By Raimundo Urrechaga HAVANA Cuba (Xinhua)
-- The year of 2017 was tough for
Cuba, as Hurricane Irma tore through towns and farms along the
northern coast, and the administration of U.S. President Donald
Trump dealt with the newly-mended bilateral ties harshly.
the former Cold War foes barely had a chance to defrost before
Trump put them back in ice box, skewing the direction of foreign
policy changes made by his predecessor Barack Obama.
“The United States
has reduced its relations with Cuba to a minimum,” Iroel
Sanchez, a Cuban international analyst told Xinhua in a recent
Five months after
taking office, Trump traveled to the heart of Miami, Florida’s
Cuban community in June to detail how he planned to reverse the
thaw in ties, including reinstating restrictions on travel to
attests to the Trump administration’s decision to associate with
very influential political sectors in the state of Florida that
oppose any bilateral rapprochement,” said Sanchez.
nonexistent, travel between the two countries boomed after
Havana and Washington restored diplomatic ties.
official figures, 579,288 Americans visited Cuba between January
and November of this year, nearly 250 percent more than in 2016.
But in recent weeks,
that number has again dipped as a result of the restrictions and
a travel warning issued in September by the U.S. State
Department, which recommended Americans not visit the island.
also prohibited U.S. companies from doing business with 179
Cuban enterprises with ties to the armed forces, which operate
numerous strategic companies in Cuba, even in tourism, a key
That means Americans
are barred from staying at any of 83 hotels linked to GAESA, a
business conglomerate run by the armed forces.
sentiment towards Cuba has probably prevented the White House
from taking even more drastic measures, said Sanchez.
“It seems the will
of the Trump administration is to further roll back its Cuba
policy. But U.S. public opinion and a large part of the
country’s business community have not allowed it. The political
rhetoric has not been accompanied by tougher actions,” Sanchez
While Cuba was
reeling from the foreign policy about-face, and its potential
impact on the economy, Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean island
in September, battering nearly 70 percent of the island.
Thousands of homes
suffered total or partial damage, tourism and state
infrastructure were also strongly impacted, and crops were wiped
estimated the losses at about 13 billion U.S. dollars, making it
the worst tropical cyclone in Cuba’s history.
difficulties, along with the economic crisis affecting
Venezuela, Cuba’s leading political and economic ally, dampened
the country’s economic growth.
Still, Cuba emerged
from an economic recession last year, which registered a
1.6-percent growth in 2017, mainly due to the thriving tourism,
construction, transport and agricultural sectors.
government has set priorities to boost foreign investment,
sustain growth of the tourism industry, develop state
enterprises, and increase labor and agricultural productivity,”
This year, for the
first time, Havana managed to attract some 2 billion U.S.
dollars in foreign investment to promote different key sectors.
diversified its foreign trade and international financial
relations. The Cuban economy does not depend on a single market
as happened in the past,” said Sanchez.
What can Cuba expect
in 2018, when general elections are expected to choose a new
head of state and successor to President Raul Castro in April?
generation that came to power in the 1959 revolution will step
aside and younger people who have assumed political
responsibilities in the last few years in different
organizations and government levels will lead the nation,” said
More than 4.8 million people
visit Che Guevara Mausoleum
HAVANA Cuba (Xinhua) --
Cuba’s Che Guevara Mausoleum in eastern Santa
Clara has been visited by more than 4.8 million people since it
was opened 29 years ago, the site’s director Noris Cardenas said
foreign visitors come from various countries, mainly Argentina,
Guevara’s birthplace, and Germany, France, Italy and the UK.
What they have in
common is admiration for the Argentinean revolutionary who
joined the Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s cause of liberation.
The mausoleum is
dominated by a 6.8-meter-high statue of Che Guevara that has
come to symbolize Santa Clara, the town liberated by the
guerrilla forces under his command in December 1958.
The site opened on
Dec. 28, 1988, but it wasn’t until October 1997 that it became
the official resting place of Che Guevara, who had been
assassinated 30 years earlier in Bolivia.
For 2018, the
mausoleum has prepared a special program of activities to mark
what would have been Che Guevara’s 90th birthday on
The mausoleum tells
the story of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, known worldwide as Che
Guevara, or simply Che, an Argentinean doctor, revolutionary,
statesman and writer.
After helping to
liberate Cuba, Che went to Bolivia to continue his mission to
free the oppressed indigenous peoples of Latin America, but was
ambushed in 1967 by mercenaries.
His remains were
located three decades later by a team of experts and returned to