Monthly Archives: May 2014

Havana Hosts Ju Jitsu Pan American Championships

jiu-jitsu-wallpaper-1920x1080HAVANA,  May 30  Athletes from nine countries, plus Cuba, will participate from today until Sunday in the Havana 2014 Ju Jitsu Pan American Championships, with venue at the Manuel Fajardo Higher Institute of Physical Culture.
The visiting nations are Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Uruguay and Paraguay, according to Ariel Ramirez, who chairs the organizing committee. Cuba is represented by 35 adults, including seven women, and 11 juniors, including three girls. The contest start today at 2:30 pm in the under-18 category, unprecedented event in previous championships because according to Ramirez the continental ju-jitsu junior and cadet tourneys have never been made and the intention is to promote them for their inclusion in future competitions.
The tournament includes the categories of fighting, ne-waza and duo-system. Cuba joined the Ju-jitsu Pan American Union two years ago, and its athletes have taken part in international events such as the World Championships in Cali, and the 2012Pan American Championships in Uruguay, where they won one gold and two silver medals. http://www.cadenagramonte.cu/english/index.php/show/articles/18282:cuba-hosts-ju-jitsu-pan-american-championships

The Tramways of Havana ( part 1)

hb01HAVANA, 30 May (ByAllen Morrison) The Cuban capital had one of the world’s first street railways. The Ferro Carril Urbano de la Habana began construction in 1857 and opened a horsecar line from the railroad station to the docks (Muelles) on February 1858 [see map].hbm1

The first cars carried only freight – baggage and produce from nearby farms – but passenger vehicles were added in 1859. FCU had opened its first passenger line, to Carmelo, on September 1859. Havana was the second city in Latin America to have a streetcar system, preceded only by Mexico City in January 1858.hb02 FCUH built passenger lines to Cerro and Jesús del Monte in 1862 and merged with a coach company to form the Empresa del Ferro-Carril Urbano y Omnibus de La Habana in 1863. By 1865 it was operating 32 passenger cars and 16 freight cars on 17 km of track. FCU also acquired large 8-wheel cars and a half-dozen steam locomotives with which it replaced its horsecars on the Carmelo line in 1873 Streetcars on the other lines continued to be pulled by mules. FCU closed its Muelles (Docks) route because of congestion on the waterfront and built a new line to Castillo del Príncipe in 1882, but otherwise never enlarged its system – despite the fact that the city’s population was approaching 300,000.hb04

In 1897 FCU secured permission to electrify its lines, but the plan was thwarted by Cuba’s conflict with Spain. On 14 December 1898, two days after a treaty was signed in Paris that ended the Cuban-Spanish-American War, FCU sold its railway for 1,472,000 pesos to a syndicate of U.S., Canadian and French capitalists: 71 streetcars, 6 locomotives, 637 horses, 182 mules and 64 km of track. The foreigners gathered in New Jersey and formed the Havana Electric RailwayCompany (HER) on 7 January 1899.hb05

HER began installation of an electric plant at once and on 4 April 1900 (a month after Cuba’s first trolley system opened in Guanabacoa) and ordered 110 single-truck electric . This was one of the largest initial streetcar orders in history, anywhere.hb06

Like Guanabacoa, Havana chose the twin trolley system “because of the frequency of torrential rains . . . protection of the water mains and other underground pipes is secured by the requirement that the company shall employ the double overhead trolley which insulates the electric current from the earth” . The governor also feared that “during periods of dry weather the rails would be covered with finely powdered lime dust . . . [which] would prevent good contact between the car wheels and rails” . During the following decades Guanabacoa and Havana were among the few cities on earth that used twin poles on their trolley cars.hb03

HER inaugurated its first electric line, from its depot in Vedado to San Juan de Dios, on 21 March 1901. In 1902 HER formed a subsidiary, the Insular Railway, which built a suburban line to Marianao in 1903 [see map]. Another unusual aspect of Havana’s trolley system was its elevated line over Calle San Pedro along the docks. The single-track structure between Calles Santa Clara and O’Reilly opened in January 1904. In 1925 HERL&P was acquired by the U.S. holding company Electric Bond & Share, which also acquired railway, light and power operations in Camagüey and Santiago. Havana Electric Railway Company reorganized in Maine in 1926 and regained control of its railway operations in 1928, after which “Ebasco” ran only the power sector.

French Fishermen Confirm presence at Hemingway Tournament in Havana

fishing-tournament-64HAVANA, May 28   France, with six boats confirmed, leads the group of countries that will participate from June 9 to 14 at the 64 th Ernest Hemingway Marlin Fishing International Tournament. Executives of the Marlin S.A. Nautical and Marinas Business Group told the press that to date 17 crews of several nations, including the United States (5) and Canada (4), have already confirmed their participation. This edition of one of the oldest events of its kind in the world will also be attended by teams from Mexico and England, and the total enrollment almost double that reached in 2013, when nine only ships were involved.
According to Mario Ramos, Marlin S.A. business manager, the program will start on June 9 with the traditional skippers meeting at Hemingway Marina Residential, where the sport fishing lovers will receive details on the competition.
For contributing to the preservation of these species, it will be promoted the use of circle hooks to minimize possible damage to marlins or Dorados, and the introduction of satellite tagging systems, which allow knowing the behaviors of such fishes, Francisco Diaz, Director of Development, Business and Quality of the entity, noted. It is expected next year’s edition to be attended by at least 50 ships because Cuba will also host the 35th International Tourism Fair, which will be specifically devoted to the nautical modality.
The Ernest Hemingway Marlin Fishing International Tournament, boosted at the beginning of the 1950s by the famous American writer, Nobel Prize for Literature (1954), stands out as one of the first in the world, only surpassed by the Tuna World Cup tuna, in Nova Scotia, and the Tarpon Tournament in Mexico.hemingway-pesca2
http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/sports/770-french-fishermen-confirm-presence-at-hemingway-tournament-in-cuba

Tallest Cuban Bridge Undergoes Comprehensive Restoration

Puente BacunayaguaHAVANA, May 28   The complex process of restoration of concrete blocks of Bacunayagua Bridge, one of the most important steps in its repair, is nearing completion.

Miguel Figueredo, brigade leader of the Construction and Specialized Assembly Company (ECME by its Spanish acronym), organization that runs this work, said that there is only one block to repair and paint of the 11 of the bridge. Then they will start working with the arch, last phase of the task that they intend to complete before closing this year. Galeria_Puente_Bacunayagua_10
The specialist praised the invention of equipment that helps ensuring safety and protection of personnel in the repair work. The device is the result of the creative genius of Carlos Valdes, who works at ECME. One member of the brigade, Yoandri Doural recognized the complexity of the work due to the topographic characteristics of the area and the considerable height of the bridge.
Bacunayagua Bridge, 114 meters high and with over 50 years of operation, is considered a relic of Cuban engineering. Upon completion of repair, of great economic importance to the country, the aforementioned brigade will be in charge of similar arrangements to Canímar bridge, link over the river of the same name and also with economic, architectural and construction attributes.Bacunayagua-bridge
Bacunayagua-bridge1http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/cuba/766-tallest-cuban-bridge-undergoes-comprehensive-restoration

UK ambassador in Havana begs Cubans to support England in World Cup

fototapete_fussball_52a897e6de5cbHAVANA, 28 May  As Roy Hodgson’s team prepare for Friday’s friendly against Peru, Tim Cole, the UK Ambassador to Cuba, has implored fans on the island to get behind England – saying “we’re really not that good”.

timmmmmmmmmcoleeeeeeeeeMr Cole writes a regular blog on the Foreign Office website, in both Spanish and English. His latest is headlined “Cuba, England needs you!”. He reminds Cubans that on the only occasion when their team made it to the finals, in France in 1938, “They beat Romania in the first round and then lost heavily to Sweden (8-0 – ouch!) in the second round”. While Cuba excels in many sports, punching well above its weight on the international stage, football is a minority interest. Cubans’ first love is baseball, closely followed by volleyball. The island’s football team lost the first five of their qualifying matches for the World Cup, scraping a 1-1 draw at home to Panama in the final game. Cuba is ranked 90th in the world by FIFA, six places below Northern Ireland and 79 behind England. The ambassador’s appeal is based on fraternal interests, with a nod towards the Castro regime: “Like Cuba today, the England team is racially diverse with an emphasis on youth.
Also, just as in Cuba, the manager has years of experience and the team is built around a strong defence.” But Mr Cole then confesses: “England really needs all the help we can get. We’ve got a tough group with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica. We’re perennial underachievers in the World Cup, having won it only once in 1966. And we’re really not that good.
So, please Cuba, support us!” In his blog, the ambassador runs through the other possible contenders for the support of neutral Cubans, dismissing the prospect that the USA might benefit: “I’m not sure many Cubans, even those living in Florida, will support the United States team – they’ve got a tough group with matches against Germany, Portugal and Ghana so I suspect they’ll be going home early.” Cole begs Cubans to support England in World Cup The Football Association declined to comment on the ambassador’s appeal.
Annerys Hockley, a London-based Cuban who works for the specialist travel firm, Journey Latin America, said: “Sadly the majority of Cubans are unlikely to support England during the World Cup. I expect most Cubans will back one of the big Latin American teams such as Mexico or Brazil because of their Latino similarities.” So why should Cubans support England? “The only team it really makes sense for Cubans to support is England.
Here’s why. The first very good reason is that the British introduced football to Cuba. Not in 1762 when we occupied Havana for 11 months but in the early 1900s when Brits with names like Forrester and Campbell were living here.
The first two Cuban teams set up were SC Hatuey and Rovers AC and the first official match between them took place on 11 December 1911 at the Campo de Palatino in Cerro. Rovers won 1-0 with a very British-sounding Jack Orrs scoring the winning goal.
“The year before, according to Cuban football historians, SC Hatuey played a match against sailors from a visiting British boat. The sailors lost rather badly – also 8-0 – so I suspect they had already had a chance to sample some good Cuban rum. “A second reason for Cubans to support us is that football was invented in England.
At least that’s what we English like to think. Actually football-type games were played in Ancient Greece, Rome, China, Japan and probably by the Tainos long before we English started playing it. But the codification of the game – the rules etc – were established in England in the middle of the 19th century so I think we can lay claim to being the inventors of the modern game as we know it.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/our-man-in-havana-begs-cubans-to-support-england-in-world-cup-9448949.html

Chinese Culture Festival 2014 Held in Havana

2944547HAVANA,  May 28   The 14th Chinese Culture Festival 2014 will be held here on June 7 and 8 in order to bring Chinese culture to Cuba, the organizers of the event said today. For two days the Expocuba fairgrounds, in the outskirts of Havana, will host the festival which this year is dedicated to the 167th anniversary of the arrival of Chinese immigrants to Cuba and the 65th anniversary of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China.
In statements to Prensa Latina, Armando Perón, artistic director of the event, explained that on this occasion they will seek to interact with the public more actively than in previous years since the best way to attract it is making it part of the activities planned.
The cultural counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Cuba, Gan Ping, recalled the immense geographical distance between the two countries, which will not obstruct the willingness of the institution to increase the presence of Chinese artists in future events. The cultural program includes the participation of the Cuban School of Wu Shu (Martial Arts), led by Cuban master Roberto Vargas Lee, as well as a violin solo by Milagros Lo, member of the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, among others.
http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2727371&Itemid=1 sgl/ef/isa/mgt/deg

UAE, Cuba Sign Open Skies Agreement

AirbusA380EtihadHAVANA, May 27 (Bernama) The United Arab Emirates (UAE) had signed an open skies agreement with Cuba, which allowed the national airlines of both countries to operate an unlimited number of flights and plan flights to any points between the points of origin and destination.
According to Emirates News Agency (WAM), under the agreement, which was signed during a recent trip by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCCA) to Cuba, the UAE designated all of its national airlines to conduct international air transportation with Cuba. The visit to Cuba, part of the GCAA strategy to expand the base of air services agreements, will serve the national airlines, increase trade exchange with other countries as well as boost people-to-people interaction, said GCAA Director-General, Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi. Suwaidi had led the delegation of officials and representatives of national airlines during the two-day visit to Cuba.
“GCAA, in collaboration with airlines and local governments, seeks to sign and continuously upgrade more agreements with other countries as UAE now enjoys economic openness to the rest of the world, ” he saod. To-date, UAE had signed more than 116 bilateral air services agreements with other countries, of which 114 were open skies agreements, WAM reported.
http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v7/wn/newsworld.php?id=1041813

Cuba grants one-year visas to real estate owners

carbonera-clubHAVANA, 27 May  The government published long-awaited regulations, granting temporary residence to foreigners who own or rent residential property in Cuba.
Providing immigration status to potential home buyers in dozens of planned golf and marina luxury communities, Interior Ministry Resolution No. 4/2014, published in an extraordinary edition of the Gaceta Oficial on May 20, establishes a one-year, renewable visa for foreigners “who are owners or lessees of real estate, as well as their foreign relatives who may require it.”
The visa regulation comes as a new foreign investment law, effective June 28, grants foreigners the right to buy or rent real estate in Cuba. Dozens of luxury golf and marina communities have been in the planning stage; the most advanced project, the Carbonera golf club near Varadero by Britain’s Esencia Group, received a green light from the government last year. photo_12 Foreign real estate buyers applying for a visa with the immigration office of the Interior Ministry must first get a referral from the administrators of their real estate project and the Tourism Ministry. Real estate visa holders “may carry out activities related to tourism and business duly authorized by the existing legislation,” the resolution says, adding that other activities will require authorization first. The visa, which sets no limit to one-year renewals, expires if its holder is no longer an owner or lessee of real estate in Cuba, if the holder is outside of Cuba for more than one year, or due to “behavior that violates the constitution, other laws or the conditions” of the visa. Real estate owners may apply for an extension to the one-year absence rule with Cuban consulates or embassies abroad.carbonera-cuba
In 2012, the government published a resolution regulating how foreign property owners may import, export or sell their personal belongings. http://www.cubastandard.com/2014/05/26/cuba-grants-real-estate-owners-one-year-visas/

Cuba, Mexico Expressed Interest in Strengthening Bilateral Ties

flag cuba-mexicoHAVANA, May 26 Cuban and Mexican officials expressed today here their interest in strengthening the commercial relations between the two countries. With such purpose it was inaugurated the ProMexico office in Cuba, so that that entity and the Cuban Center of Foreign Trade Promotion and Foreign Investment from Cuba (CEPEC) signed a cooperation agreement. Roberto Verrier, Director of the CEPEC, stated there is a relaunch of the trade relations between the two nations boosted by the official visit of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to Havana last January. Both agencies are willing to collaborate for the pursuit of business opportunities, he said. In the coming years, said Verrier, the trade cooperation must grow taking into account the cooperation agreements.
http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2721871&Itemid=1 sgl/ef/ycf/rc/mfb

Havana Boosts Nautical Tourism

marlinHAVANA, May 26  Scuba diving, fishing, life on board, beach activities, adventure and docking at safe ports are some of the offerings promoted by Marlin Nautical and Marinas Entrepreneurial Group.
The group provides high quality services and professionalism in eight nautical bases and five marinas located along Cuban archipelago to enjoy an island blessed by nature,say’s Domingo Cisneros, Marlin acting chairman.
Beautiful beaches, seabed treasuring a wide variety of species, amazing cays and welcoming facilities are just some of the scenarios to live a marine adventure in Cuba, he said. On the scuba diving modality, Cisneros explained that in Cuban insular shelf can be found reef crests, where biodiversity and beauty attract professionals and lovers of this activity.
For this they own 21 International Diving Centers, including ¨La Aguja¨ at Hemingway Residential Marina (Havana), Barracuda (Varadero), the Shark’s Friends (Santa Lucia, Camaguey) and Cayo Largo (Canarreos archipelago).

In these facilities, customers can take introductory and specialties courses with the technical content regulated in the world, the manager noted. Sport fishing is another of the most preferred activities between national and foreign tourists, for which Marlin offers different modalities such as fly fishing to catch species such as tarpon, bonefish and palometa; deep sea and bottom fishing. The Jardines del Rey and Ernest Hemingway International Marlin Fishing tournaments are ideal occasions to show the potential of Cuba in this activity.
With life on board modality, the visitor can choose the route for seven days or more that will allow him to enjoy the nautical nature of the island in comfortable boats with experienced crews. Meanwhile, the seafaris (boat trips) include shores tours, recreational activities on beaches, mariner lunch on keys and snorkeling practices.
Among the projections of the group, Cisneros announced that all naval technical conditions are ready to promote the boat-adventure (tours in boats driven by the customer himself), mainly at Varadero and Cayo Coco poles.(acn) 

Chinise Hao wins Epee Grand Prix in Havana

JH-grand-prixHAVANA,  May 26 (Xinhua) China’s Hao Jialu won the biggest title of her career by claiming the gold medal in the Epee Grand Prix that attracted about 100 fencers from 30 countries and regions. Hao, 27, won the final 15-14 on Friday night against the U.S. Courtney Hurley.
Hao, ranked 79th in the world, had overcome Italian Rossella Fiamingo (15-12) and Giulia Rizzi (15-9), German Beate Christmann (15-9) and Russian Tatiana Gudkova (8-7 per time). Hao came from 8-10 down to win 15-11 in the semifinal against Romanian Simona Gherman, 2012 European champion.
China’s French head coach Daniel Levavasseu told reporters that Hao was recently selected for the national team due to her talent and technical skills. (Photo trabajadores.cu)  http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140524/chinise-hao-wins-epee-grand-prix-cuba

Russia signs oil agreements with Cuba

Putin-St.-Petersburg-summit-oilPresident Putin was looking on during the signing of oil agreements. Photo: Kremlin, Presidential Press and Information Office

HAVANA, 25 Mai  Amid rising tensions between Russia on one side and the United States and the European Union on the other, President Vladimir Putin and Cuban Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Rubén Cid on Saturday watched over the signing of two oil cooperation agreements with Cuba at a business summit in Russia.
The agreements of state companies Rosneft and Zarubezhneft with CubaPetróleo, signed at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, include cooperation over more exploration, as well as construction of an oil logistics base at the Mariel Economic Development Zone (ZEDM), according to Prensa Latina.
The Cuba agreements were part of several agreements signed by Russian and foreign oil industry executives after they met with Putin. No details were immediately available. Rosneft, Russia’s second-largest energy company, has little recent history in Cuba; Zarubezhneft, in summer 2013 pulled out from near-shore exploratory drilling earlier than expected, saying it may return in 2014. Rosneft is reviving interest in a key project within the Mariel Zone that doesn’t seem to have any obvious use since the pullout of an offshore oil platform from Cuba in 2012, after drilling dry holes.
Without providing details, Rosneft said in a press release that it signed a memorandum of cooperation with Cupet, and that the partners “created a working group composed of field-oriented representatives.” Rosneft President Igor Sechin, and Zarubezhneft President Sergei Kudriachov signed the respective agreements for the Russian side; General Director Juan Torres Naranjo signed for Cupet.
On a discussion panel at the St. Petersburg Forum on Thursday, the Cuban ambassador to Moscow, Emilio Lozada, said Russia should not only be interested in economic relations, but in political relations as well with Cuba and the ALBA bloc. He also condemned western efforts to isolate Russia with sanctions. One of the men Washington recently added to a list of “designated persons” is Rosneft President Igor Sechin.
Sechin was in Havana in November, to meet with President Raúl Castro. The meeting, in part to prod Russian companies to open shop at the Mariel export development zone, included Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s point man for strategic economic relationships, Energy and Mining Minister Alfredo López Valdés, and Antonio Carricarte Corona, deputy minister of foreign trade and investment. In other Cuba news from the Economic Forum, the governor of St. Petersburg urged Cuba to reopen a permanent office in the Russian city, and proposed to create a working group to identify cooperation opportunities.
The oil agreements came a week after Cuba and Russia signed an agreement on security cooperation.
http://www.cubastandard.com/2014/05/24/russia-signs-oil-agreements/

Havana Biennial the Voice of the Third World Art

elefantes-bienal-claudiacampsHAVANA, May 24  Three decades after its arrival on the international stage, the Havana Biennial remains today the voice of the Third World art and one of the leading events of its kind in the world.

Its current director, Roberto Fernández, explained how during these 30 years the event has been a meeting point for artists that do not fit in other events such as the Venice Biennale or elitist museums. He also said that its exhibitions have gone beyond the display of works of art, to achieve a bond with the city and the people in general.
In this regard, one of its co-founders, Nelson Herrera, said the Havana Biennial opened a different space that allowed artists to cope with new experiences. Since its first edition in 1984 it was marked by organizing meetings and workshops on the streets, which has contributed to the interaction of creators and to establish a relationship with the Cuban public different to the one they have with the French or Italian, he said. The also curator of the Contemporary Center of Art Wifredo Lam stressed to reporters how this event has managed to integrate the traditional with the modern technologies.
To commemorate three decades of cultural event today, more than 160 artists from all over the world will gather in the Cuban capital, many of them have marked the history of the 11 editions, Fernandez said. Besides the Wifredo Lam Center, other venues of the festival as the Center for the Development of Visual Arts, the Photo library of Cuba and the National Museum of Fine Arts will host the Havana Biennial exhibition: a living laboratory.
The exhibition includes works of various techniques and formats by artists participating in previous editions of the meeting that is held every three years and not biennially as the name suggests, the organizers clarified. For the occasion, the artists were chosen among those who have donated works in the three decades of life of this cultural event, and thus are part of the permanent collection of the Wilfredo Lam Center. 3,000 artists from a hundred countries have attended the Havana Biennial since its founding in 1984.(PL Sc/wmr/npg)

Cubanacan Travel Agency Expands Diving Services throughout Cuba

corallHAVANA,  May 23  Aimed at adventure and nature lovers, Cubanacan Travel Agency proposes various programs for scuba diving in its quest to diversify tourism product at Cuba destination.

The agency, leader in sales for the domestic market and main cruises recipient in Cuba, designed circuits through the West and East of the country for diving modality, including sites of priceless beauty and value. cayo-levisa
Cayo Levisa
The first of these circuits allows the client to discover the charms of Cayo Levisa (Pinar del Río), the Havana coastline and the Zapata Swamp (Matanzas),resting then in comfortable facilities of Cubanacan hotel group. cienaga-zapata-cubaZampata swamp
While the East part of the country invites to dive into the depths of the beaches Covarrubias (Las Tunas), Santa Lucia (Camaguey)santa lucia CamagueySanta Lucia Camaguey
and Marea del Portillo (Granma), ideal opportunity to appreciate the seabed and coral reefs that characterize that region.marea de portilloMarea de Portillo
From 9 to 10 days -duration time of both tours, the lovers of this modality can make dives into vertical walls and explore ships sunken during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries still lying in Cuban seabed. According to information of these programs, they are only designed for adults, who must show the appropriate international qualification and they will have guaranteed all the necessary equipment for diving.
Also it is strictly prohibited removing any flora and fauna species, in order to preserve a very sensitive and valuable ecosystem for Cuba. Cuban diving centers have experienced instructors in underwater rescue, first aid, oxygenation and evacuation in case of accidents, including hyperbaric chambers.
The Cuban archipelago is made up of two major islands, other smaller ones and about 4 100 cays that make up the emerged lands of seamounts, which platform extends for 70,000 square kilometers. In the recently concluded 34th International Tourism Fair, Cubanacan Travel Agency presented these and other offerings aimed at showing the products diversity that visitors can find on an island rich in history, culture and nature.
http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/culture/743-cubanacan-travel-agency-expands-diving-services-throughout-cuba

Buena Fe, 15 Years Telling the Cuban Reality in Songs

Buena-Fe1HAVANA,  May 23   Cuban band Buena Fe celebrates this year fifteen years of prolific musical life, whose success lies on their commitment to tell the reality of their country in their songs.

Israel Rojas, main responsible for their lyrics, ratified that the essence of the project he founded 15 years ago with guitarist Yoel Martínez has been and will be to discuss Cuban reality. Commenting on the anniversary, Rojas at the venue of the Union of Journalists of Cuba talked about the current challenges and the role of artists in a rapidly changing society like his. He claimed that in artistic creation everything happens through an economic independence, so there must be a change of mind to defend and internationalize the good art done in Cuba.
He added that the essence of his work is and will be “discussing Cuban contemporary society”, and he added that he would like to be remembered as someone who did not flinch from his commitment to build a better nation. Native from Guantánamo, the most eastern province of Cuba, Buena Fe beat geographical fatalisms and commercial obstacles to establish itself as a leader band in the national pop.
Rojas, a lawyer, considered crucial to his career having recorded an independent production, which freed him from any guidelines for his work, imposed by employers or third parties. With eight albums from 2001 to the date, Buena Fe is liked mainly among the colledge crowd even though their arrangements with influences of trova, son, changüí or pop-rock are widely popular. (Prensa Latina).

World’s top fencers cross blades in Havana

fechterHAVANA,  May 22  The Ville de Havana Women’s Epee Grand Prix and Men’s Foil Cup kicked off Thursday in Cuba’s capital, with the world’s leading fencers.

Some 117 fencers from 27 countries are competing in the event, which concludes Monday, including 10 Cuban women in the epee and 10 Cuban men in the foil.
Star fencers at the competition include Rumania’s Ana Maria Branza, the world leader and defending champion of the Cuban classic, Hungary’s Emese Szasz, world runner up, and China’s Xu Anqi, ranked in third place globally. Cuba’s men’s squad is led by national champion Yosniel Alvarez and runner up Jesus Riano, and includes Leandro Ramos, Jesus Delgado, Michel Carty, Karol Rivero, Michel Tejeda, Enmanuel Mojena, Riuben Jay and Redys Prades.
Both the epee and the foil competitions are considered by Cuban fencing authorities as part of preparations for the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games, to be held in Veracruz, Mexico in November.(Photo internet)
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140522/worlds-top-fencers-cross-blades-cuba

Hundreds of Cooperative Make their Way in Cuban Economy

cooperativa_noagroHAVANA,  May 22  Some 246 cooperatives are already operating in Cuba, with a total of 498 approved to kick off activities, though many of them are still at different stages before being officially registered.
Cuban official Grisel Trista, in charge of the Department attending to the development of entities at the Permanent Commission on the Implementation of the economic guidelines, said that those cooperatives already approved to operate are in the areas of domestic trade, gastronomy and other services like cargo and passenger transportation, construction, food processing, energy and accounting.
Experts say that the development of the non-state collective modality faces obstacles such as the lack control measures that can be applied to their function, while other control systems in force are not appropriate. The lack of access to wholesale markets and limited relations with state enterprises are also considered hurdles in the new economic sector.
The solution to many of the current problems identified in the current experimental operations of cooperatives on the island is still being addressed by state bodies and the Commission to implement the new transformations, said the Cuban official.  (acn)

Investment in Cuba Stimulated in France

hector-igarzaParis – HAVANA, May 22 Cuban ambassador in France, Héctor Igarza, presented to 70 members of the Maxim Business Club (MBC) open investment opportunities in several priority sectors of the Cuban economy.

During a forum with French business men, Igarza carefully explained all the facilities offered by the Special Development Area Mariel, opened at the beginning of 2014. This zone, located in the port with the same name 60 kilometers west of Havana, is thought to be the main entrance and exit door of the Cuban foreign trade.
Related to this project, the sectors of renewable energy, biotechnology, property line, pharmaceutical and agri-food industries, and tourism. In addition, there will be installed one of the largest and more modern container terminal in that region.
At the event, the diplomat also talked about the new Foreign Investment Law, which stimulates the development of different types of partnerships with the Caribbean nation. Introducing the debate, Prince Jean Poniatowski, one of the founders of the club in 1968, mentioned three recent visits to Havana by the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, and Secretary of State for Foreign Trade and Tourism, Fleur Pellerin.
The Maxim Business Club gathers 850 members based in Paris and Geneva, Switzerland.(Prensa Latina)

Investment in Cuba Stimulated in France

hector-igarzaParis – HAVANA , May 22 Cuban ambassador in France, Héctor Igarza, presented to 70 members of the Maxim Business Club (MBC) open investment opportunities in several priority sectors of the Cuban economy.

During a forum with French business men, Igarza carefully explained all the facilities offered by the Special Development Area Mariel, opened at the beginning of 2014. This zone, located in the port with the same name 60 kilometers west of Havana, is thought to be the main entrance and exit door of the Cuban foreign trade.
Related to this project, the sectors of renewable energy, biotechnology, property line, pharmaceutical and agri-food industries, and tourism. In addition, there will be installed one of the largest and more modern container terminal in that region.
At the event, the diplomat also talked about the new Foreign Investment Law, which stimulates the development of different types of partnerships with the Caribbean nation.
Introducing the debate, Prince Jean Poniatowski, one of the founders of the club in 1968, mentioned three recent visits to Havana by the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, and Secretary of State for Foreign Trade and Tourism, Fleur Pellerin. The Maxim Business Club gathers 850 members based in Paris and Geneva, Switzerland.(Prensa Latina)

Dissident Cuban news site quickly hacked

Yoani SanchezHAVANA, 21 May  ( AP Havana) Cuba’s first major independent general-interest news outlet in five decades was hacked yesterday shortly after being launched by the country’s best-known dissident blogger.

A little more than an hour after its launch, the site, www.14ymedio.com was directing readers inside Cuba to a page dedicated to scathing criticism of blogger Yoani Sanchez by well-known pro-government writers. Access outside Cuba appeared to be unimpeded.
Sanchez accused the Cuban government of using its control of the country’s internet to divert readers to the critical site. “Bad strategy by the Cuban government to redirect our site from Cuba,” she wrote on Twitter. “There’s nothing more attractive than the forbidden.” The government has made no official comment on Sanchez’s site, though it considers all dissidents to be mercenaries paid by Washington to stir up trouble.
M.H. Lagarde, a Cuban blogger who has frequently written critically of Sanchez and in favour of government policy, said the site critical of her, www.yoanislandia.com had existed for some time but he didn’t know who ran it. He said an article of his on the site was used without his permission.
Other writers whose articles appeared on the site did not immediately respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment. Before it was hacked, www.14ymedio.com offered feature and news reporting, opinion, sports and even hair and beauty tips that Sanchez hoped would challenge the monopoly on information by the government.
The site was seen as testing both government tolerance for dissent and Sanchez’s ability to parlay her international blogging success into a wider domestic audience. It went live just after 8am Havana time with offerings including reporting with a critical slant towards the government. One feature looked at petty violence through the lens of a night in one of Havana’s main hospitals.
Other offerings included an interview with a detained dissident writer and a sports feature on the alleged official neglect of soccer in favour of baseball. Sanchez has gained global renown and a string of foreign awards for her blog “Generation Y”, which offers scathing criticism of Cuba’s communist government. She has more than 600,000 followers on Twitter, but she is far less well known at home. http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1517546/dissident-cuban-news-site-quickly-hacked

Cuban Art Award Jurors Announced

MartinezRosasyEstrellas1972Raúl Martínez, Rosas y estrellas (Roses and Stars), 1972 Courtesy The Farber Collection

HAVANA , 21 May   The Farber Foundation has announced the jurors for the first Cuban Art Awards.
This fall, a panel of eight will select the Cuban Artist of the Year and Young Cuban Artist of the Year. The jurors will select the winners from a list assembled by a group of nominators—curators, critics, and scholars in Cuba and overseas—who are working anonymously. A short list of their highest-ranked finalists will be presented to the jurors later this year.
The awards will be announced in January 2015. The Cuban Artist of the Year award carries a cash prize of $10,000, The cash prize for Young Cuban Artist of the Year is $3,000. For Howard Farber, director of the Farber Foundation, the timing for the awards couldn’t be better. “2014 is already turning out to be a crucial year for Cuban artists globally,” he explained, “with more participation in international group shows, solo exhibitions, artist residencies, and other projects.
With the Cuban Art Awards we’re looking to enhance that momentum. It’s a way of spotlighting not only the winning artists but the entire field of Cuban contemporary art.” Farber had warm praise for the nominators and jurors. “We’re fortunate to be working with dedicated professionals who share a profound appreciation for Cuban art, and who see the value in the broader recognition that the Cuban Art Awards will bring.” The Cuban Art Awards are open to artists living on the island and elsewhere. In the same vein, the jurors are based in Cuba and abroad.

Jurors for the 2015 Cuban Art Awards are:
Caridad Blanco de la Cruz, curator, art critic, and researcher who is currently a specialist at the Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales (Center for Development of the Visual Arts) in Havana
Elvia Rosa Castro Martín, art critic, curator, independent editor, and adjunct professor of art history at the University of Havana
Howard Farber, director of the Farber Foundation and publisher of Cuban Art News, who has been collecting Cuban contemporary art since 2001.
Alejandro de la Fuente, director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University and a curator of art exhibitions focusing on issues of race in Cuba.
Corina Matamoros Tuma, art historian, author, and curator at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, where she has promoted the collecting of contemporary art.
Ron Pizzuti, founder of the Pizzuti Collection, a museum of contemporary art in Columbus, Ohio, who has been traveling to Cuba and collecting Cuban contemporary art for the past five years.
Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas, program director for the New York City Pivotal Place program of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and co-founder and chair of the Cuban Artists Fund.
Rachel Weiss, educator, curator, and author of books on Cuban and Latin American art, currently professor of arts administration and policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more detailed biographies of the jurors, see the press release on the Farber Foundation website. http://www.cubanartnews.org/news/cuban-art-award-jurors-announced/3725

Cuban charter said price war driving it out of Tampa International Airport

1374680681904TAMPA — Another airfare price war is roiling the volatile Cuban travel market at Tampa International Airport.

HAVANA ,  20 May   Island Travel & Tours Ltd., which has been flying to the island nation three times a week, said that it will halt its Tampa-to-Cuba air service with its final flight on Wednesday and for the foreseeable future.
TIA has eight flights a week both arriving and departing from Cuba. Island Travel & Tours’ pullout would leave just five flights a week. Island owner Bill Hauf, who has accused competitors of undercutting him in the past, blamed his company’s most recent woes on newcomer Cuba Travel Services Inc. The California company, also known as CTS, entered the Tampa market in December and charters flights to Cuba on Thursdays and Sundays. havana-live-cuba-travel-service“They decided to destroy the market,” Hauf said. CTS general manager Michael Zuccato denied that allegation. “We’re not undercutting the market,” he said. “But I think we’re offering flights at a price that’s fair, and fair to travelers.” ABC Charters Inc. is the third company flying out of Tampa. “I have not felt at this point that it has affected me,” said ABC president Tessie Aral. “Whatever their strategy is, it has not affected my business.” CTS and ABC Charters said they have no plans to add more Tampa-to-Cuba flights. avana-live-Key-west-havana2But charters typically add flights in the summer when more Cuban-Americans fly because their children are out of school. Island Travel & Tours is the only charter based in Tampa. Hauf said his company will continue to arrange Cuban trips and book tickets on other flights, but he doesn’t know how many of his dozen Tampa employees he’ll have to lay off. Challenges have never been far from Tampa’s young but successful Cuban travel market, which has seen strong passenger numbers amid brutal competition. Cuban flights have been a success for TIA since 2011, when it joined the select list of U.S. airports permitted to fly there. From October to April, TIA said the number of people using the airport to travel to Cuba jumped 45 percent from the same time period the year before, to 34,358 passengers. But success for those in the Cuban travel business has been harder to come by. Cuba is under U.S. embargo. Charter companies must have permission from the U.S. and Cuban governments to land planes. And although Cuban-Americans can visit family, other U.S. citizens need an official reason and permission from their government to travel to Cuba. Tourism is not permitted.
Hauf said he used to charge $449 for a round-trip ticket and barely broke even. He said CTS entered the market charging $379. The current price for Island’s last flight Wednesday is $399. The current price for CTS’s flight on Thursday is $389. Hauf also accused CTS of undercutting baggage fees, which can be more lucrative. Cuban-Americans often travel with goods such as TVs for relatives. Hauf accused CTS of operating at a loss to ruin Island’s business. Zuccato’s response: “Aviation is one of those things that, on one flight you profit and on the next you may lose money. You have to look at operating on a quarterly and yearly basis. We’re happy with the production we have in Tampa.”
A price war benefits customers, but Hauf said one competitor could drive the others out and then raise ticket prices. There’s nothing the airport can do about it. TIA has no control over what companies fly to Cuba or how much they charge. If the market demands new flights, airport officials said, someone will provide them.
“Being a relatively new route for the Tampa Bay area, the market is still adjusting to what is the right number of flights to offer,” airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps said. “It’s a seasonal market, but if you look at the raw market the demand is obviously there to support several flights per week.”
http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/airlines/cuban-charter-said-price-war-driving-it-out-of-tampa-international-airport/2180521

Haitian President Travels to Cuba to Discuss Bilateral Relations

martellyPORT au PRINCE – HAVANA   May 19 The President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, today traveled to Cuba in order to hold talks with the authorities about strengthening relations and friendship between the two countries.
The visit to Havana was reported by President Martelly himself on his Twitter account. I left the country this morning to go to Havana to talk with Cuban authorities on cooperation, posted the president, who is expected to return on Tuesday. Martelly acknowledged at the 6th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States, late April in Mexico, the historic collaboration provided by Cuba to his country, which continues today in the health, education, construction, fishing, sport and other sectors. President Martelly told Prensa Latina that the support given by Cuba to his nation did not start after the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, but many years before. (Prensa Latina) sgl/ef/isa/mgt/dsa

New voices challenge Cuban-American support for embargo

_74955079_3c7302b0-72ac-450e-9e27-f935c444e873Pablo Gonzalez Portilla plays drums on a street in Miami’s Little Havana neighbourhood Little Havana offers Cuban exiles many of the sounds and flavours of home For decades Florida’s Cuban-American residents voted as a bloc around issues relating to US-Cuba relations. Now, the younger generation appears to be yearning for more contact with the island of their fathers and mothers.

MIAMI – HAVANA 19. May  (Nick Bryant BBC News) Miami is a North American city with a Latin American feel, and at Domino Park in Little Havana old men gather each day to recreate a small corner of their beloved homeland. Hunched over small tables, they wile away the afternoon playing dominos and chess, some wearing Panama hats, others donning baseball caps – a sartorial indicator of the dual allegiance of the Cuban-American community.
Many of them are old and frail. Yet ask them about the communist Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, and the passions of their youth are easily aroused. “He’s not a good man,” says one elderly gentleman, referring to Fidel Castro. “He’s killing people in Cuba, my country.” A whistle-stop tour of Little Havana takes in the murals on the walls that celebrate the anti-communist crusade, the shops selling fat, premium cigars, and the local barber, where clients are draped with aprons adorned with the Cuban flag. No visit is complete without pausing at the memorial plaza, commemorating heroes of the Cuban independence struggle in bronze. There is also a giant map of Cuba, with an inscription from the poet and patriot Jose Marti: La patria es agonia y deber. It translates as: “The homeland is agony and duty.”
_74921602_jorge_perezJorge Perez Jorge Perez says the embargo is no longer effective

Then it’s off to lunch at the Cafe Versailles, a vital stopping-off point for candidates courting the Cuban-American vote. The longstanding influence of this lobby stems not so much from its size as its unity and concentration in Florida, a key battleground state in presidential elections. But there are signs that the political rules that operated for the last 50 years are starting to change. At the elegant new Perez Art Museum in Miami, designed by the same architectural firm behind London’s Tate Modern, we met the billionaire businessman Jorge Perez, who paid for much of its construction.
Perez, one of Miami’s most influential figures, is calling for the US’s strict embargo on Cuba to be lifted. “I strongly believe it’s a failed policy,” he says. “Lift the embargo and start a policy in which there’s a lot more communication all across the spectrum: government with government, non-profits with non-profits, people with people, in order to show why our system is the best system in the world.”
Some people in the Cuban-American community regard that as betrayal, I suggest. “I think that opinion has died down to a large extent,” he says. “And I think you’ll find particularly in the younger generation in Miami, that they’re looking forward to seeing the land of their fathers and to have a Cuba that is freer.” The embargo came into effect 1960, the year after Fidel Castro took power in Havana. Over time, it ended up banning most exports to Cuba and virtually all imports. US citizens have been prevented from doing business in or with Cuba, and restrictions were also placed on Americans travelling to Cuba.
6355752255_51d2e4e904Recent polling suggests more than half of Cubans living in South Florida favoured normalisation of relations with the island More than 50 years on, however, the Castros are still in power.

US critics of the embargo argue it has crippled the Cuban people rather than the government. “We’re beginning to realise not only the policy didn’t work but it was just wrong and counterproductive,” says Carlos Saladrigas, another prominent figure in the Cuban-American community.
“The politics of passion is being replaced by the politics of affection,” he says. He credits a generational change – the simple fact that so many emigres have died off – and the mounting feeling that the embargo has failed. In the slow thawing of relations between Washington and Havana, Nelson Mandela’s memorial service last year became an inflection point. President Obama shook hands with his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro – the first leader-to-leader contact since Bill Clinton had a similar brush-by with Fidel Castro at a UN summit in New York in 2000.
The muted reaction to that handshake spoke volumes, according to Carlos Saladrigas. “Twenty years ago had that happened we would have had a major demonstration,” he says. In 2012, the BBC talked to Cubans about life under the embargo “That was something that indicates a significant change that has taken place in Miami,” he says. Recent polls bolster his argument. One conducted by the Atlantic Council in February showed that 64% of Cubans living in South Florida favoured normalisation of relations with Cuba or more direct engagement. When the poll expanded to those of Cuban descent throughout Florida, 79% favoured normalisation or engagement. However, leaders in the Cuban American community believe the embargo should remain in place for now. “It’s not time yet,” says Francisco Jose Hernandez, the president of the Cuban-American National Foundation.

“Things have to change, and there has to be a significant reform.” That said, he hopes the embargo will be lifted after proof of real progress in Havana, such as Raul Castro stepping down. The US embargo still has strong support from influential lawmakers on Capitol Hill, among them Democratic New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, the hawkish pro-embargo chairman of the foreign relations committee and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Both are of Cuban descent. Moreover, written in law is the stipulation that the embargo cannot be lifted while a Castro remains in power. Still, times are changing in Little Havana. To be Cuban American in Miami once meant supporting the embargo, almost as an article of identity and faith. That is no longer the case.

Cuba’s National Ballet Celebrates AIN 40th Anniversary

6cuba6HAVANA,  May 17  Principal dancers of the Cuba’s National Ballet (BNC) Víctor Estévez and Viengsay Valdés will perform at a gala dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the National Information Agency (AIN), the BNC reported today.

The AIN and the BNC have maintained a close working relationship, so the company, directed by Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso, is very delighted in participating in this gala, said a statement from the BNC. Representatives of different artistic genres will participate in the show to be held here on May 20 at the Lázaro Peña Theatre, and BNC’dancers will close it with the famous pas de deux form Don Quixote.Valdés is one of the leading performers of that ballet globally, only her presence raises the standard of the event, the artistic director of the show, Hugo Oslé, told Prensa Latina.
The program of the show also includes extracts of the opera La Traviata, the traditional Spanish operetta, Cecilia Valdés and the operetta The Merry Widow, among other artistic genres. (Prensa Latina).don_quijote_3

Cuba mobile email experiment causes chaos

HAVANA, 16 May  (AP) The arrival of mobile phone email service was embraced with joy in Cuba, where most people have no internet access. Tens of thousands of Cuban’s began emailing like crazy in March. Then service started to fail, taking much of Cuba’s already shaky voice and text-messaging mobile service down with it The island’s aging cellphone towers became swamped by the new flood of email traffic, creating havoc for anyone trying to use the system.
Cuba Cellphone CrashIn this May 9, 2014 photo, a cellphone owner shows the screen on his phone that reads in Spanish; “The configuration has not been able to finish. Cannot connect to server.,” as he tries to connect to the Etecsa server while waiting with other customers outside the offices of Etecsa in Havana.

Etecsa has issued a rare apology and the troubles have eased. But the problems offer a rare window into the Internet in Cuba, where the digital age has been achingly slow to spread since arriving in 1996, leaving the country virtually isolated from the world of streaming video, photo-sharing and 4G cellphones.
Cuba Cellphone CrashPeople try to connect to the Etecsa server as they wait with other customers outside the offices of Etecsa in Havana. Cuba’s government blames their technological problems on a U.S. embargo that prevents most American businesses from selling products to the Caribbean country. Critics of the government say it deliberately strangles the Internet to halt the spread of dissent.
Cuba Cellphone CrashA worker from Etecsa posts a sign on the office window that reads in Spanish; “Today we don’t offer the following services: add cell phone minutes, mobile service modifications (change of simcard, change of number, change of phone owner), Nauta cell service. We apologize for the inconvenience.,” in Havana.

Some attribute Cuba’s technological problems on a government desperate for foreign exchange that is investing little in infrastructure improvements while extracting as much revenue as possible from communications services largely paid for by Cuban’s wealthier overseas relatives. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

Havana imposes personal income tax on Mariel Port workers

mariel1HAVANA, May 16  Employees working for Cuba’s Special Development Zone (SDZ) at Mariel port would be charged with a 5-percent personal income tax, the Cuban government announced Thursday.

The decision was published in the Government Gazette, along with other regulations on Mariel, a deep-water port and industrial complex 50 km west of Havana. Employees will be hired through employment agencies set up for different sectors, such as energy, construction, biotechnology and foreign trade. The agencies will retain 20 percent of a worker’s wages for commission. All the wages should be paid in Cuban pesos, including those of foreign companies, traded at the annual exchange rate.
“Hypothetically, out of 1,000 U.S. dollars, 800 dollars would go to the worker, but at a rate of 10 pesos per dollar, he would receive a nominal wage of 8,000 Cuban pesos (618 dollars),” Communist Youth daily Juventud Rebelde explained. Wage taxes were eliminated in Cuba after the victory of the revolution in 1959. However, Cuban leader Raul Castro, who launched an economic renovation program six years ago, has stressed the importance of both public and private sector workers contributing to the national budget. (Xinhua)

Russia, Cuba to Coordinate on Prompt Reactions to Security Threats

181122514Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev

MOSCOW – HAVANA May 16  (RIA Novosti)  Russia’s Security Council and Cuba’s Commission for National Security and Defense have signed a memorandum on cooperation and agreed to establish a joint working group, the secretary of the Russian Security Council said Wednesday.
“The situation in the world is changing fast and it is dynamic, that’s why we will have a possibility to react to it promptly,” Nikolai Patrushev said. A Cuban delegation led by Col. Alejandro Castro Espin arrived in Moscow on Tuesday and held a meeting with the leadership of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.
The delegation is also scheduled to meet with the leadership of the Federal Security Service and the Investigative Committee. Castro Espin said Russia and Cuba need “an effective cooperation tool to respond to sensitive issues.” “The memorandum may define priorities for cooperation to ensure effective security of both states,” he said. Moscow said last week it views the US decision to keep Cuba on the list of countries supporting terrorism as a further sign of Washington’s reluctance to establish dialogue with Havana. Cuba earlier supported Russia’s stance on the situation in Ukraine and said it opposes double standards and sanctions.

Cuba’s currency unification – Analysis

CUC-CUPHAVANA, 15 May  (By Domingo Amuchastegui) Cuba’s reforms and changes, aiming at a complete redesign of its rigid, state-controlled socialist experience, has come to a point of no return.

There’s no turning back, and the Achilles Heel of this present stage is the effort to put an end to the two-tier currency system, with all its distortions in finance, accounting, incentives, productivity, and social differences. Although the Party’s Guidelines (Lineamientos) announced currency unification in 2011, it was only in October 2013 that the government disclosed a timeline, without details or specific dates.
A Granma article on Oct. 22 was clear: “It is imperative to guarantee the re-establishment of the Cuban pesos’s value and its role as currency, as a unit of accounting, means of payment, and of savings. Since then, a debate has ensued among academics and observers over what analyst David Brunat has called “the most sensitive subject Cuban lawmakers are to face in the economic sector.” Any discussion must consider two contexts.
One is the current state of the Cuban economy and the legacy of the past 20 years of coping with the downfall of Soviet-style socialism. A partial recovery has taken place, but GDP growth is still less than 3%, well below the 5-7% growth… continue at http://www.cubastandard.com/2014/05/14/analysis-cubas-currency-unification/

U.S. and Cuba Take Tentative Steps Toward Greater Marine Science Collaboration

sea-turtles-3HAVANA, 15 May  (sience News)  After more than a year of preparation—and some last-minute visa hiccups—scientists and policymakers from the United States and Cuba met yesterday to discuss ways the two estranged nations can better collaborate on marine science and conservation.

“We are neighbors,” says marine scientist David Guggenheim, president of the nonprofit organization Ocean Doctor and one of the pivotal players in organizing yesterday’s meeting in Washington, D.C. “Neighbors don’t always get along, but when something happens in your neighborhood, you have to find a way to rise up and work together.”
Guggenheim has spent the past 14 years doing research in Cuba, which has not had formal diplomatic relations with the United States for some 50 years and is the subject of a U.S. trade embargo. Despite that breach, scientific research in the waters shared by the two countries has been one of the few areas of quiet cooperation. “We’ve worked for years without the U.S. government at the table,” Guggenheim says. In 2010, however, the Cuban government reached out to U.S. officials with the idea of forging a more formal agreement that would help facilitate collaboration in marine science. Cuban scientists
Yesterday’s meeting, which included Cuban and American scientists, government officials, a U.S. senator, and congressional staff, marks a step toward that goal, Guggenheim says. “[We] are on to the next page,” he says. At the meeting, which was hosted by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D–RI), a vocal advocate for ocean science, participants heard briefings on ongoing projects and discussed future possibilities. One topic: drafting a new bilateral agreement that would declare that working together is a priority for marine science and conservation, that it is in both countries’ national interests to do so, and that they will commit themselves to facilitating collaboration.
A key part of the declaration would be aimed at making it easier for U.S. scientists to obtain licenses for their work from the U.S. government, which must approve cooperation with Cuba, and to make it easier for people and scientific equipment to move between the two nations. “Getting scientific equipment to Cuba is very challenging because of the embargo, but also because Cuba is on the [U.S.] list of terrorist nations,” Guggenheim says. Now, U.S. researchers obtain permission for a temporary export of equipment through the U.S. Department of Commerce and are expected to bring back all of their equipment—a task that can be problematic for items like disposable tracking tags placed on fish. Whitehouse will take the lead in drafting the declaration, Guggenheim says. Any deal is likely to ultimately need approval from the White House, sources say, perhaps through an executive order issued by the president, and a sign-off from senior officials at several departments.
The group is also looking to set the stage for collaborative projects, including a proposal for an ocean “peace park,” such as the one established by Jordan and Israel in the Red Sea, or an international network of connected marine protected areas. Guggenheim also believes that having an agreement in place will make it easier to procure funding for projects in Cuba from philanthropic donors. And it could pave the way for an international exchange program to educate kids about marine science. “What we’ve tried to do is use marine science as a form of diplomacy,” Guggenheim says. The meeting came amid other signs of growing marine science links between the United States and Cuba.
Late last week, the U.S. State Department invited Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós, director of Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research, to participate in a high-profile “Our Ocean” conference that Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting in June. According to Guggenheim, the invitation represents the first time a Cuban has been invited to such a U.S.-hosted event.
As if to underscore the challenges facing U.S.-Cuba collaboration, yesterday’s meeting was supposed to have been held on 8 May—but had to be rescheduled after bureaucratic tangles prevented two Cuban researchers from receiving timely travel visas.
Courtesy of David Guggenheim