Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island

From Day One the Trump Administration made it clear that they wouldn’t be continuing the same diplomatic efforts with Cuba that the Obama Administration had started. Trump has indicated he is not a fan of the current Cuban regime nor Obama’s rapprochement and there were plenty of right-leaning Cuban-Americans who have supported his plans.

However, Trump’s latest move against the island risks not only angering American tourists who wish to visit the Communist island nation but also those same Cuban-Americans who wish to visit their family members still living on the island.

A new rule bans all flights to Cuba outside of the capital of Havana.

The Trump administration is banning U.S. flights to all Cuban cities but Havana in the latest move to roll back the Obama-era easing of relations.

The State Department said JetBlue flights to Santa Clara in central Cuba and the eastern cities of Holguin, Camaguey would be banned starting in December. American Airlines flights to Camaguey, Holguin and Santa Clara, the beach resort of Varadero and the eastern city of Santiago are also being banned.

Flights to Havana, which account for the great majority of U.S. flights to Cuba, will remain legal.

The stated reason for the move is to prevent tourism to Cuba, which is banned by U.S. law. But it is not clear how many people take the flights for tourism purposes. Many are used by Cuban-Americans visiting relatives in cities far from Havana by road.

“This action will prevent the Castro regime from profiting from U.S. air travel and using the revenues to repress the Cuban people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter. Raul Castro stepped down as president last year but remains head of the Communist Party, the country’s highest authority. 

The ban, which goes into effect on Dec. 10, was announced Friday by the Department of Transportation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao that the flights are being suspended indefinitely because of Cuba’s repression of its people and support for Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro.

An excerpt of the letter said the move was to “further the administration’s policy of strengthening the economic consequences to the Cuban regime for its ongoing repression of the Cuban people and its support” for Maduro.

Two major US-based airlines and travelers with tickets already purchased with them will be affected by this latest crackdown.

American Airlines and JetBlue both fly routes to cities in Cuba other than Havana and will have to end those routes in accordance with the new regulations.

JetBlue said in a statement Friday that it plans to operate in full compliance with the new policy.

“We are beginning to work with our various government and commercial partners to understand the full impact of this change on our customers and operations in Camagüey, Holguín and Santa Clara,” the airline said.

American Airlines said it was also working to comply. American said it currently operates 11 daily flights in Cuba, six of which are in Havana.

“We are reviewing today’s announcement regarding service to non-Havana airports in Cuba,” the airline said in a statement. “We will continue to comply with federal law, work with the administration, and update our policies and procedures regarding travel to Cuba as necessary.”

The White House’s restrictions are yet another roll back of the friendlier relationship President Obama began with Cuba before the end of his administration.

In June the Department of the Treasury and the State Departmentsaid group educational or cultural trips to Cuba, or “people-to-people” travel, would no longer be permitted.

“Veiled tourism has served to line the pockets of the Cuban military, the very same people supporting Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and repressing the Cuban people on the island,” the Department of State said in a statement at the time.

Last year the State Department added 26 tourist attractions to a long list of restricted sites Americans are barred from visiting in Cuba, including hotels, marinas and shops.

It is still legal for Americans to visit Cuba, though the increased sanctions and restrictions on travel have dampened interest and reduced tourism dramatically.

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In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Culture

In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Photo via Getty Images

COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for Cubans. Not only have Cubans been physically affected by the virus like the rest of the world, but the drop in the island’s gross domestic product has stymied local economic productivity. The island can no longer look to tourism to add to their GDP.

Because of this drop in GDP, food shortages on the island have become more severe than in recent memory. And Cuban cooks are feeling the effects.

Cubans must stand in line for hours at markets with no guarantees that the ingredients that they want will be available.

This way of living is especially hard for Cuban cooks, like 39-year-old Yuliet Colón. For Colón, cooking is both a creative expression and a stress reliever. “The kitchen is my happy place, where I am calmer and I feel better,” she recently revealed to the Associated Press.

Yuliet Colón is one of the creators of a Facebook page called Recetas del Corazón that has changed the cooking game for thousands of Cubans.

Now, thanks to Colón and other curious and generous Cuban cooks like her, Recipes from the Heart is now 12,000 members strong.

The goal of the page is to help struggling Cuban cooks cope with food shortages. Members of the page share creative recipes, tips, and food substitutions. Launched in June of 2020, the page was an instant success. Its success proves that Cubans have been desperate to find ways to adapt their cooking to the post-COVID-era.

To AP News, Yuliet Colón laments about the lack of rice, beans, cheese, fruit, and, most of all, eggs. “What I like the most is making desserts, but now it’s hard to get eggs, milk or flour,” she revealed.

The brightside is, however, that Cuban cooks are finally able to share food-related tips and tricks with each other on a much larger scale than they were before the internet became more widespread in the country.

Now that many Cubans have access to communication apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, they can now connect with one another and make the most of what they have–however little that may be.

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

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