View of the Malecón in Havana, Cuba, in 2017. Photo courtesy of Ezarate via Wikimedia Commons.
View of the Malecón in Havana, Cuba, in 2017. Photo courtesy of Ezarate via Wikimedia Commons.
Latin America: Week in Review

Trump Tightens Restrictions on Cuba

September 24, 2020 By Staff


UNITED STATES/CUBA: President Donald Trump announced Wednesday new sanctions on Cuba that prohibit U.S. citizens traveling to the island from buying Cuban rum and tobacco and staying in government-owned hotels. Trump said the new regulations are part of “the continuing fight against communist oppression” and added that his administration will further restrictions on Cuban alcohol and tobacco imports. Instead of staying in the island’s 433 government-owned hotels and properties, the United States encouraged travelers to stay in “casas particulares”, homes that are open for travelers and owned by Cuban people. The move is meant to deny revenue to the Cuban government. The regulations will be added to the Department of State’s list, which includes all of the properties controlled by the Cuban government

Trump’s announcement comes as he tries to appeal to Cuban American voters in the swing state of Florida ahead of the November presidential election. The Trump administration has increased restrictions on Cuba and rolled back former President Barack Obama’s more open policies. This summer, the U.S. Department of Treasury ordered Marriott to close its Four Points Sheraton hotel in Havana.  

Headlines from the western hemisphere


REGION: A major U.S. asphalt firm pleaded guilty Tuesday after paying millions in bribes to officials in Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela. Sargeant Marine Inc., formerly based in Boca Raton, Florida, agreed to pay a criminal fine of $16.6 million in fines following almost a decade of corrupt dealings, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Daniel Sargeant, who used to run Sargeant Marine, pleaded guilty last December in a quiet case of money laundering. Sargeant is awaiting sentencing. 

BRAZIL: Brazil’s government said Wednesday it will expand its firefighter force to battle blazes. President Jair Bolsonaro plans on adding 43 men from the National Guard to the force of 241 soldiers. His statement follows a chain of criticism against Brazil’s environmental policies at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Satellite images by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro point to the severity of this season’s fires. It is the worst fire season since 1998, spanning an area the size of the U.S. state of Maryland.

ARGENTINA: Argentina reported on Tuesday a daily high of 470 deaths from COVID-19, surpassing Monday’s high of 429 deaths. Health Ministry officials registered 12,027 positive cases over the previous 24 hours. The country’s fatalities amount to 13,952 since the first outbreak of the virus, with the Buenos Aires province still taking the lead as the most affected region. Nearly 1.8 million tests have been carried out in the country of 44 million people. President Alberto Fernández’s government imposed lockdown restrictions March 20, but officials are considering lenient measures after the quarantine period ends on October 11. Individuals are continuing to defy COVID-19 measures through semi-regular protests.


COLOMBIA: President Iván Duque’s administration has avoided apologizing for suppressing protests last year, despite orders from Colombia’s Supreme Court. The ruling issued on Tuesday indicates that the government must apologize through the minister of defense for the “excesses registered since the mobilization of November 21, 2019.” The court ordered Duque and authorities involved in controlling protests to adopt measures to ensure the right to peaceful demonstrations. Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo announced on Wednesday that the government will ask the Constitutional Court to revise the Supreme Court’s decision. Last November, Colombians protested Duque’s government throughout the country.


PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico announced Wednesday that it will be the first U.S territory to independently evaluate and approve new COVID-19 diagnostic tests made on the island, forgoing dependency on the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Island laboratories now submit potential tests to detect coronavirus to a commission of local scientists who will work with the FDA for approval. The advancement is a win for Puerto Rico, which lagged behind in COVID-19 testing compared to everywhere else in the United States. Lack of accessible, reliable testing has resulted in numerous false negatives. The announcement is expected to make tests available more quickly. Puerto Rico has had more than 20,000 positive cases, 600 coronavirus-related deaths, and more than 22,000 probable cases, according to the island’s Department of Health.

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: Cops dismantled Tuesday night a multimillion dollar pyramid scheme in a house in La Horquetta where nine people, including one soldier, were arrested. Large sums of money, including wads of $100 and $20 bills, were found throughout the entirety of the house, including the roof, garbage bags, boxes and a water tank. Hundreds of receipts from people who possibly contributed money to the scheme were also found. The pyramid scheme group, called the “Drugs Sou Sou (DSS),” was set to pay out multiple members when Trinidad’s Special Operations Response Team of the TTPS was dispatched. Police were told members were asked to give at least $10,000 to join the group. While “sou sou” groups or pyramid schemes are not illegal, police claim this is one of the biggest schemes in the country, the found cash totaling over $21 million.


GUATEMALA: Four Guatemalan government employees have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said on Wednesday. The news comes days after Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, 64, announced to local radio station Sonora that he and a cultural minister tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Giammattei made the announcement the same day the country de-escalated travel restrictions, opening up its northern airport. The Ministry of Health now mandates anyone over the age of 10 entering the country to have tested negative for COVID-19 72 hours pre-arrival, and wear face coverings at every port of entry. Guatemala has reported 87,442 positive COVID-19 cases and 3,154 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.


MEXICO: Head of Mexico City Government Claudia Sheinbaum declared on Wednesday that Mexico City will remain in state “orange,” or “high risk,” and that offices will not reopen any time soon in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Although COVID-19 cases decreased in the city over the weekend, Mexico City has been the epicenter of cases since the beginning of the pandemic, and there are still over 2,700 coronavirus patients in hospitals, placing Mexico as the country with the seventh highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world