Chrystia Freeland

Freeland to visit Havana as stresses rise over Venezuela, Trump’s anti-Cuba talk 

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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will visit Cuba today to meet Communist leaders in Havana as the condition in Venezuela worsens and U.S. President Donald Trump adopts a lot more aggressive posture on the Caribbean island nation.

In a press release sent to the parliamentary press gallery, Freeland’s office said she will discuss with her Cuban counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, to talk about Venezuela and the increasingly fraught U .S .-Cuba relationship.

President Trump has taken a markedly various stance on Cuba than his quick predecessor, Barack Obama, who sought to develop relations with the country after decades of Cold War-era tensions.

“Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in unveiling the policy shift earlier this month.

“Implementing Title III in full means a chance at justice for Cuban Americans who have long sought relief from Fidel Castro and his lackeys seizing property without compensation.”

This move could spell problems for major Canadian companies that run in Cuba, including the Montreal-based National Bank of Canada, which operates a branch in Havana involved in trade financing, and Toronto-based resource company Sherritt International.

Sherritt is widely considered as particularly vulnerable to these U.S. changes since it is one of the largest foreign investors in Cuba through its ownership stake in nickel and cobalt mines, a power plant and oil and gas operations in that country.

The company’s professionals are already prohibited from going to the U.S., or doing any kind of business there, under existing provisions of the Helms-Burton Act, which is also called the Cuba Liberty and Democratic Solidarity ( LIBERTAD ) Act.

Canada’s airlines, which ferry a huge number of Canadians to Cuban resorts each year, also could deal with legal challenges, based on the U .S .-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc., a group that tracks investments in Cuba.

The U.S. law is made to have a chilling effect on investment and business activities in Cuba in the hopes that such economic pressure will lead to regime change and a democratically elected government in Cuba.

“It is of critical importance that our two countries meet to discuss the economic, political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the work we can undertake together to address it,” Freeland said in a statement.

“I also look forward to discussing how we can work together to defend Canadians conducting legitimate trade and investment in Cuba in light of the United States ending the suspension of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act .”

Canada is part of the Lima Group of countries that opposes Maduro’s presidency and has identified opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate leader.

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