Cuba briefs: entrepreneurs ask Trump to maintain engagement policy (Dec. 8, 2016)
Six U.S. lawmakers -- five Democrats and one Republican -- joined over 100 Cuban entrepreneurs sent a letter urging president-elect Donald Trump to maintain the policy of engagement between the two countries, reports Reuters. The letter from Cuban small-business owners (see yesterday's briefs) was organized by Cuba Educational Travel, a U.S. company that arranges trips to the island, and the Washington lobbying group Engage Cuba. It was signed by startups and small entrepreneurs including family-owned restaurants, technology firms, car services and hair salons. The move comes as advocates of engagement with Cuba fear Trump will rollback the Obama administration's new regulations permitting trade and travel between the two countries.
Cuban authorities hope to sign several agreements (up to a dozen) with the U.S. before Trump assumes the presidency next month, reports Reuters. Talks between Cuban and U.S. officials were held in Havana yesterday, agreeing to arrange more high-level visits and technical meetings. The goal is to deepen the rapprochement to a point where it's difficult to rollback.
Cuba's booming tourism industry is causing troubles with the food supply for locals, reports the New York Times. Soaring demand, combined with the U.S. embargo and poor government planning, has pushed up prices of even basic staples. Insufficient investment in agriculture is a key problem leading to shortages and high prices, say experts. And ration books, which help Cubans access goods at lower prices, don't cover fresh produce.
Twenty-six years after Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas ended his life -- after years of persecution for being openly gay -- his legacy continues to have significant meaning for LGBT activists on the island. The LGBT community has come a long way since the brutal abuses of the 60s and 70s, when gay men were sent to hard labor camps, writes Brendan O'Boyle in Americas Quarterly. Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro, has campaigned for LGBT rights within the governing Communist Party. A labor law passed in 2013 banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender confirmation surgery for transgender people is now covered by the state. Nonetheless, some activists point to harassment by the state -- though likely for criticizing the government instead of their sexuality. "In a country where progress for LGBT people is blurred by a restricted political environment, the resilient spirit of activists like Arenas persists," writes O'Boyle.
Many Cuban millennials support both the revolution and reform, reports the Miami Herald. They're viewed with suspicion both by conservative communists and conservative anti-communists, who accuse them of wanting it both ways. But they seek to preserve the achievements of the revolution with a market economy and political freedoms.
Brazil's Supreme Court backed off from a potential constitutional stand-off with the Senate yesterday. Justices determined that Senate president Renan Calheiros could retain his position, but not be in line for presidential succession. It's a compromise stance after one justice ordered Calheiros to step down as president of the Senate after being indicted in a graft case, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs and Tuesday's post.) The move comes in the midst of an increasingly tense showdown between legislators wary of being taken down by anti-corruption prosecutors and judges. Last week, the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that would punish overzealous judiciary officials with jail time, prompting Operation Car Wash prosecutors to threaten to quit en masse. (See last Thursday's post.)
The compromise raises investor hopes that the Temer administration will push economic overhauls through Congress before the end of the year, reports the Wall Street Journal. But others bemoan the fact that the Supreme Court essentially let a senator refuse to follow the injunction of one of their members. Nonetheless, all of the justices referred to lawmakers' defiance this week, notes the Associated Press.
The showdown over Calheiros this week has taken the political chaos to a "new and dangerous level" writes Marina Lopes in a Washington Post worldview. "The episode showed how shaky Brazil's political institutions are. In the past six months, the country has impeached a president and jailed the speaker of the house, while five Cabinet ministers have stepped down or have been removed because of allegations of corruption."
Rio de Janeiro's new right-wing evangelical Christian mayor-elect has a bold new proposal: tax tourists to the city to create a fund for reimbursing those who are mugged while visiting, reports the New York Times.
A decade of Mexico's war on drugs has had devastating human costs: around 200,000 people have been murdered and at least 28,000 disappeared since 2007. Abuses by security forces are widespread, reports the Guardian. Abuses against women in particular appear to be severely underestimated by official statistics, according to activists. The government register of the missing includes 164 women from Veracruz, yet a local observatory has documented almost 500 cases of girls and women who have vanished in the past three years alone.