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Archive for Cuba

Newsline: U.S. punishes American firm after its Canadian subsidiary leases cars to Cuban embassy in Ottawa

U.S. President Donald Trump rolled back some of the key measures of his predecessor’s rapprochement with Cuba, making it harder for American tourists to travel to the island, and harder for American corporations to do business there. That move was immediately met with a rebuke from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But as a recent case in Ottawa illustrates, American sanctions against Cuba don’t only affect Americans or American businesses. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control announced it had reached a settlement with the American Honda Finance Corporation — the institution that finances the sale and leases of Hondas and Acuras in North America. The civil liability settlement requires the company to hand over $87,255 US for violating the sanctions. The American Honda Finance Corporation is based in California, and the fine will likely be paid in the U.S., but the transaction that brought it on occurred in Canada. The cause of the dispute is a series of 13 lease agreements between Honda Canada Finance, Inc. — a majority-owned subsidiary of the American Honda Finance Corporation — and the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa. According to a notice published by the U.S. Treasury, the 13 leases were signed between Feb. 2011 and March 2014. Under U.S. law, the fact that a U.S. company was a majority shareholder of Honda Canada Finance makes the transaction subject to U.S. sanctions — even though both the lessor and the lessee were in Canada. In a statement, the Cuban government argued that the fine “not only hampers the work of Cuban diplomats in a third country, but also harms Canadian citizens and companies that maintain relations with Cuban entities.” Brittany Venhola-Fletcher of Global Affairs Canada told CBC News the sanction constitutes interference with a Canadian business transaction. “Canada has consistently opposed the extraterritorial application of United States sanctions, which interfere with the right of Canadian companies to conduct their business in a manner consistent with international trade practice and the laws of Canada.” The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa referred CBC to the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, which did not return calls about the sanction. It’s not clear whether the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa still leases vehicles from Honda.


Newsline: Seychelles opens embassy in Cuba

President Danny Faure opened the Seychelles’ embassy in Havana, Cuba as part of his official visit to the Caribbean nation, a statement from State House said. During the inaugural address, the Seychelles’ Foreign Secretary, Claude Morel said: “Our Havana-based embassy will also serve as a bridge between Seychelles and the numerous island nations of the Caribbean region.” Seychelles and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1978.


Newsline: UAE to open embassy in Havana

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates will open an embassy in Havana. At a cabinet meeting in Dubai, the UAE government decided to open embassies in Cuba, Angola and Mozambique, as well as a general consulate in Toronto. Saudi Arabia and neighboring Qatar have had embassies in Havana since the 1990s; Kuweit opened one in 2010. Oman and Bahrein don’t have embassy-level representation in Cuba.


Newsline: Costa Rica is demanding US embassy explain ‘Cuban Twitter’

The Costa Rican government says it’s still waiting for the Obama administration to explain why it launched the secret “Cuban Twitter” network from inside the Central American nation’s borders despite warnings in 2009 that the plan could jeopardize the two countries’ diplomatic relations. In an interview with The Associated Press, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said efforts to affect other countries should not be carried out from inside Costa Rica. He said his government had not received an answer to its question, which he said was delivered a day after the AP reported on April 3 that the U.S. Agency for International Development funded the secret program to stir political unrest in Communist-ruled Cuba. “I think it’s inappropriate to use an embassy in Costa Rica for this type of operation that harms a third country,” Castillo said. “We’re not filing a complaint. The point is that embassies accredited in Costa Rica don’t have to submit their plans or programs for the Costa Rican government’s approval.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Costa Rica sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Embassy in San Jose requesting an explanation after the AP story appeared. USAID has denied that the program was secret or that it had a political agenda. Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry told the U.S. Embassy in June 2009 that the plan to develop the social media network could lead to “political difficulties” for Costa Rica, and it refused to grant diplomatic status to two U.S. government contractors involved in the program, La Nacion, Costa Rica’s largest newspaper.


Newsline: UN suspects illicit arms trade in North Korean embassies in Cuba, Singapore

A United Nations report has found North Korea developed sophisticated techniques to circumvent UN sanctions, including the suspected use of its embassies to facilitate an illegal weapons trade. The report, compiled by a panel of eight UN experts, said North Korea was also making use of more complicated financial countermeasures to make its isolated purchase of banned goods more difficult to track. The publication is part of an annual accounting of North Korea’s compliance with layers of UN sanctions imposed in response to Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and missile programs. The panel reports to the UN Security Council. It said North Korean embassies in Cuba and Singapore were suspected of organising an illegal shipment of fighter jets and missile parts that were seized on a North Korean container ship in Panama last July.


Newsline: Ecuador says Snowden travel doc issued from London embassy “has no validity”

As far as anyone knows, Edward Snowden remains in bureaucratic limbo inside the international transit zone in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Despite scouring the area for days, reporters have yet to lay eyes on the famed NSA leaker. In a new wrinkle in the international man of mystery’s ongoing saga, Ecuador seems a bit confused about what, precisely, his asylum status is as well as what documents he has already been issued. On June 23, 2013, Ricardo Patino, the foreign minister of Ecuador unequivocally wrote on Twitter: “The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden.” However, Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, indicated in a press conference on Thursday, June 27 that this application cannot proceed unless Snowden presents himself in an Ecuadorean embassy or in Ecuador itself. Should Russia grant Snowden a temporary visa, it’s conceivable that he could apply for asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in Moscow. On Friday, the Ecuadorean foreign press agency, EFE, reported that diplomats from Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador are set to meet on Monday to discuss the Snowden situation. Were Snowden to leave Moscow for Quito via normal commercial air routes, he would almost certainly have to stop over in Cuba and/or Venezuela. Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that it is “almost certain” that his nation would grant asylum to Snowden if requested. Maduro is scheduled to be in Moscow anyway on Monday to participate in the international Forum of Gas-Exporting Countries. To make the Snowden diplomatic situation even more complicated, US-based Spanish language television network Univision has published a June 22 document issued by the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. But Ecuador said Snowden travel doc issued from London embassy “has no validity.” The embassy has also been sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for over a year now.


Newsline: Remains of Diplomat Killed in Argentina Returned to Cuba

The remains of Cuban diplomat Jesús Cejas Arias, who was kidnapped and assassinated in 1976 under Operation Cóndor during the last military regime in Argentina, were handed over to the Cuban Embassy. Cejas Arias was kidnapped on August 9, 1976, in Belgrano neighbourhood, along with his comrade Crescencio Galanena, and they were both held and tortured in the clandestine detention center Automotores Orletti. His body, as in the case of Galanena, was hidden in a 200-liter metal tank filled with cement and caustic lime, a common practice to make opponents killed disappear. Plan Condor was a sinister CIA operation with the military juntas of the time in the South Cone (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela to kill their opponents, including artists, intellectuals, guerrillas, left-wing politicians, students, historians and trade union leaders.