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Country Reports

Cuba Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

After the COVID-19-virus outbreak subsides, President Miguel DÍaz-Canel is likely to prioritise the gradual opening of the economy to private-sector participation in major sectors such as tourism, biotechnology, telecommunications, and internet services, previously reserved for the state. Other goals include kickstarting operations in the Mariel Port Special Development Zone by providing tax incentives. Such investments are unlikely to compensate for the loss of tourist revenues following the US tightening of sanctions since November 2017, the impact of the outbreak, and the loss of export earnings following the deterioration of Venezuela’s economy. The implementation in the one-year outlook of constitutional changes approved in a referendum on 24 February 2019 to the country’s business framework are likely to fall short of fully guaranteeing property rights, permitting international arbitration or allowing free and fair elections. This will limit the overall improvement in the business climate.Potential investments will continue to be constrained by sanctions derived from the US embargo. Non-US investors also face high compliance and regulatory risks, being exposed to the extra-territorial effects of the US embargo. These include the risk of fines if they have business interests or a direct presence in the US or conduct transactions through the US financial system or in US dollars. The US embargo is highly unlikely to be lifted in the two-year outlook.Amid the pandemic, IHS Markit projects that GDP growth will decelerate to 4.7% in 2020, down from an originally estimated 0.9% real GDP growth rate.Cuba will remain a one-party system, with democratic political reform highly unlikely. Some very gradual economic reforms are likely but limited to ensure the continued dominance of the ruling PCC and to prevent democratic reforms that would pluralise the political system. Meanwhile, weak and divided dissident groups are likely to continue to be repressed by intelligence and security forces, preventing them from presenting a viable political alternative.
Last update: September 10, 2020

Operational Outlook

Despite recent reforms, Cuba’s operational environment remains challenging. Foreign investment is tightly controlled by the government. Infrastructure is underdeveloped and is set to improve only moderately in the three-year outlook. The judiciary is not politically independent and corruption is endemic, but levels still compare favourably with other countries in the region. Bureaucratic procedures and high regulatory costs resulting from the US embargo legislation (effective since 1960) and the spread of COVID-19 continue to constrain foreign companies’ operations. Moves to bolster foreign investment are likely to be limited to a gradual relaxing of government control and cumbersome labour laws.

Last update: July 18, 2020

Terrorism

Moderate

The risk of terrorist activity in Cuba is very low. In 1997 anti-communist groups operating from abroad, namely Miami-based dissident groups, detonated improvised explosive devices at three tourist spots in Havana, leading to the death of an Italian tourist. No similar incidents have occurred since and are highly unlikely in the two-year outlook. There is a low risk of planes being hijacked by Cubans seeking to leave the island. The United States removed Cuba from the list of countries that sponsors terrorism in 2015.

Last update: July 18, 2020

Crime

Very high

Street crime has systematically increased following the collapse of the Soviet Union, although crime rates are still well below Caribbean and Central American standards and figure among the lowest in the hemisphere. Authorities have made an effort to ensure that incidents do not negatively affect the burgeoning tourist trade. Black market activities and low-level corruption are extensive, given that most private ownership and enterprise is illegal. Periodic crackdowns on prostitution and illegal street hawking from time to time reduce – but by no means eliminate – overt solicitation in public places. The Cuban government has taken a strong stance against drug trafficking.

Last update: July 18, 2020

War Risks

Cuba has no pending maritime border de-limitation issues with any neighbouring country and the risk of inter-state war risks is very low. US President Donald Trump’s reversal of former president Barack Obama’s policy of normalising the relationship between the United States and Cuba is likely to continue to adversely affect diplomatic and trade relations. The Cuban government still stresses its preparedness for a “popular war” in the event of an invasion by the US and remains committed to removing the US military base at Guantanamo Bay. However, armed conflict between the two countries is highly unlikely.

Last update: July 18, 2020

Social Stability

Moderate

Dissident groups' support is likely to slowly increase despite strong repression. Demonstrations usually take place in central Havana near the El Capitolio and Parque de la Fraternidad and in the southeastern city of Santiago, Cuba’s second largest. Small peaceful protests, most notably in Havana and Santiago by the Ladies in White (the wives and mothers of current and former political prisoners) are often attacked by counter-demonstrations of government supporters that are generally orchestrated by the security services. The risk of property damage during protests is low, although COVID-19 spread increases isolated looting events.

Last update: July 18, 2020

Health Risk

Very high

Vaccines required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Vaccines recommended for all travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines recommended for most travelers

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Vaccines recommended for some travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Severe

The geographic positioning of Cuba leaves the country vulnerable to tropical storms during hurricane season (June 1 to November 30). Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 caused substantial material damages, killed 11 people, and displaced more than 300,000 others. Significant damage was also caused by Hurricane Matthew in early October 2016 in the eastern provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, and Holguín, including washed out roads, downed electric lines, and destroyed homes. Despite the intensity of the storm, no casualties were reported, in large part thanks to strict prevention measures and mass mandatory evacuations.

Earthquakes are common in the east of the country, but damages and causalities are rare.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

Road conditions within the country ‒ including the road connecting central Havana with José Martí International Airport (HAV) ‒ are less than ideal and vehicles (including rental cars) and are often in poor condition, leading to high rates of traffic accidents. Secondary routes tend to be particularly badly maintained, sometimes necessitating the use of sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

If you are involved in an accident, you may not be permitted to leave the country until the case is resolved. For these reasons it is advisable to avoid driving after nightfall outside of urban areas and to hire a chauffeur when possible. Additionally, gas stations are often few and far between in rural areas, sometimes spaced as much as 100 km (60 mi) apart.

Due to security concerns, never take private (unofficial) taxis or three-wheeled "coco-taxis.' Verify that the taxi is registered (radio taxi) before getting in, particularly at airports. Additionally, as of the second half of 2016, rising fuel costs, lower wages, and fuel shortages are causing taxi drivers to suspend services, resulting in reduced transportation services across the country, particularly in Havana.

Regarding air travel, safety standards on domestic airlines are good and international norms are respected. However, flight delays and cancellations are relatively common and flight reservations often have to be confirmed several days before the travel date; failing to do so risks the cancelation of the ticket. On a similar note, direct commercial flights between Cuba and the United States were launched for the first time in decades beginning in late August 2016. 

Last update: April 5, 2019

Infrastructure

Fuel shortages have also led authorities to cut office hours in some state industries and turn electricity off; power cuts are likely to be less frequent in tourist hotels and restaurants.

Access to internet is greatly limited throughout the island and Cuba has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world. Public Wi-Fi hotspots (for a fee, approximately USD 2 per hour) and internet cafés are becoming more common but as of late 2016 there were only around 200 such hotspots nationwide and internet access within private homes remains rare. Even when internet is available, many internet sites remains restricted.

Additionally, some foreign mobile phones may not function for calls, texts, or mobile data due to a lack of international roaming service agreements with foreign telecommunications operators.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Cuba's climate is tropical, with a dry season from November until May and a wet season from June until October (brief but torrential showers). It is slightly hotter in the summer than in the winter (27°C versus 22°C). The months of September and October see the heaviest rainfall (hurricane season).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +53
Police: 106
Fire Dept.: 105

Electricity

Voltage: 110/220 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019