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Removal From Terror List Marks Significant Step In U.S.-Cuba Relations

The Obama administration took another major step toward normalized relations with Cuba when the State Department announced that as of May 29 it had removed Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.  Cuba’s removal from the list came at the end of a 45-day congressional review period.  Congress could have taken steps to oppose the removal of Cuba from the list, but did not do so.

Much like the administration’s Dec. 17 announcement to begin the process of normalization of relations with Cuba, including travel and commerce, the move comes by way of an executive order and doesn’t do away with the 55-year-old U.S. embargo on the island nation. Still, the move represents increased progress in President Obama’s hope of thawing tensions between the countries and is quite significant in that it clears another major hurdle toward restoring formal diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana. Continue reading Removal From Terror List Marks Significant Step In U.S.-Cuba Relations

House Bill Would Stall Process of Normalizing U.S. Relations with Cuba

This week a Department of Transportation appropriations bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives that would thwart the normalization process that President Obama and the Cuban government have been pursuing. Tacked onto the appropriations bill are provisions that would prevent the US government from using any funds to recertify airlines and cruise lines that travel to Cuba, thereby effectively preventing new travel to Cuba.   By including these provisions in the DOT appropriations bill, which is viewed as critical legislation, its supporters are trying to insulate the proposed legislation from a presidential veto. This maneuver is a risky one that may backfire for the following reasons.

  • A lot of momentum in favor of normalizing relations has built up since December 17, when the President announced the initiative
  • US businesses have shown great interest in the possibilities that normalization would bring for them to tap into a new Cuban market
  • The American people may be tiring of paralyzing political actions
  •  Recent surveys‎ show that a majority of Cuban-Americans, as well as a majority of Americans in general, support retraction of the embargo.
  • Pope Francis brokered the agreements made by President Obama and President Castro to pursue normalization, and the Pope is coming to visit both Cuba and the US in a few months
  • Senator Menendez, one of the most outspoken advocates for maintaining the embargo, is facing his own battle now that he has been indicted, probably reducing his power to affect the dialogue

Co-authored by Lawrence Diamond and Jose Aquino

Jose A. Aquino
Jose A. Aquino

PREPA Places Hold on Signing New Renewable Energy Contracts

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has stopped granting new contracts for renewable energy projects pending the results of an evaluation of the costs that PREPA would incur to purchase electricity under 63 of those contracts negotiated under the previous administration. Collaborating with PREPA in this review are the Permit Management Office, the Planning Board, the Energy Affairs Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

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Puerto Rico’s Public Energy Policy Continues To Seek Solutions To The High Cost Of Powering The Island

High energy costs has long been recognized as one of the biggest obstacles to doing business in Puerto Rico. The cost of energy on the island is almost twice as much as in the U.S. mainland. Mindful that Puerto Rico’s energy policy is a critical component of the island’s successful economic future, the government set in motion the certain steps to diversify power production by fostering renewable energy projects on the island. In July 2010, then governor Luis Fortuño signed into law the Act for a Public Policy for Energy Diversification Through Sustainable and Alternative Renewable Energy (the “Energy Diversification Act”) and the Green Energy Incentives Act (the “Incentives Act”) which firmed up Puerto Rico’s position regarding the need for clean renewable energy. The legislation set specific renewable energy production goals and established economic incentives to enable the island to meet those goals.

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