pabellon Cuba, and this edition will be dedicated to the 19th World Youth and Students Festival.

Fostered by the Cuban Fund for Cultural Goods and the Hermanos Saiz Cultural Association, te event will show, offer and sell the work of outstanding Cuban artisans and artists, and will include activities for children and performances by dancing groups.

Concerts, presentations of books, audio-visual samples and discussions by renowned creators are also planned.

The objective of the Fair is to provide a wide range of recreational choices that meet the needs of the various audiences in a stage of the year as important as the summer, explained the Organizing Committee in a press release.

For this purpose, agencies such as the Cuban Recordings and Musical Editions Enterprise, Casa de las Americas and the Cuban Institute for Radio and Television (ICRT) will show their products and services to the population.

In other provinces of Cuba, there will be initiatives such as a fair called ‘El Caribe Hecho a Mano’ from July 3 to 9 in Santiago de Cuba, and others in Villa Clara.

hr/tac/jcm/gas

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Cuba Repeats Will to Continue Respectful Dialogue with U.S.

Cuba maintains its will to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation in matters of common interest with the United States, and to negotiate pending bilateral issues, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez stressed here on Monday.

In a press conference in Austria, the Cuban minister reaffirmed that such dialogue must take place on the basis of equality, reciprocity and absolute respect for our sovereignty and independence.

‘As proved by the achievements made over the past two years, Cuba and the United States can cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, respecting the deep differences between their governments and promoting everything that benefits both nations and peoples,’ Rodriguez underlined.

The foreign minister noted, ‘Cuba will not make concessions regarding its sovereignty and independence, it will not negotiate its principles nor will it accept conditions, as it has never done along the history of the Revolution.’

The changes that may be necessary in Cuba will be made on a sovereign basis by the Cuban people, as they have always be done. We will not ask for anyone’s opinion or permission, Rodriguez stressed.

PL, CubaSí

June 19, 2017

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Minnesotans claim Trump’s Cuba policy hurts economy, especially agriculture

MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) – After President Trump announced travel and business restrictions in Cuba Friday, dozens of Minnesotans were moved to rally outside the Federal Courthouse in protest.

“We feel a knot in our guts, we thought ‘this is a setback,’” Franklin Curbelo, a member of the Minnesota Cuba Committee, said Sunday. “He doesn’t even have his facts straight. The business community not only in Minnesota, but throughout the nation are salivating trying to open up trade with Cuba … because they want to sell the corn, they want to sell the chicken and they want to sell the beans 90 miles from Key West.”

Following Trump’s announcement Lt. Governor Tina Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minnesota, addressed reporters during a press conference to share their long-standing plans to head to the island nation in the coming days for a state trade mission.

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Disengaging with Cuba

President Obama’s engagement with Cuba was one of his administration’s success stories. The policy shift was based on the entirely realistic as well as humanitarian assessment that permanent estrangement deepens enmity, isolates two peoples and separates families, reduces opportunities for improvement in the quality of life in Cuba, inhibits the two-way flow of information, and prevents cooperation on common problems. But the Trump administration, pressed by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, is still fighting the Cold War, as evidenced by Trump’s disengagement order this week.

Let’s recall how Obama, in defiance of right-wing critics, reinforced his policy direction and personal visit to Cuba by issuing a legally binding order—Presidential Policy Directive 43—on October 14, 2016, just months before leaving office. PPD-43 makes the case for normalization of relations with Cuba, recites the extensive diplomatic exchanges that have occurred, outlines cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and expresses the hope of improvement in Cuba’s human rights, economy, and regional integration—all while reassuring Cuba that regime change is not US policy. Department by department, the document recites the numerous collaborative ventures ongoing and possible, such as on public health, food security, private investment, environment and ecology protection, immigration, travel, counter-narcotics, and joint scientific projects. One specific step taken by the administration at this time was to remove the ceiling on imports of Cuban rum and cigars. But the one thing Obama could not do was end the embargo, where right-wing members of Congress have always had their best chance to limit engagement.

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Farmers say Trump’s Restriction Reversal to Cuba, Will Hurt Agriculture in AR

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Farmers in Arkansas speak out against President Trump’s reversal of door-opening trade policies with Cuba.

Fifth generation farmer Robby Bevis spends his Saturdays out on his farm in Scott, AR.

“I have a son that farms with me who will be 6th generation,” said Bevis.

Bevis said it’s already hard work earning a living from the fields, and after President Trump’s decision to reverse travel and economic restrictions with Cuba, it may be an even bigger challenge.

“It’s a shame that this has happened because the markets are down farmers are having a tough time right now they need every dollar we can,” said Bevis.

Friday afternoon President Trump reversed restrictions with Cuba, once lifted by former President Obama.

“The last thing we need is shutting any opportunity we have with with trade with another country,” said Bevis.

The Arkansas Farm Bureau said they hoped an open trade with the Caribbean Country, a two billion dollar export, would economically benefit The Natural State.

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Heitkamp Statement on Cuba Policy

Press Release

Senator Continues to Push Bipartisan Bill to Allow Private Financing of U.S. Ag Exports to Cuba

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today released the following statement after the president announced he would be reversing some of the advances made in U.S.-Cuba policy during the previous administration.

“This administration’s actions roll back some of the progress our country has made in opening up Cuba to trade. After a 50-year embargo that did little to change Cuba, it’s time for a new approach – an approach that can benefit North Dakota farmers, while also bringing change to Cuba,” said Heitkamp. “North Dakota farmers look to Cuba as a hungry market for crops like beans, peas, and lentils—but right now, we can’t access that market and are losing out to China, Brazil, and Canada. That’s why I’ll continue pushing my bipartisan bill to support farmers by allowing them to privately finance agricultural exports to a promising market just 90 miles from U.S. shores.”

Earlier this week, Heitkamp urged the president not to leave American farmers and rural communities behind as he considered changing U.S.-Cuba policy. Heitkamp reinforced to the president that Cuba could become an important market for North Dakota growers of black beans, peas, and lentils—and that reversing course on Cuba policy could further restrict access farmers and ranchers in rural America have to the promising market.

Heitkamp has long pushed to expand producers’ access to Cuba. Earlier this year, she reintroduced her bipartisan bill to support farmers and American jobs by lifting restrictions on private financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba—the biggest barrier North Dakota farmers face in accessing Cuba. Heitkamp and Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas first introduced the bill to lift the ban on private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba in April 2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue endorsed the bill at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.

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