Saturday, January 30, 2021

Biden-Harris Petition Follow-Up

Update 11/10/21

Please review the blog posts in the right margin.

New Resources

November 15th Protests

Urgent Action: 

Push President Biden to Respond to Cuba’s Humanitarian Emergency and Restore Engagement  Urgent WOLA guidance to obtain support for a Dear Colleague letter from your member of Congress, click here

Posts from different perspectives about November 15 protests

Evolving Personal Thoughts on July 11 and November 15

"The Road Ahead: Exploring the Current Situation in Cuba" 

American University Symposium with 17 original papers

The American University's Center for Latin America and Latino Studies in collaboration with the Washington Office on Latin America presented a webinar on November 10 with Phil Brenner, Hope Bastian, William LeoGrande, John Kirk and MariaKarla Nodarse  view it here

"Cancion de Barrio"  A moving video of Silvio Rodriguez performances in poorer neighborhoods of Havana and other provinces, watch it here  (subtitled)


"For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football"


"Biden shouldn’t let right-wing Cuban Americans drown out Cuban voices"

by Jean Guerrero, AUG. 5, 2021  Los Angeles Times 

"Biden's Cuba Policy is Stuck on Trump's Autopilot"

 by Geoff Thale, Washington Office on Latin America  Responsible Statecraft

"Biden Stalls on Reinstating Cuban Remittances for No Good Reason"

by William M. LeoGrande, American University  Responsible Statecraft

Organizing Update 8/19/21

1)  Use the White House contact form to personally convey your views to the President and Vice President (Choose which from "Message Type").  If you were a campaign supporter, mention what you did (phone bank, donations, letter writing. etc.).  Explain how terrible it is (and for people you know in Cuba) that there has been a seven month politically motivated postponement in restoring remittances, travel and the embassy/consulate, especially desperately needed remittances.  Tell them why the July 11 protests are a reason for prompt reengagement between Americans and Cubans, not an excuse for further delay.

2)  If your Representative or Senators support engagement with Cuba, go to their web pages and click on "Contact".  Use the form to ask them to
 contact the White House urging no further politically motivated postponement in  restoring remittances, travel and the embassy/consulate.   Mention your reason for asking, personal experience in Cuba, etc. and tell them why the July 11 protests are a reason for prompt reengagement between Americans and Cuban not an excuse for further delay. 


Update 6/17/21

New Resources

"The Impact of U.S. Sanctions on Cuban Women"   A new Oxfam report with a foreword by WOLA, "Right to Live Without a Blockade: The Impact of U.S. Sanctions on the Cuban Population and Women’s Lives", will be the focus of a zoom program on Tuesday, June 22, 9:30 a.m. -10:30 a.m. (EDT)   Register here .  Oxfam organized an earlier webinar from Cuba which can be viewed here.

Dialog between Senator Leahy and Secretary Blinken on Vietnam and Cuba, read it here

"U.S. Policy on Cuba: Is It Safe to Go Back into the Water?" by Daniel Whittle, Legal News 

"Beyond the Embargo: The Case for an Engagement-Focused U.S. Strategy in Cuba" published by the American Security Project (an organization of retired senior military officers) 

'‘Shaking off inertia’: Cuba expands small and medium enterprises amid crushing crisis" by Adriana Brasileiro, Miami Herald

"Cuba approves long-sought legal status for private businesses" by Marc Frank, Reuters; posted here with official decree continuing state monopoly of tourism

"Roaring inflation compounds Cubans' economic woes" by Marc Frank, Reuters


"U.S. grants last minute visas to Cuban baseball team", Reuters

"Cuba says it is surprised and irritated by new U.S. terrorism charge", Reuters

"Hunger as a Weapon: How Biden's Inaction Is Aggravating Cuba's Food Crisis  If President Biden wants to support human rights in Cuba and empower the Cuban people, he can start by alleviating the food crisis by ending Trump's prohibition on remittances and restoring the right of U.S. residents to travel."  by William M. LeoGrande  Common Dreams

"Will Joe Biden Continue America’s Delusional Cuba Policy? An effective Cuba policy requires a realist mindset that recognizes, once and for all, Washington’s inability to impose its will on Cuba." by William M. LeoGrande, The National Interest

"Republican Sen. Jerry Moran hopes to lift embargo on Cuba to boost Kansas farmers" by Bryan Lowry, The Kansas City Star

"Are U.S. Officials Under Silent Attack? The Havana Syndrome first affected spies and diplomats in Cuba. Now it has spread to the White House" by Adam Entous  The New Yorker

"The acoustic attack epidemic", a Cuban perspective by Jesús Arboleya, Progreso Weekly

"Right to Live without a Blockade reveals the impact of nearly six decades of sanctions imposed by successive US governments on the Cuban population", an excellent new well illustrated report from Oxfam available on line here

Syringes for Cuba 

Cuba's economy has been devastated by the collapse of tourism, Trump's termination of remittances and insufficient domestic reforms.  A U.S. fund raising campaign has been launched by solidarity groups to purchase three to five million OFAC licensed syringes to enable nationwide use of Cuba's locally developed vaccines.   Tax deductible donations can be made directly to the campaign organized by Global Health Partners (GHP) here.  

Update 4/11/21 

Following is an English translation of the full interview with Juan Gonzalez, the top ranking Western Hemisphere person at the National Security Council:

"On the subject of the visas, we have a promise, like you referred to, to process 20,000 immigrant visas per year based on the migratory agreement. We are not fulfilling that at this moment because we have to make sure that our personnel at the United States embassy is safe, and that they are not in danger of microwave attacks, or, I don't know what they're calling it today. That is the focus. The president also, during the campaign, clearly said that his commitments were to lift limits on travel and remittances, but to be very direct with you, Juan Carlos, it´s that, Joe Biden is not Barack Obama when it comes to his politics towards Cuba. I think that both, the political moment has changed in an important way. There has been a closing in the political space because the Cuban government has not responded in any way and in fact the oppression against Cubans is worse today than maybe it was during the Bush administration. So, I think that, at this moment these are the commitments that have been made. They will get done at some point, but we are focused on various crises around the world and on the situation domestically. But those who think that the United States, in this moment, is going to enter a dialogue of multiple years with Cuba, I think that they don´t understand the political moment of today, the situation in which we are living, or frankly, I'd say that the disorder we inherited from the previous administration, that might not be where we will invest our initial political capital or the time of this administration."

Contrast this with Gonzalez' interview with Univision pasted below.

There is some discussion about whether this is Gonzalez' own view, and ignorance of history, or reflects higher level opinion in the White House, but below that of the President and Vice-President. 

Does he or they not know that the Black Spring took place during the Bush Administration when Cuba responded to deliberate provocation with the arrest, show trials and imprisonment of 75 dissidents?

It certainly raises serious doubt about how much they really care about the well-being of the Cuban people or of their families in the US who can no longer provide desperately needed remittances or bring them here for family reunion visits or immigration.

Using the Havana Syndrome excuse for no immigrant visas is pure Trump.

Gonzalez casually blows off the campaign statements of Biden and Harris when they promised to "promptly restore" Obama's policies.  Whether or not Joe Biden is Barack Obama on Cuba, he is not Donald Trump and Gonzales should not be Mauricio Claver-Carone.

"Done at some point" is morally and politically unacceptable.  Cuba policy is a salient example of the "disorder inherited from the previous administration".  Inaction cannot be excused by other priorities.

Hopefully Gonzalez on-the-record statement will provoke enough angry response that it leads the Administration to want to show it was not true.

The same vehicles suggested below still apply.  Make your sentiment about Gonzalez' interview known on the White House contact form and by asking for action by your Representative and Senators.

--John McAuliff


New Resources
Pod Save the World  Broad ranging discussion between key Obama negotiator Ben Rhodes and Ric Herrero of the Cuba Study Group at 58.42

US-Cuba Bilateral Relations Under the Biden Administration  Panelists: Richard Feinberg, UC San Diego; Michael Bustamante, Florida International University; Javier Corrales, Amherst College; Ted Henken, Baruch College, CUNY; William LeoGrande, American University. Moderator: Margaret Crahan, Colombia University.  Recorded on 03/25/2021

Speakers from Cuba  A series of weekly zoom programs offer solidarity perspectives from Havana on the economy, culture, feminism, US sanctions, race relations, health and COVID from academics who meet with visiting Americans (Ricardo Torres, Luis Montero Cabrera, Marta Nuñez, Nancy Morejón, David Faya).  The programs can be seen on the Massachusetts Peace Action youtube channel here    


Biden-Harris Administration Statements

On the problematic side, Jan Psaki said in a White House briefing on March 10

Perhaps because of complaints, Ned Price said this at the State Department a day later:

Department Press Briefing - March 11, 2021 - United States Department of State

QUESTION: Hey, Ned. On Cuba, the White House says a policy shift with Cuba is not a top priority for President Biden. Does that mean that the administration finds value in the current policy, or is it quite literally just not a top priority and something that you imagine you’ll get to later?

MR PRICE: It is a policy that we are reviewing. Secretary Blinken spoke to this yesterday. He spoke to the core principles that animate that review.
First, support for democracy and human rights will be at the core of our efforts, because we believe it is the means to empower the Cuban people to determine their own future; and second, as we’ve said before, we also know that Americans, especially Cuban Americans, are in most cases the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba. We are committed to both of these principles. Our review is being animated by both of those principles. We have also committed – and you heard this from Secretary Blinken up on the Hill yesterday – to consult closely with members of Congress as we undertake this review. So it is not that – it is not that this is in any way on the back burner. It is something we’re looking at very closely, and as that review progresses, we’ll consult with members of Congress. And when we have something to share, we’ll let you know.

The Secretary of State's responses at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee the day before are also worth listening to.  He adroitly mollified his hostile Cuban American questioners although they will try to hold him to their interpretation of what he said.

[Use the "Search this transcript" box for "Cuba".  The transcript itself is not 100% accurate but clicking on each arrow gives you the video.]

Secretary Blinken did not let himself be boxed in but it was unfortunate his only Cuba questions came from hard line opponents of normalization.  Why were our allies on the Committee silent?

Univision Interview with Juan Gonzalez, National Security Council Western Hemisphere Director 2/5/21

The Latin American director of the National Security Council was also consulted on biden's political approach to Cuba. In this regard, he said that the president "is also very clear that he seeks to lift the boundaries to remittances and also the possibility of Americans being able to travel to Cuba."

Gonzalez criticized the policy tightening towards the island maintained by the previous government, noting that they "only penalize American Cubans and the Cuban people in the middle of a pandemic," because many families were prevented from sending money to their relatives, and Trump "did nothing to try to advance a democratic future in Cuba."

"President Biden and spokes staff (Jen) Psaki have made it clear that his policy is based on two things: what are the national interests of the US and number two, what is the policy that will help put Cubans as owners of their own future."

State Department Press Briefing  2/5/21

QUESTION: Oh, great, thanks. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, called on the Biden administration to reverse Trump’s redesignation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terror. I’m wondering, has the State Department made a decision to do so yet? Or if not, and it’s still under review, what does that review entail, and do you have a timeline on when that review might be wrapped up? Thanks.

MR PRICE: Well, let me speak a little bit about our overall overarching policy when it comes to Cuba, and it’s a policy that will be governed by two principles. First is the support for democracy and human rights. It will be at the core of our efforts through empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future. And second, we believe that Americans, and especially Cuban Americans, are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba. We’re committed to making human rights a core pillar of our U.S. foreign policy. That certainly applies to Cuba, just as you’ve heard me reference it across the board, and includes redoubling our dedication to human rights throughout our own hemisphere.

Despite, human rights defenders around the world continue to look to the United States to – for support against authoritarian regimes. This is one of those issues that we will continue to rally our allies and partners against. And in the administration we’ve also committed to carefully reviewing policy decisions made in the prior administration, including the decision by the outgoing administration to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. I wouldn’t want to go into any further details. But as we take a look at this issue into our broader policy with Cuba, those principles will continue to be front of mind.



On-line zoom briefing 

"Mapping Out Change:
The United States and Cuba: A New Policy of Engagement"
Originally on line Friday, February 26, 2021  2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. ET

Organized by Center for Democracy in the Americas and Washington Office on Latin America

Congressional sign on letter to the President

Sponsored by Representatives Rush, Cohen and Moore.  Supported by 80 members of House.  
Text and signers here  

Cuba Study Group
A Case for Making Engagement Resilient as a Means of Providing Long-Term Support for the Cuban People
32 pages, view by clicking here

The United States and Cuba: A New Policy of Engagement
28 pages, view by clicking here

"56 Groups Urge the Biden-Harris Administration to Take Immediate Action to Normalize U.S.-Cuba Relations"
View sign-on Letter by clicking here 

Open Letter to President Biden organized by La Joven Cuba
For English version with initial signers, click here 
For Spanish version with 800 signers including many prominent Cuban intellectuals and artists, click here.


Articles of Interest

The Editorial Board of  persuasively argues the case for the distinction between restoration and review of Cuba policy here

That will require lifting Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which the Trump administration imposed in its closing days with no real justification. Biden will also need to restore frayed diplomatic ties — appointing an ambassador, staffing up the U.S. embassy (taking additional security precautions while the cause of a mysterious illness that struck U.S. diplomats in recent years remains under investigation), and resuming consular services so Cubans can travel to the U.S. again. The two sides should cooperate on public health to combat the pandemic and restart talks on security issues.

Further opening should focus for now on improving the lives of Cubans on and off the island. The administration should lift restrictions on remittances. And it should allow travel to the island, because American visitors are good for local enterprise. That means permitting flights to cities other than Havana and people-to-people exchanges, while drawing up a shorter “restricted list” of entities with which Americans are forbidden to do business.


"Biden to resume remittances, travel to Cuba, but other Obama-era overtures will take a while"
  by Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times  2/12/21

Now the Biden administration says it will lift some of Trump’s restrictions on business and travel between the U.S. and Cuba, and renew diplomatic talks.

But President Biden’s initial actions will disappoint advocates longing for the more robust relationship that was emerging in the Obama years.

Although he promised during the campaign to aggressively reverse Trump’s Cuba policy, Biden’s plans will have to roll out more slowly than some of his advisors had hoped....

Since Biden assumed office, his aides have become more circumspect about the plans for Cuba, repeating publicly that the policy is “under review.”

However, Juan Gonzalez, an Obama administration alum who is now head of Western Hemisphere affairs for Biden’s National Security Council, last week confirmed broad strokes of the new policy.

Biden’s “commitment on Cuba is to lift the limitations on remittances and make possible the travel of Americans to the island,” he said in Spanish to Spanish-language news channel Univision.

Cuban Americans move to try to influence Biden’s new U.S.-Cuba policy
The right wing rallies mostly Republican forces in Miami to try to prevent restoration but includes videos from Senator Menendez and Rubio, click here

Cuba opens door to most small business initiatives

By Marc Frank  Click here

HAVANA (Reuters) - In a major reform of the state-dominated economy, the Cuban government will allow small private businesses to operate in most fields, eliminating its limited list of activities, state-run media reported on Saturday.  

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Vietnam's Great Success Built on Agricultural Reform


1) This analysis from Vietnamese and German scholars published in 2010 is worth sharing.
The Transformation of Agricultural Producer Cooperatives: The Case of Vietnam
Axel Wolz and Pham Bao Duong
During the mid-1980s Vietnam experienced widespread hunger and malnutrition. This led to an economic reform process already before the transition in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the former Soviet Union (CIS). Vietnam embarked on a unique way of decollectivization which followed neither the Chinese model nor the direction of agricultural transition among CEE and CIS countries. The collective farms had to be either transformed into service cooperatives based on share capital and voluntary membership or liquidated. Vietnamese farmers had to meet two challenges. They again had to manage their private farms as entrepreneurs. In addition, they had to create new supporting organizations. After a slow start many farmers were successful in transforming or establishing agricultural cooperatives for their support during the last decade. Three phases of institutional development can be distinguished. The main features of agricultural cooperatives are analyzed.

2)  Also worth looking at is this 2019 study published in Sweden

 The rural transformation of the two rice bowls of Vietnam: the making of a new Asian miracle economy by Montserrat Lopez Jerez

This paper assesses the factors driving inclusiveness in Vietnam's rural transformation by comparing the two rice deltas of the country since reunification in 1975. In order to achieve this, a pro-poor institutional development approach based on Adelman is applied. We focus on asset-oriented, demand-generating and price-increasing interventions. Our findings point out that the experienced growth might be considered inclusive, but the dynamics of poverty reduction, income generation, and productivity-enhancement are substantially different in the two delta economies. This might have implications for the prospects of Vietnam's continuation in a 'growth with equity' model, if policies and innovations are not locally adjusted.
Montserrat is Spanish teaching now in England.  Her bio is interesting.  I wonder if a visit to Cuba would be useful.

3)  This 2016 World Bank report contains a different kind of insight into the dramatic reform of Vietnamese agriculture and markets 

Transforming Vietnamese agriculture : gaining more from less

Over the past quarter century, Vietnam's agricultural sector has made enormous progress. Steady advances in smallholder rice productivity and intensification through the 1990s and beyond have played a central role in Vietnam's successes in poverty reduction, national food security, and social stability. Vietnam once experienced hunger yet its per capita food availability now ranks among the top tier of middle-income countries. Many countries are trying to learn from Vietnam's food security success. Vietnam's average rice yields now trail only those of China among Asia's emerging economies. The country has also achieved explosive growth in agricultural exports and now ranks among the top five global exporters in products as diverse as shrimp, coffee, cashews, rice, and pepper. Vietnam's performance in terms of agricultural yields, output, and exports, however, has been more impressive than its gains in efficiency, farmer welfare, and product quality. Vietnam lags behind regional peers in relation to agricultural land, labor, and water productivity and has seen its once robust growth in total factor productivity decline in recent years. A chasm is forming between farm and non-farm incomes, and income inequality is rising within rural areas. Most of Vietnam's agricultural trade is in the form of raw commodities, typically sold at prices lower than those of leading competitors due to quality or other differences. At home, there are growing concerns about food safety.  

Friday, January 22, 2021

Environmental Cooperation Webinars














The December 17, 2014 announcements by Raúl Castro and Barack Obama of the resumption of formal diplomatic relations stimulated a normalization process that had been preceded by sporadic negotiations between Cuba and the US concerning issues of mutual interest including environmental issues. The co-sponsors of this conference were involved in promoting scientific exchange and environmental dialogue and cooperation both before and after 2014 and advocated for collaboration on other issues, as well. This conference is aimed at analyzing how past collaborations worked in an effort to identify areas of accord moving forward so that the interested parties are prepared to deal with such issues in an expeditious way. It is intended that the lessons learned can be applied to other areas of mutual interest of the two countries such as cooperation in technology, and the academic, scientific, and cultural realms. This work will be initiated via discussions on February 22, 2021 in two webinars open to experts, academics, students, as well as the general public. The foci of the two are:



Prospects for strengthening and deepening environmental dialogue and cooperation between Cuba and the US. including facilitating cooperation among academics, scientists, and other experts, as well as non-governmental organizations.


Discussion of opportunities for the sponsoring organizations/institutions/agencies/groups in both countries to work collaboratively on particular issues or projects in furtherance of environmental cooperation and development of ideas for an action agenda for lawyers, environmentalists, scientists, scholars, students, and faculty to provide and obtain project-oriented expertise including provision of pro bono services. The concluding discussion will focus on recommendations to be disseminated to relevant interest groups for discussion, elaboration, and action.  

Register by clicking here

Monday, January 18, 2021

Broad Coalition Pushing Ag Sales



For Immediate Release January 14, 2021

Contact: Paul Johnson Phone: 773-814-2493; Email:

Original Letter: USACC

United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Encourages Biden Administration to Improve U.S. / Cuba Agriculture Relations

The United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) today wrote to President-Elect Biden to urge a return to policies of engagement toward Cuba, for the sake of the U.S. national interest, to boost U.S. food exports to Cuba, and to support the development of beneficial relations between our countries’ agricultural sectors.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President-Elect: The undersigned members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba congratulate you on your election victory and wish you every success in office.

We would like to offer our views on U.S. relations with our neighbors in Cuba.

We share your view that six decades of economic sanctions against Cuba have been ineffectual. Our sanctions hurt the Cuban people, limit American influence in Cuba, and antagonize friends and allies, while doing nothing to advance any U.S. interest.

A turn to policies of engagement will serve our national interest and benefit U.S. agriculture, which has long practiced many forms of engagement on a global scale. Freed of restrictions, we expect that ties between our agricultural sectors will produce important economic and humanitarian benefits and contribute to better relations between our peoples and governments. American strength in agricultural exports has been built over the years on the principle that all markets matter.

Cuba is an opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers: it imports $2 billion in food each year, less than ten percent from the United States. U.S. exports of potatoes, wheat, animal feed, dairy, poultry, rice, and other products stand to grow significantly.

U.S. farmers, businesses, private organizations, NGOs, and universities can work with Cuban counterparts on the challenges of increasing productivity, adapting to climate change, and building sound commercial strategies.

With Cuba now allowing its private sector to import and export, and also inviting foreign investment in private farm cooperatives, the opportunities for Americans to assist in the growth of that private sector have expanded

We offer these recommendations.

First, we urge you to resume efforts to normalize relations. We hope you make clear that neither our principles nor our interests are served by harming the Cuban economy and increasing hardship for the eleven million neighbors who live in it. We urge you to inform Congress that your Administration would welcome legislation to end the embargo entirely, should Congress choose to act.

Second, we urge early action to restore the Cuban Asset Control Regulations to those in place January 20, 2017 and to suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. These regulatory steps are important to U.S. agriculture, to business generally, and to any Americans seeking to make a positive difference. Recent experience shows that U.S. travelers propel growth across Cuba’s private sector, benefiting many thousands of Cuban families.

Third, we urge you to support legislation to put U.S. exporters on an equal footing with our competitors by allowing us to negotiate trade terms including private financial credit.

Fourth, we urge resuming full operation of our Embassy in Havana as health considerations permit. The lack of consular and other operations impedes travel, business, and effective diplomacy. A full Embassy staff, which we hope will include U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel, can support continued work on the 2016 agriculture memoranda of understanding, especially in plant and animal health, and to create conditions for two-way trade, including Cuban exports. American agriculture supports a Cuba policy based on our broad national interests, enabling citizens and business across our country to engage freely.

We are confident that such a course will have strong bipartisan support, and we urge you to take it.

We appreciate your consideration of our views.


 USA Rice Federation

National Corn Growers Association

American Soybean Association

US Grains Council

U.S. Wheat Associates

National Sorghum Producers

National Potato Council

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Onion Association

National Turkey Federation

US Dry Bean Council

Keesling Farms-Chase,

Kansas Isbell Farms-England,

 Arkansas American Feed Industry

Michigan Agri-Business Association

 Minnesota Department of Agriculture

 Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture

Kansas Wheat Commission

Hoverson Farms-Larimore,

North Dakota Sietsema Farms, Allendale,

Michigan Allied Potato-Bakersfield, California

International Tourism Fair, Varadero May 3 - 8, 2020

 Havana, 19 Dec.- The Ministry of Tourism of Cuba (Mintur) works intensively in the preparation of the XL edition of the International Tourism Fair, FITCuba 2021, planned from 3 to 8 May in Varadero, in a context of new normality marked by the Covid-19.

In the framework of the event will be the FITCuba MICE, a space dedicated exclusively to the tourism of events and incentives, a further example of the importance that the country and the Mintur attaches to the development of this modality, explained Dalila Alba González García, deputy director general of Marketing of the organization.

We hope to converge in this space actors of the event industry in Cuba and other nations, in an exchange as a workshop and business meetings, commented the specialist during the official launch of the Calendar Events Cuba 2021 and 2022.

In addition, he added, the catalogue will be presented with all the facilities of the destination for the realization of events.

Edition 40 of the event, as has already been reported, will have Russia as a guest country of honor, a market that has had significant growth in Cuba, even in these times marked by the pandemic, González García told the press.

It recalled that this year it was not possible to hold the meeting because of the epidemiological situation imposed by the CORONAvirus SARS-CoV-2, which caused the Covid-19, and noted that all necessary measures had been taken to organize the next one, which was part of the 17 tourist events to be held in The Greatest of the Antilles in 2021.

FITCuba 2021 will focus on the sun and beach product, and is part of the uptick in this sector, which will also have as projections for next year the continuity of the vitality of this activity and the increase of the arrival of visitors to the country, he noted.

With dozens of hotels certified with the status Most Hygienic and Safe Tourism, The Mintur, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and international organizations, has provided for safety protocols to preserve the health of both customers and their workers.

The XXXIX International Tourism Fair, FITCuba 2019, had the record participation of more than seven thousand 500 professionals from the tourism industry, from 53 countries. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Zoom discussion of travel


Cuba Travel Specialists

Participant zoom on travel to Cuba under Biden-Harris

Wednesday, January 13, 2 - 3:30 p.m. ET

View it here  

The Covid prompted use of zoom has introduced a vehicle for reaching people all over the country. However the webinar format that works well to inform large groups limits most people to sharing their experience and views via chat or Q & A.

We are organizing a smaller zoom discussion, largely for travel practitioners, that offers a more participatory approach to share how people are thinking about what it will mean for them, their business or university and Cuba when the Biden-Harris Administration reopens travel.

There is nothing new from the Biden transition but, as you should have seen in our end of year mini-newsletter, more noise from opponents to restoring Obama's opening, most notably an editorial in the Miami Herald.    (The newsletter is here in case it went to your spam )

This how the zoom was set up:

1) Limit participation to 100 persons (more than 100 can register, but entry will only be for the first 100 who sign on for the event; others will be able to watch on Facebook)

2) 20 to 30 participants can offer a two to three minute question/presentation or comment on what has already been said or asked.  (one hour "plenary")

3) Assign everyone to a breakout room  (15 - 30 minutes,10 groups of 10)

4) A summary report from each breakout to the whole group  (in writing afterwards see below)

--John McAuliff <>

Program and youtube link for the December 17 webinar is here.

Break Out Reports

Travel Advisers / Tour Operators (Benita Lubic)

There was an excellent Rapport among the tour operators, many veteran agents who have been bringing groups to Cuba since the late 1990s. They are all enthusiastic about returning to Cuba as soon as possible, as soon as the doors are open, the hotels are available and testing restrictions and coverage are streamlined. We discussed the currency change which will take effect in June but may also be delayed, and the opening of other airports other than Havana. Having Christopher Baker on board as well as other experienced Cuba agents. We had a good discussion.


To make tax deductible contributions to support this and future zoom programs, click here.

New articles

"Tourists trickle back to Havana despite tough COVID-19 protocols" by Marc Frank, Reuters, click here

"Tampa-Cuba ties forged under Obama frayed under Trump. Now, it’s Biden’s turn." by Paul Guzzo, click here

Very positive TV interview with Joe Garcia, former member of Congress, former director of Cuban American National Foundation click here

"Pompeo Returns Cuba to Terrorism Sponsor List, Constraining Biden’s Plans" from NY Times click here; statement by Cuba Study Group click here

Chat from zoom

4:05:09 From Mark Ginsburg : I can't see the breakout room button. 14:05:41 From CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO : I’m on a Mac and cannot see the button either 14:05:50 From Christopher Cloonan : I do not see those buttons 14:06:35 From Jack Kern to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : You are correct. Breakout rooms currently visible only to host. 14:10:39 From Yves Chabal : How many people signed the petition? 14:11:27 From Edward Russo : I would like to speak. 14:11:39 From Zita Arocha : My question is whether we know who with the Biden administration is in charge of future CUba policy. I heard that Bill Richardson might be working on this. Would appreciate any info about this. 14:12:05 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Am I the only Cuban on this call? 14:12:15 From Evan Elkowitz : I’d love to say something ... if there is time 14:12:16 From Zita Arocha : I am Cuban as well. 14:12:21 From Maria Isabel Marques : NO! I’m Cuban! 14:12:22 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hola Zita 14:12:32 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hola Maria Isabel 14:12:48 From Evan Elkowitz : I’m a Cuban wanna be lol 😂 aka “Jewban” 14:13:20 From Maria Isabel Marques : Saludos cubanas! 14:13:25 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hola Evan 14:13:37 From Yves Chabal : My wife (also on the call), Magaly Spector, is Cuban 14:14:01 From Joe Moreno : Greetings to all from a warm Santiago de Cuba 14:14:02 From Evan Elkowitz : Hola Sheyla and everyone Xx 14:14:21 From Gay Myers : Linda Elzer, I’m Caribbean editor of Trvavel Weekly. What’s the name of your agency, whee are you located. I’d love to talk to you. 14:15:03 From Marla Whitesman : I should have earned a cuban passport by now....I've been a fixture there since 2000! 14:15:13 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : @Joe Moreno I’m from Santiago de Cuba 14:17:55 From Joe Moreno : Born and raised in Santiago, worked as a translator/professor for a few years and now work as a freelance guide and manager of Out of the Box Tours Santiago. Looking forward to seeing new projects directed to the Eastern area of Cuba where we are mostly operating. 14:18:28 From Stephen Wilkinson : HI Everyone, I am Steve Wilkinson, a Brit (for my sins!) and for those who don't know me I am an academic who works on Cuba. I have been travelling to and studying the island and its revolution since 1986. I have led scores of tours to Cuba, and a lot of American tours. Recently I a take my students there every year and I have been working recently for an Australian tour operator Academy Travel. I edit an academic Journal, the Internatinal Journal of Cuban Studies which is now open access. 14:19:42 From Stephen Wilkinson : We would welcome contributions from people who might wish to contribute in their experiences of travel and leading travel to Cuba. Contact me at 14:20:33 From Michael Reese : Hi All, 14:20:49 From Jack Kern to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : Given the difficulty in finding folks over multiple screens, you may want to allow people to unmute themselves when you recognize them. 14:23:32 From Michael Reese : HI Michael Reese here. I have taken small groups to Cuba over the past 5 years , over 30 times with groups of 14 who are interested in Visual Art, Architecture for in email 14:26:53 From Jack Kern to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : You might also announce that people should mute themselves after speaking. 14:27:20 From Evan Elkowitz : Hi... I’m Evan Elkowitz (a fashion stylist from NY). I run fashion & art tours to Cuba. I’ve done 3 tours and I’ve hosted 2 fashion shows there and a few other fashion/art cocktail parties there. My Instagram is @cubabyevan and my email is and I 14:27:31 From Linda Wiggins : Hi Linda Wiggins here, I am a travel advisor. I have many clients interested in visiting Cuba. I would like to start taking groups. My email is Please contact me. Thank you 14:27:51 From Laurie McLaughlin : How about facilities for testing now that US will requre testing upon return now... 14:28:17 From Edward Russo : You can reach me at 14:28:43 From Evan Elkowitz : I live for Cuba, the people, the culture and my tour helps to support many causes there. I also help to protect the design community from being exploited and I write a column for Start Up Cuba. 14:28:47 From Raissa Fernandez : is this because of phizer? or any of the drug companies or regulation on Cuba? 14:28:50 From Evan Elkowitz : besos, Evan 14:29:04 From CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO : My name is Cynthia Carris Alonso. I have been traveling from NYC to Cuba since 1992 as a photographer and journalist, covering historic news events such as the Special Period, Elian’s return, the first shipment of US farmer foods to Cuba, the Pope’s visit, President Obama’s visit, and more! I am the photographer and author of two books about Cuba: A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine, and Passage to Cuba. I consult travelers to Cuba planning their itineraries, give talks about Cuba, and lead groups traveling to Cuba. I can be reached any time at: or 917-678-8089 14:29:40 From angelica salazar : Saludos a tod@s/ Greetings all, I’ll include my intro here, as there are many of us on this call. I am Angelica Salazar, been traveling Cuba since 1996. Study abroad there. Then worked with John in 2004 on the Cuba program in FRD and WOLA/LAWG on Cuba policy outreach in 2009-2010, MEDICC, & last decade led trips, & in last 5 yrs, on island facilitating Witness for Peace’s Cuba ed programs & directing U.S. university academic programs (semester-long) with Arcadia and Brown’s CASA program. Since COVID, I am volunteering w 2 IMPORTANT new campaigns. 1.) Cuba Nobel Campaign (, to get Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, plz sign our petition— we have nearly 40K signers. AND 2.) I am on the steering committee for the newly launched coalition, the Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE)— we have a growing list of Alliance members, please join us— pushing for progressive US policy changes toward Cuba in DC w/ in new Congress & Biden team. 14:29:54 From Bob Schwartz : Hi, I’m Bob Schwartz, VP at Global Health Partners. We’re one of the largest donors of medicines and medical supplies to Cuba - over the past 25 years we’ve shipped more than $187 million worth to the Cuban Ministry of Health. If anyone is interested in collaborating with us, you can reach me at “” 14:30:47 From Maria Isabel Marques : Hi folks! I’m a Cuban American (Peter Panner!) who returned to Cuba for the first time in 1979—among the first groups of Cubans returning to the island. I’ve returned often since then. I now lead small groups to Cuba focused on arts and culture, supporting independent artist and community organizations. ( I also represent the Cuban American artist, Bobi Cespedes). My email for the travel business is 14:31:36 From Evan Elkowitz : could you write the names of the clinics you named to get the test in Habana? also do we need an appointment? 14:31:48 From Christopher Cloonan : Hello All. My name is Chris Cloonan. I have been working in Cuba for 9 years. I have a Master's in Cuban Studies. I have brought 50 or so travel groups of all types, from students to lawyers and to religious groups and all sorts of professionals. More than 40+ visits to the island. I am also a university lecturer, and writer for Startup Cuba. Feel free to contact me at 14:32:09 From Stephen Wilkinson : They started using nasal drops this weeks. not a vaccine but a way to prevent infection and improve resistance 14:32:30 From Yves Chabal to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : When will the petition be given to the Biden administration? 14:32:43 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hello again everyone, I was born and raised in Cuba. Moved to the United States 20 years ago after meeting her husband at her beloved island when she was performing with a band at the Riviera Hotel in Havana. She is a Journalist, Actress, Producer, and  Photographer with a passion for travel. Sheyla launched the tour agency to Cuba out of her desire to share her culture, music, dance, and the architecture of her homeland with others. Her agency provides travel arrangements to all Latin countries and Caribbean islands. She has several award wining short films and was recognized as a leading media personality in the Latino community in Tennessee with the award “Beacon of Light” in 2019. Sheyla was one of the few Cuban-American journalists selected to travel to Cuba with President Barack Obama in 2016 as part of the White House Press Corp. My email is should you be interested in connecting and/or travel services ;-) 14:34:51 From Gregory Miller CREST : Muchos saludos a todos, Greg Miller, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and I'm joined by two of my colleagues today, Ellen Rugh (who manages our Cuba programs) and Alix Collins, CREST Communications Manager. CREST has been working in Cuba (we are a US 501.c.3 nonprofit research and advocacy organization based in DC, and has been a leading voice on sustainable travel to Cuba since 2016). We have been one of the few US-based NGOs that has continued work in Cuba throughout the Trump administration. Our work in Cuba focuses on: 1) strengthening small-scale, household based tourism on the island; 2) mitigating the impacts of climate change on the burgeoning tourism sector in Cuba; and 3) advocating for legal US travel to Cuba. CREST supports normalization efforts ASAP for the Biden Admin and believe that cross-cultural dialogue and cross-sectoral collaboration have never been more important. 14:34:57 From angelica salazar : Hi Bob! Sheyla! Also, I want to mention, the new docu-series the “War on Cuba” produced by Belly of the Beast, a new media group (US/Cuba staff) that was started to tell Cuba’s untold stories through hard-hitting journalism. They are working on a new doc series Cuba Vs. Covid. I highly recommend you checking out there work. And incredibly important educational resource: 14:35:32 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hi Angelica! Will check that out… thanks for sharing! 14:37:20 From Yves Chabal to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : Magaly has a question. could you please unmute us. Yves 14:40:36 From Bob Schwartz : Same here Angelica! 14:44:23 From Andrea Holbrook-Wagman : We've also heard that incoming flights from the US were causing spikes in cases..... 14:47:15 From Raissa Fernandez : is a online portal from local miami agency to send money. 14:56:13 From Evan Elkowitz : Duales is the Canadian company that you can use to send money to friends in Cuba 14:56:22 From Evan Elkowitz : they deliver the money to them 14:56:33 From Evan Elkowitz : it’s like uber money 💰 14:56:42 From Evan Elkowitz : xx 😘 14:57:39 From Cindy Truitt to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : Can you please message Rita (I think she’s offline?) to share the name or website of the food service delivery company in Havana? And also any helpful hints on using them from outside Cuba. Thanks much, Cindy Truitt 15:01:38 From Karin Eckhard : Sorry but I have another zoom call so I have to go, but this has been very informative. Thank you to everybody!!! 15:03:57 From angelica salazar : Thanks all. The ACERE (Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect, Our contact is and our letter to Biden— which we sent to some new transition “Latin America” staff— —— but would love for ALL OF YOU to JOIN US to push this new Congress and the Biden Administration 15:06:50 From Rita McNiff : Mandao is the food order service. There is an app available for both android and iPhone and you can pay from the US and send deliveries to your friends here. 15:08:14 From Christopher Cloonan : Mandao is a fantastic service. I've used it to send food to friends all over Havana 15:08:33 From Linda Wiggins : I have a call I must take. I have enjoyed this forum. Thank you 15:09:05 From Maria Isabel Marques : Does Mandao also deliver outside Havana—e.g., Camagüey? 15:11:38 From Zita Arocha : Thanks, John, for organizing this. So glad to know so many are working toward a saner policy toward Cuba. 15:11:49 From Michael Reese to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : THAKS - it was very interesting 15:14:09 From angelica salazar : All- William shared this with me. Very informative 15:14:18 From Raissa Fernandez to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : i don’t see the breakout room. 15:14:22 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Sorry was bumped out 15:14:29 From Maria Isabel Marques : Thank you, everyone! I appreciate all the resources and info shared, and am inspired by the commitment to Cuba! 15:15:08 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : When you are in the breakout rooms it bumps you out of the main meeting 15:15:29 From Christopher Baker : Thanks, as always, John 15:16:05 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : It’s on the bottom next to the record button 15:18:05 From Rita McNiff : Thank you so much John!!! 15:18:17 From molly layman : Hi Everyone! Thankful to be part of this informative meeting and Cuba-loving community. For any Cuba travel needs, I work for a Cuba travel company called Cuba Candela. Please feel free to reach me at We specialize in curated, immersive + socially responsible travel to the island! 15:18:36 From molly layman : You can also reach ! xx 15:19:40 From molly layman : Big love for Startup Cuba!! 15:24:08 From Joe Moreno : Feel free to reach out at any time, at or WhatsApp +5353790045