Monthly Archives: July 2014

Cuban Quality Center Offers Courses to Local Entrepreneurs

havana-live--quality-management (1)HAVANA, July 30   Cuban entrepreneurs must constantly improve their skills in order to make Cuban economy more dynamic, particularly amidst current transformations in the sector, said a specialist in Havana, who announced a series of training courses for next month.

Mavel Hinojosa, an expert with the Havana-based Quality Development and Management Center (CGDC) called on Cuban entrepreneurs, foreign businesspeople based on the island and self-employees and cooperative members to take courses and workshops organized by her entity this year.
The courses, which open in August, include a workshop aimed at executives, market specialists, technical personnel involved in the design and launching of new products; another course on the use of management tools for entrepreneurial competitiveness, which improves organization and labor environment, along with other training actions quality management according to the Cuban ISO- standards.
Also included is a workshop on the training of quality auditors, which provides basic tools for internal control on entrepreneurial management systems. The specialist explained that these courses have an entry fee and those interested may get more information at www.inin.cubaindustria.cu. the website of the Cuban industry or by sending email messages with requests at alicia@cgdc.cu, mileny@cgdc.cu y mhinojosa@cgdc.cu; or contact the numbers 8633282 or 8610863.
Tomado de Cubanews

Havana’s botanical garden a tropical treat

havana-live-havana-botanical-gardenHAVANA,  29 jULY  Greenhouses at Cuba’s Jardin Botanica Nacional are designed to keep plants shaded and catching breezes, unlike those in our own more northerly latitudes.

I was delighted to have a visit there on our group’s itinerary because I wanted to know more about the unusual flowers and plants I’d been seeing. The garden was en route to Hemingway’s Finca Vigia, which is now restored and welcomes visitors. Follow my newspaper series on Cuba and you’ll find out more about Hemingway soon.
A guide is included for touring the 1,400 acre botanical gardens which is laced with more than 20 miles of roads. Our guide came aboard the small bus which transported us everywhere except on our walking tours of Havana. His English was quite good and his botanical knowledge was impressive, but I still needed to turn to my friends at the Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Garden to identify many of the plants I saw there and photographed.
That’s probably because our guide’s heavy Cuban accent on plants’ Latin names totally befuddled me and the plants themselves were quite unlike those seen at home. The botanical garden not only showcases Cuban ecosytems and their plants but also has areas of other plants found in tropical countries.
Its center has palm trees from around the world and I had no idea there were so many varieties of them., including the rare cork palm, otherwise found only in western Cuba. Our guide showed us how palm leaves have many uses, such as thatch for roofs and even for fashioning into easy biodegradable trash cans. The botanical garden was established in 1968 and opened to the public in 1984. A highlight is the Japanese garden which is laid out with tiered cascades and a small lake filled with koi fish. koipondThe huge greenhouse has areas for ferns, cactuses, epiphytes and tropical mountain plants. Just like our own Cleveland Botanical Garden it has an area dedicated to the plants of Madagascar, which includes a baobob tree — which looks like it has its roots in the air which, there as here, inspires the nickname “upside down tree”.Other nicknames names are easy to guess, such as the sausage tree, native to South Africa and identified by the Holden Arboretum as genus Kigelia.havana-live-greenhouse
In South Africa its large oblong sausage shaped gourds are used to make containers. Cuba’s national flower is the lovely white bloom Cubans call the mariposa — Spanish for butterfly. This sweetly fragrant bloom became a symbol of rebellion and purity in Cuba. Ann McCulloh Curator of plant collections for the Cleveland Botanical Garden identifies it as Hedychium coronarium or Butterfly Ginger . We saw begonias, bougainvillea, anthuriums, and poinsettia beyond number and I was proud to be able to identify the purple flowered jacaranda.havana-live-mariposa

 

 

Butflower I loved the best was the large brilliant orange bloom with strangely shaped almost tenacle-like blossoms. I sent my photo to McCulloh who identified it as a Brownea grandiceps also known as a Rose of Venezuela, or Scarlet Flame Bean. She said its’s a small tropical tree from South America, that will not take temperatures below 55 degrees.havana-live-scarlett-flowerAlthough she said the Butterfly Ginger can sometimes be grown as a houseplant, I guess there’s no large orange Scarlet Flame Bean flower in my future.
http://news.cubasi.cu/cuba/item/877-cuba-s-botanical-garden-a-tropical-treat

‘Win a Free Trip to the Havana Marathon’

havana-live-terry-fox-marathonNEW ROCHELLE-HAVANA, July 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/   Is Cuba on your bucket list of places you’ve wanted to visit? What if you could get up close and personal with its capital city, Havana, or at least 26.2 miles of it?

For only the second time, American marathoners will get the chance to run in the Havana Marathon, thanks to a new amateur sports license received by Insight Cuba. But act soon, only 156 American runners are authorized to go.
Insight Cuba, the leading provider of people-to-people trips to the island, is offering three Marathon-centered tours—plus the chance to win a free Havana Marathon 4-Day Tour. To participate, users are invited to ‘like’ the Insight Cuba Havana Marathon Facebook page and enter via the “Win a Trip” tab at the top.
The winner will be selected at random on October 1, 2014.
Full sweepstakes terms and conditions are listed on the Facebook page.
The Havana Marathon 4-Day tour grand prize includes the flight package (round-trip charter air from Miami to Cuba, priority check-in at Miami International Airport, and baggage fee); superior accommodations at the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana; exclusive guided excursions; private visits and lectures with Cuba’s renowned experts; experienced Insight Cuba tour leader; all meals while in Cuba, except for one paladar evening dining experience; special pre-marathon lunch; US Department of the Treasury license and Insight Cuba letter of authorization; expert Cuban guide; fresh bottled water while touring; Marabana Havana Marathon and half-marathon entry fee and bib; medical checkup; all entrance fees to scheduled activities and events; travel health insurance, emergency medical evacuation and trip-cancellation coverage (up to $1,000); gratuities for luggage handling, restaurant service, and programmed activities throughout tour;* and more. For more information on Insight Cuba’s tours, visit www.insightcuba.com or call 1-800-450-CUBA. To stay connected with Insight Cuba, follow @insightcuba or ‘like’ Insight Cuba on Facebook: www.facebook.com/havanamarathon

China targets Cuba’s oil in trade agreement

havana-live-maleconHAVANA, 28 July   CNPC have announced the signing last week of a major oil deal with Cuba’s state-owned oil company Union Cuba Petroleo (Cupet), to help the Latin American country exploit its offshore reservoirs in exchange for increased crude exports to China. 

On July 22 in Havana in the presence of Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and Cuban president, Raul Castro, CNPC vice president, Wang Dongjin, and general director of Cupet, Juan Torres Naranjo, signed a framework agreement on increasing crude output and production sharing, and a cooperation agreement on drilling services.
Under the agreements, CNPC will help Cupet to lower operation cost of some existing oilfields and enhance the crude production and recovery, and meanwhile provide 9,000-metre drilling rigs and supporting services to facilitate the exploration and development of Cuba’s offshore oilfields.
CUPET is a Cuban state-owned oil company. Its priorities include exploration and development of new oil fields in the Cuban shelf area, production increase at producing fields, reworking of suspended wells, and increase in refining capacity. http://www.oilandgastechnology.net/upstream-news/china-targets-cuba%E2%80%99s-oil-cnpc-cupet-trade-agreement

For Cuban visitors, wine tasting in California

havana-live-wine-tasting-californiarJuan Manuel Betancor Tejera, left, president of Balcon del Habano Varadero takes in the aroma of a Gloria Ferrer pinot noir while Sommelier Joel Francisco Chacon Valdes of Casa Del Habano writes down notes of the wines during a tasting at Gloria Ferrer Winery with the Cuban Sommelier Summit in Sonoma on July 22, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

HAVANA, 24 July  While “cigar-box” is a common characteristic used to describe certain robust red wines, it’s generally rare to smell the actual aroma of cigar smoke at a wine tasting. Then came a group of 22, mostly sommeliers, from Cuba, visiting Sonoma and Napa for a weeklong Cuban Sommelier Summit.
“Napa and Sonoma are the most important wines of the world,” declared Fernando Fernandez, a sommelier professor from Havana who helped organize and was leading the summit. “Not America, the world.” He added that almost all of the summit participants have earned the highest level of sommelier training in Cuba, and understand how to pair wine with cigars, single malt scotches, rum, coffee, chocolate and tea.
After enjoying an hourlong overview Monday by the Wine Institute’s Lindsay Gallagher, who conducted the session in proficient Spanish at Ramekins Culinary Center in Sonoma, the sommeliers stepped outside to taste through three sets of wines from three burgeoning areas of California with which they might not have been as familiar. havana- live-wine-tasting
They included Paso Robles, Santa Barbara and Lodi, each of which had representatives on hand to go through the wines. The wines served from Lodi were a 2013 Bokisch Albarino, 2011 Upstream Malbec and 2012 Old Ghost Zinfandel. The zinfandel in particular piqued the interest of Leticia Cabrera Alonso, a sommelier who presides over a cigar shop. Though she thought the young zinfandel needed “to oxygenate,” she liked its smoky, oaky character. “We have a culture of trying things and of good-tasting things,” she said in English. “We try wines to pair with cigars, with tobacco. The zinfandel would pair well with a cigar; it’s smoky.” Cabrera Alonso explained that she and many of her peers in Cuba get the occasional chance to try California wines when friends visit and through classes sometimes held via the French embassy. havana-live-wine-tasting1The albarino also drew much interest.  Many of the sommeliers favorably compared the wine to versions from Spain, with which they were more familiar. “In Cuba, the weather is very hot. Many customers prefer white wine,” said Fernandez, after tasting the Bokisch Albarino. “Not only sauvignon blanc and chardonnay but viognier, roussanne, marsanne and many Rhone whites.” From Paso Robles, the three wines were a 2013 Cotes de Tablas Blanc from Tablas Creek, a 2012 Justification Bordeaux-style red blend from Justin Vineyards and Winery and a 2012 Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel, also a hit with the group. From Santa Barbara, wines poured included a 2010 Qupé Roussanne, 2012 Presque’ile Winery Pinot Noir and 2012 Melville Estate Pinot Noir, all interesting to the tasters if not quite as robust as some of the other red wines being poured that day.
http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/2425372-181/for-cuban-visitors-wine-tastings

Solomon Island to Open Embassy in Havana

havana-live-SolomonIslandsHAVANA, July 24 Prime Minister of Solomon Island, Gordon Darcy Lilo, will preside over today the opening of his country`s embassy in this capital, in the context of the official visit to Cuba until July 27.

The opening of that legation will contribute to expand and strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation both nations have maintained since the formal establishment of diplomatic bonds on December 19, 2002. At present, both countries are developing collaboration projects, particularly in medical and educational cooperation.
During his stay in the island, Darcy Lilo will pay tribute to Cuban National Hero Jose Marti at this capital`s Revolution Square, and also hold official talks with President Raul Castro, among other activities. Darcy Lilo arrived in Havana yesterday night, and was welcomed by Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra. In statements to the press, the prime minister of Solomon Island highlighted his government and people interest to strengthen relations with Cuba.
http://www.cadenagramonte.cu/english/index.php/show/articles/18925:solomon-island-to-open-embassy-in-cuba

CUERVO y SOBRINOS the story of an undervalued HAVANA watch manufacture

havana-live-Cuervo-y-Sobrinos-Hitoriador-Retrogrado1HAVANA, 22 July  From the end of the 19th century to the late 50s, time of the revolution, Havana was the place to be for the world’s elite. Time has always had another dimension there.

Armando Rio & Cuervo ran the jewelry and watchmaking business founded by their uncle Ramon.In 1882, the family opened its shop “La Casa” on Havana’s prestigious Avenida Quinto, where they sold Swiss pocket watches and cheaper American watches.
81449473As at the beginning of the XX century more and more tourists were arriving from the nearest coast of Florida, watches were in high demand. Soon Don Armando himself began to produce watches under the brand Cuervo y Sobrinos (“Cuervo and nephews”).
As shown by the photographs that recently came to the light, discovered in the basement rooms of La Casa, some of the most famous elegant people loved the unique taste of this manufacture.
havana-live-cuervo-y-sobrinosIn the Havana of the 40s, the international elite from the worlds of arts, science and politics, from Ernest Hemingway to Enrico Caruso, Clark Gable, Winston Churchill and even Albert Einstein,highly considered Cuervo y Sobrinos as the perfect expression of the Cuban lifestyle and made the La Casa shop a place to go ,when visiting the town’s casinos & cabarets.
Not only the famous people loved the brand’s heritage of “another time”: some of the most established Swiss manufactures like Rolex, Longines, Patek also craved the chance to be associated with the very popular and only latin timepieces.
But in the late 50s (1959) the revolution rised setting a new age: Castro came to power in Cuba, driving the Cuervo family into a European exile that de facto made the manufacture & the business slowly fell into oblivion. Tobacco and cigars – the two main economic product of the island are embodied in one of the main motives of watches Cuervo y Sobrinos.
havana-live-cuervo-y-sobrinosBy tradition, each purchaser of products Cuervo y Sobrinos receives a watch in humidor for cigars, and among other things, he can find a pack of handmade cards. One serie of Cuervo y Sobrinos watches was named after the traditional Cuban cigars. In 2001, Italian Marzio Villa re-launched the brand that had been hibernating for four decades .
Cuervo y Sobrinos opened a salon in Havana at the initiative of the Italian watch making enthusiasts Marzio Villa and a spanish businessman, watches Cuervo y Sobrinos were revived as a Swiss brand.
havana-live-Cuervo-y-Sobrinos-coverIn collaboration with the Swiss workshops the heirs of Don Armando have created new watches, which stand out with their unusual shapes of cases and details of dial, which evoke nostalgic memories of the 1940s and pre-revolutionary Cuba. Rapid success among European customers renewed the Havana watch brand Cuervo y Sobrinos, this has been achieved through a simple but effective trick: the ability to combine acceptable for an elite brand a high quality and versatile design with a clear imprint of vintage exotics in every element of watch design and even in its name. It is no coincidence that the motto of the brand Cuervo y Sobrinos sounds like “watches with Swiss heart and Caribbean soul“.
(Source Montre24)havana-live-cuervo

China’s President arrives today in Havana

havana-live-xi-jinpingHavana, Julio 21 The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, will arrive in Cuba today, on an official visit, in the last stop of his second tour of Latin America and the Caribbean that included Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela.

During his stay here, the Chinese statesman will hold official talks with Army General Raul Castro, President of the Council of State and Ministers, and develop other activities, Granma newspaper reports today.
Xi will arrive in Havana after complying with his first official visit to Venezuela, described as historic by the President of that South American country, Nicolas Maduro.
The first stop in the trip of the Chinese president was in Brazil, where he attended the Sixth Summit of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), held on July 15, 16, which ended with succesful results like the creation of a banking institution for the bloc and a fund for emergencies.
While in Brazil, Xi met with chiefs of state and government of the CELAC quartet (Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador and Antigua and Barbuda) and set foundations for a greater cooperation between the región and the Asian Giant.
http://www.cadenagramonte.cu/english/index.php/show/articles/18895:chinas-president-begins-official-visit-to-cuba

Dali exhibition for the first time in Havana

0_bhavana-live-daliHAVANA, 20 July A selection of works by Salvador Dali (1904-1989) will be shown in Cuba for the first time in the “Memories of Surrealism” exhibition, which will open at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana on July 24.
The Universal Art building of the 100-year-old institution will show 95 works by Dali, the icon of international surrealism, whose work as a painter is well known in Cuba, but not his etchings, such as will be seen here, the National Museum’s specialist, Maximo Gomez Noda, said.
The works belong to the series “Fantastic Journey” (1965), “Dali Interprets Currier and Ives (1971), “The Twelve Tribes of Israel” (1973), “The Divine Comedy” (1960), “The Songs of Maldoror” (1934), and “Memories of Surrealism” (1971), the latter providing the name for the exhibition.
The curator of the exhibition, New York expert Alex Rosenberg, says in the catalogue that the mishaps and difficulties these works went through over the years reminded him that the series “The Twelve Tribes of Israel” was finished in record time by Dali, who said it took him 30 years to create it and “just five days to execute it from all I had learned.”

“My Love for Arts, My Love for Cuba”

havana-live-Memorial-a-Jose-MartiHAVANA, July   20 A visual arts collection entitled “My Love for Arts, My Love for Cuba,” was inaugurated on Thursday in Havana as a donation by US collector Gilbert Brownstone in tribute to the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters, who were arrested in 1998 in the United States.

The Five represent social justice for Cuba and the world; they have been deprived of their freedom because they fought terrorism in the entrails of the monster,” said Brownstone as he recalled a statement by Cuban National Hero Jose Marti about his exile in the United States which said “I have lived in the monster and I have known its entrails.”
In the presence of Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez, the only two of the five men who have returned to Cuba after they served their unfair sentences in US jails, the collector said that he was privileged to have met the relatives of the Cuban anti-terrorist fighters.
The remaining three: Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero are still held in US prisons despite a huge international campaign for their release. During the inauguration of the exhibit at the Jose Marti Memorial, the president of the National Council of Visual Arts, Ruben del Valle, said that the collection of so many works of art will be displayed until August 17.
The collection includes works by Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Lindner, Andre Masson and other outstanding artists, which Gilbert donated to Cuba.
http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/culture/1124-us-art-collector-dedicates-exhibit-to-the-cuban-five

Ernesto Padron, cuban filmmaker of ” Meñique”

havana-live-mrniqueHAVANA, July 19  Cuban  filmmaker Ernesto Padron, director of 3D cartoon film ” Meñique” assured today that he would repeat the experience if he could.

Few days away from the world premiere of the first 3D cartoon flim made in Cuba in the history of national movie, Padron said that he never gave up his dream to make such a work. As the hero in his cartoon film, he has excelled hard tests and deeds, beating powerful giants.
But now, he awaits for the confrontation with the most terrible contender: the audience. The premiere will be on Sunday, the Children’s Day, with a simoultaneous exhibit in the main movie theaters in Cuba, while spectators are waiting to see a film that took almost 10 years to become true.
It is already said, that ” Meñique” will make a revolution in the movie in Cuba, just like another flim called “Vampiros en La Habana” (Vampires in Havana) did some years ago, directed by his brother Juan Padron. Esther Hirzel, director of the Cuban cartoon studies, stated there are enough human and technical resources to start other projects.
Among those new projects, there are a version of a work by Jose Marti of an European fable, “The Mountain and the Squirrel”. “Meñique” is a film co-produced with Gaelicia, Spain, and already commercialized, in countries such as South Korea, France and Germany. The film is dedicated to Tulio Raggi, a Cuban cartoon filmmaker, already deceased, a few months ago. (Prensa Latina)

AP appoints Weissenstein Havana bureau chief

havana-live-weissensteinHAVANA – NEW YORK  18 July   Michael Weissenstein has been appointed The Associated Press chief of bureau in Havana, the third bureau chief the news cooperative has had in Cuba since it reopened an office on the island in 1999.

The AP also announced that senior producer Christopher Gillette has been named to head AP television operations in the country. The appointments were announced jointly on Thursday by John Daniszewski, senior managing editor for international news, and Sandy MacIntyre, director of global video news.
“Cuba is important for the Americas and the world. AP continues to deploy top-notch journalists to tell the story of Cuba’s people, culture and government with accuracy, fairness and insight,” said Daniszewski. “AP’s customers will be well served by this move,” MacIntyre said. “Cuba remains a nation whose story fascinates and Chris brings the knowledge, experience and diplomacy to tell it well.”
The AP office in Havana was closed for decades following the early days of Fidel Castro’s revolution. It reopened in 1999 and is one of the few American media organizations that operate permanently on the island. The 39-year-old Weissenstein has been a correspondent in Mexico City for the last two years, reporting throughout Latin America and helping coordinate coverage of Mexico and Central America.
He will report to Marjorie Miller, editor for Latin America and the Caribbean, and lead a bureau situated in the historic quarter of Old Havana with a multi-national staff producing news in English and Spanish in print, photos and video.
http://www.startribune.com/nation/267531921.html

A Milestone in Havana

havana-live-galeria-habanaHAVANA, 18 July Congratulations to Villa Manuela Gallery, which just opened a group exhibition celebrating its 10th anniversary. With close to 20 artists on view, the show includes work by Belkis Ayón, Abel Barroso, René Francisco, Choco, Sandra Ramos, and Mabel Poblet.

Also in Havana
From July 11 to August 22 will be presented at the Havana Gallery solo exhibition My two islands of Carlos Alberto García de la Nuez. The exhibition are a group of paintings on canvas and paper of medium and large format. It brings together a group of ideas in which the artist has worked in recent years. Title My two islands, a reflection on his time as a painter in Cuba and Mexico, talking from different geographies trying to differentiate insular and continental sensibilities.

New Designs and Cigar Bands for Havana Cigars

havana-live-VequerosHAVANA, July 16 New designs and cigar bands of the Vequeros brand will soon be on the market as part of strategies of the Habanos S.A. Corporation, in charge of its commercialization in the world.

The brand incorporates new bands and innovative metal containers, which changes the image introduced in 1996 to pay tribute to all the agriculture workers who, generation after generation, have cultivated tobacco in western Pinar del Rio province.
Mañanitas, Entretiempos and Tapados, its three cigar bands, offer formats that are very appreciated by smokers and will reach a wider spectrum of consumers. Vegueros is made at the Francisco Donatien cigar factory in Pinar del Rio, along with other renowned brands, like Trinidad, Montecristo, Vegas de Robaina, Hoyo de Monterrey and Romeo y Julieta.
All cigar bands of this brand are hand-made.
http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/economy/1090-havana-cigars-new-designs-and-cigar-bands

Cruise Cuba by yacht

havana-live-Adriatic-Odyssey-VESSEL-DETAILS-8HAVANA, 16 July (By Phil Marty) Since the U.S. government has somewhat loosened restrictions on visits to Cuba by Americans, the island nation has been turning up on a lot of people’s bucket lists.

Group IST has a new Havana-to-Cienfuegos tour that’s unique in that it’s a cruise by 49-passenger mega-yacht, rather than a strictly land-based venture. Because the U.S. doesn’t allow travel to Cuba by sea, the package includes round-trip air from Miami. The eight-day/seven-night cruise spends the first two nights in Havana before moving on to Cabo San Antonio, Cayo Largo, Trinidad and Cienfuegos. (On alternate weeks the itinerary operates in reverse.) Time spent ashore will concentrate on people-to-people interaction and cultural immersion, as required on all trips to Cuba by U.S. citizens. The trip is priced as low as $4,490 per person double occupancy, depending on cabin class and travel date. Port taxes of $375 are extra. All meals and tours are included, as well as Cuban visa and mandatory Cuban medical insurance. Info: 800-833-2111, groupist.com/cuba.

Havana will host Festival of Naïf Art

havana-live-Mendive-Cuban-Artist _0HAVANA, 14 July  Next November, Havana will host the Festival of Naïf Art, which will contribute to increase the knowledge and promotion of the prolific artworks by these artists within the so wide panorama of Contemporary Cuban Visual Arts.

The festival calls for those Cuban artists residing in the country, who may submit up to two works of small or medium format, but just within the field of painting. The theme will be free. The works must be assembled or rack mounted. The person awarded with the First Prize in this Festival organized by the National Council of Visual Arts, along with the Development Center of Visual Arts, may assemble a personal exhibition in the venue of the center located in Plaza Vieja, in Old Havana.
Meanwhile, the Second Prize will have the chance to present a personal exhibition at an important art gallery of the Cuban capital. According to the Festival´s call, the artists must submit their works from October 1 to 17, at the Provincial Councils of Visual Arts in their territories, and those from Havana at the Development Center of Visual Arts.
The magical realism typical of these Caribbean lands has been caught, with a special sensitivity by the naïf painters, both in Cuba and the rest of the region. Their works are true testimonies of their time.
With this festival to be held in November, we will have the opportunity of getting close to a magical art born from the talent of their creators.
http://news.cubasi.cu/culture/item/768-2014-naif-art-festival Roxana Márquez Herrera (Cubarte)

Embracing the music, dance and people of Havana

havana-live-serranoHAVANA, 12 July (By Carrie Seidman, Photo Elaine Litherland) From the darkened wings of Havana’s national theater, Ariel Serrano stares toward the brightly lit stage where the finalists in an international ballet competition for aspiring student dancers are awaiting the announcement of the medal winners.

Seated among them is his 17-year-old son, Francisco, the only American ever to participate in the competition. With a long and lean ballet body, a conversational grasp of Spanish and the curly, black hair and cafe con leche coloring of his heritage, Francisco seamlessly blends in with the other dancers, who are all from Cuba or Mexico.

havana-live-serrano1At the front of the theater is Serrano’s wife, Wilmian Hernandez. A week of escorting a half-dozen students from the Sarasota ballet school she and her husband founded, of waiting in endless lines to renew her Cuban passport, and of dealing with Havana’s traffic, pollution and chaos has left fatigue etched on her eternally cheerful face.
She is thinking back to that day, four years earlier, when her son asked if he could take up ballet, the art that propelled his parents from this Caribbean island to the United States more than two decades ago. Francisco was 13 then; she had started her own training at 8. Her husband, watching his son try in vain to touch his toes, told her firmly: “No, Wilmian.
havana-live-serrano2It is no good. He doesn’t have it.” She believed otherwise. Now, seated on a folding chair in the back row of Cuba’s Teatro Nacional, behind dozens of his dancing peers, Francisco wonders why he is here – in this strange moment, on this foreign stage, in this country that is both his and not his. Why is he sitting alongside all of these dancers who are more experienced, more at ease, more “into it,” in a way he can’t begin to put into words?
havana-live-serrano3Why did they ask him to dance tonight, at this final gala? Could this mean he has won something? That can’t be, he tells himself, tamping down a quiver of expectation, hoping he is mistaken. Because much as he doesn’t like competitions, he does love performing. And maybe… Just maybe, when I do my variation tonight, I will throw in that step at the end, a step no one, not even my father, is anticipating, he thinks. Maybe they will clap for me as they did last night — that thunderous rhythmic, unison pounding that Cuban audiences reserve for their favorites. He’d felt like running back on stage for a second bow when it happened, wishing he could scoop up the accolades in his upturned palms.
havana-live-serrano4In April, Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez returned to Cuba with their children, 14-year-old Camilla (“Cami”) and 17-year-old Francisco (“Panchi”) — and five students from the ballet school the couple founded three years ago in Sarasota. They are here for a workshop and competition at the Cuban National Ballet School, the very place where Serrano and Hernandez received their own ballet training before defecting to the United States in 1993. “I tell my kids, this is where we come from,” Serrano says. “This is the source.
havana-live-serrano5You need to see this. You need to understand why we did what we did.” But for Serrano, the trip is more than a homecoming. More even than just the next step in Francisco’s budding career, recently boosted by a full scholarship to the Royal Ballet in London. It is the beginning of what Serrano hopes will become a permanent ballet bridge between his own school in America and the school of his youth. “I do not look back,” says the 42-year-old, who once had the long, lean look of his son, but whose waist has expanded along with his world view. “I take my life how it came to be. I am happy I was born here and studied here because it gave me my work and my discipline. But I’m also glad I left.”
havana-live-serrano7That departure happened in 1993, while he and Hernandez, then dancers with Cuba’s secondary company, the Ballet de Camaguey, were performing in Mexico. They bought one-way tickets to the U.S. after Cuban officials came knocking on their door, demanding garnishment of their wages. When they arrived in Miami, they knew no one, spoke no English, had no prospects for work. They made their way north, where they signed contracts with the Sarasota Ballet. Hernandez stopped performing when she became pregnant with Francisco, who was born in 1996.
Chavana-live-serrano7Serrano, hampered by injury, quit dance in 1999, after the death of his mother. Even as Hernandez continued to teach and Camilla, born in 2000, started taking classes with her, Serrano refused to set foot in a studio. But at 13, Francisco, who had earlier rejected ballet in favor of baseball, had a change of heart. He asked his mother if he could begin training and she agreed. Serrano refused to have anything to do with the idea at first. “I was afraid a 13-year-old boy will change his mind,” he said. “And I could not have handled that.
It was way too close to my sentiment and my emotions to mess around.” But when at last Serrano took a look, he realized his son had caught “the ballet worm.” He agreed to coach Francisco and to consider creating a studio with his wife to fast track his son’s course. “Once I told him, ‘I will help you,’ it meant I was completely in,” Serrano says.
havana-live-serrano8In 2011, Hernandez and Serrano opened the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School; a year after that, the studio won “Best School” at the Atlanta regionals of an international scholarship competition and Francisco was awarded the “Grand Prix,” the top overall award. When the scholarship to the Royal followed, guiding Francisco to a professional career seemed just the beginning. This trip to Havana is a first small step toward an impossible dream they hope to make possible. And it begins by reuniting with the teachers who trained them in their youth, including Ramona de Sáa, the director of the Cuban National Ballet School then and now. Francisco is the only Sarasota student competing; no American has ever before entered the XII Concurso Internacional para Jóvenes Estudiantes de Ballet.
havana-live-serrano9It is time for Round 1 of the Concurso’s variations category for advanced students. That means the first public appearance on the Cuban stage for Francisco. Earlier, Francisco confessed he felt insufficiently prepared for the two additional variations he will have to perform if he makes it through this first round. He’s had nearly a week in class with his fellow competitors, enough time to appreciate the caliber of the dancers he’s up against. “I’m glad I came,” he says, “but I guess I’m really doing this for my dad. I’d like to come back here sometime though, and not worry about ballet.” Earlier, he asked his mother why people’s expectations are so high for him here; it doesn’t seem quite fair.
Chavana-live-sarrano13After all, he’s only been dancing four years and at nowhere near the level of intensity of most of these dancers, whose lives are ruled by a strictly defined schedule of daily classes. On the third and final day of competition, Francisco, wearing down booties over his ballet slippers and the feathered headdress of his slave costume, slides into the splits in the wings. He performs to perfection, perhaps as well as he has ever danced. “Eso es!” (“That’s it!”) Serrano shouts, pumping his fist, as he jumps up. “He did it!” Sustained applause morphs into that rhythmic, unison beat that Cuban audiences reserve for the very best performances. Dashing into the wings, Francisco leaps into his father’s waiting arms, wrapping his long legs around Serrano’s thick waist like a young child eager for a ride from Dad.
havana-live-serran011As quickly as it has occurred, Francisco disengages and rushes off toward the dressing room, as if slightly embarrassed by the wave of emotion that has erased his maturity and sophistication. But later he insists: “I didn’t care what anybody thought. I was so happy.” On the day of the final performance, when the bronze, silver and gold medals will be bestowed, Ariel Serrano collects congratulations from all sides, as if he had danced himself: “Felicidades!” “Maravilloso! “Preciosa!” Each compliment serves as a benediction, a confirmation. “It’s been like, oh such a dream,” Serrano says. “Just to have him here. Just that alone. And then, this is so much more.” Already he is looking forward to the Cuban students’ visit and to planning a return trip, with new students. He has already created a nonprofit, DanzAmerica, to facilitate the exchanges and the future programs he hopes to build. “I feel like an ambassador. I never knew I had it in me to do this.
havana-live-serrano12And to think I almost quit.” On the night of the final gala, as the backstage area quiets and an announcer steps before the audience in Havana’s Teatro Nacional, Serrano looks with silent pride at his son, seated on the stage among boys who look just like the boys he grew up with. The house lights dim. The voices fall silent. The awards begin. Bronce, plata, oro. Bronce, plata, oro. Bronce, plata… “Oro…Francisco Serrano Heranandez, Estados Unidos!” Serrano sits in stunned silence for a pregnant, disbelieving moment. Then he shouts. “Get out! The gold medal? No way!” The little dance he performs in the wings could not exactly be called ballet. “Oh my God,” he gasps, beaming. “I am so glad we came here! Just imagine…A little American boy — among los Cubanos!”
http://www.gastongazette.com/lifestyles/community-spotlight/home-to-havana-a-story-of-remembrances-reunions-and-ballet-1.345108

Russia built power plant near Havana

havana-live-power-plantHAVANA, 11 July OJSC Inter RAO UES could take part in projects to build power units at the Maximo Gomez and East Havana thermal power plants (TPP), Russian President Vladimir Putin said ahead of his visit to Cuba.

“Inter RAO is planning to join the construction of power units for the Maximo Gomez and East Havana TPPs. The supply of Russian electric power equipment to Cuba is well underway,” Putin said in an interview with Latin American and Russian news agencies. Putin will visit Cuba on Friday as part of an official trip around Latin America.
Havana will be the first stop of the tour, after which the Russian president will go to Argentina and Brazil. Russia, Putin said, intends to enter a new, high quality level of cooperation with Cuba, including through large joint projects in the energy sector. Presidential aide Yury Ushakov has said LLC Inter RAO Export and Cuba’s Union Electrica planned to sign a memorandum on the conclusion of a contract to build 800 MW power generating units in Cuba.
The contract is on the construction of four generating units with a capacity of 200MW each for the Maximo Gomez thermal power plant (TPP) in Mariel, he said ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Latin American countries. In addition, Inter RAO Export and the Cuban Industry Ministry’s Electronics Group intend to sign a memorandum on the issue of the production and introduction of L.E.D. lighting appliances.
The 600MW Maximo Gomez TPP was built by Tekhnopromexport and put into operation in 1982. The station works on fuel oil. This is not the first year that Inter RAO (MOEX: IRAO) has made plans to participate in the construction of generating units for the station. It was expected that the project would be initiated back in 2010 as part of the 50-50 joint venture, Generacion Mariel S.A., where the Cuban co-owner was to be Union Electrica.
Inter RAO Export is a wholly owned Inter RAO subsidiary that exports equipment for power plants. According to company materials, the subsidiary participates in projects in Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba, and is in talks on entering Iraq, Ethiopia and other countries. The company’s management announced its intention not only to deliver equipment to foreign states but to install it.(Photo Internet)
http://m.rbth.com/news/2014/07/11/inter_rao_planning_to_take_part_in_building_power_units_at_cuban_tpps_38112.html

Russia built power polant near Havana

havana-live-power-plantHAVANA, 11 July OJSC Inter RAO UES could take part in projects to build power units at the Maximo Gomez and East Havana thermal power plants (TPP), Russian President Vladimir Putin said ahead of his visit to Cuba.

“Inter RAO is planning to join the construction of power units for the Maximo Gomez and East Havana TPPs. The supply of Russian electric power equipment to Cuba is well underway,” Putin said in an interview with Latin American and Russian news agencies. Putin will visit Cuba on Friday as part of an official trip around Latin America.
Havana will be the first stop of the tour, after which the Russian president will go to Argentina and Brazil. Russia, Putin said, intends to enter a new, high quality level of cooperation with Cuba, including through large joint projects in the energy sector. Presidential aide Yury Ushakov has said LLC Inter RAO Export and Cuba’s Union Electrica planned to sign a memorandum on the conclusion of a contract to build 800 MW power generating units in Cuba.
The contract is on the construction of four generating units with a capacity of 200MW each for the Maximo Gomez thermal power plant (TPP) in Mariel, he said ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Latin American countries. In addition, Inter RAO Export and the Cuban Industry Ministry’s Electronics Group intend to sign a memorandum on the issue of the production and introduction of L.E.D. lighting appliances.
The 600MW Maximo Gomez TPP was built by Tekhnopromexport and put into operation in 1982. The station works on fuel oil. This is not the first year that Inter RAO (MOEX: IRAO) has made plans to participate in the construction of generating units for the station. It was expected that the project would be initiated back in 2010 as part of the 50-50 joint venture, Generacion Mariel S.A., where the Cuban co-owner was to be Union Electrica.
Inter RAO Export is a wholly owned Inter RAO subsidiary that exports equipment for power plants. According to company materials, the subsidiary participates in projects in Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba, and is in talks on entering Iraq, Ethiopia and other countries. The company’s management announced its intention not only to deliver equipment to foreign states but to install it. (Photo Internet)
http://m.rbth.com/news/2014/07/11/inter_rao_planning_to_take_part_in_building_power_units_at_cuban_tpps_38112.html

French Artillery Models on Display in Havana

havana-live-pavel valdezHAVANA, Julio 10   La Grande Batterie, an exhibition of French line artillery miniature models, by Cuban sculptor Pavel Valdes was inaugurated in this city in the framework of the 12th Congress of the International Napoleonic Society (INS).

The evolution of the French weapon until 1803 is shown at a scale of 1:16, including mortars, howitzers, cannons, and projectiles of different calibers after the reforms made by the Grand Corso to the systems of Jan Florent Marquis de Valliere and Gribeauval.
To make this reproduction, the also sculpture professor of San Alejandro School used the plans of the original pieces, infantry treaties of the time and the information gleaned from his visits to the Paris Army Museum and the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels, Valdes told.trayectoria
The sample is a didactic approach to the military genius of Emperor Bonaparte and the influence of mathematical and scientific advances of the century on the arms manufacturing process, Colonel José Pardo de Santalla, military attache of the Spanish Embassy in Cuba, said during the opening.
This collection follows the initiative of the series of Spanish armory by the same author, presented last year at the Royal Force Castle. Pavel Valdes, who is also biologist, has become an important artist within Cuban sculptural production, with several works made in his workshop ¨Calosoma¨, such as the exhibition My Bronze Age (2010), and collaborations with members of the Office of the Historian of Havana city.(Photo Internet)
http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/culture/1069-french-artillery-models-on-display-in-havana

Miami stores get business from cuban shoppers

havana-live-BlancoSerafinCuban2010-0-thumb-468x257-1811HAVANA, 9 July  (Greg Allen/NPR)  On the map, it’s right next to Miami. But culturally speaking, Hialeah, Fla., is just as close to Havana. And now, more than ever, Cubans are flocking to Hialeah to shop, taking advantage of the relaxed travel restrictions.
“There are more Cubans here than any place besides Cuba,” says Serafin Blanco, who owns a discount clothing store there. Through these shopping expeditions, Cuba’s emerging entrepreneurs can buy goods their customers need and can’t find in their country — legally skirting the 50-year-old trade embargo. Some stores, like Blanco’s, specialize in trade with Cuba. It’s not just a regular old store, it’s a warehouse and a one-man flea market.
The name screams, “Wow how cheap!” in off-color slang, advertising the experience inside. And just to understand the prices that elicit that “wow”: Shirts start at $3.99. Bras — six for ten dollars. There are also nurses’ clothes and white and burgundy uniforms for Cuban school children. Blanco hasn’t been back to Cuba since he left 48 years ago at the age of 14. Now, after more than 20 years in the business, the store is something of a Hialeah landmark. Ads appearing daily on Spanish-language TV have made Blanco and his store well-known in Cuba, he says, where many watch Miami TV on tapes that are traded and sold.
It’s probably one of the reasons his customers don’t just include Cuban-Americans who travel to the island often, but also Cubans. “I would say fifty percent of our business is for people who travel to Cuba and bring merchandise to their family,” he says.
“So anything they take, they sell it or they give it to them.” One of the clerks at Blanco’s store, Estrella Eredia, says that they even sell duffel bags that travelers can pack with the clothes and take directly to the airport. When they buy a lot of things, they get a 20 percent discount, she says. People buy goods for resale despite the Cuban government’s recent crackdown on small businesses selling imported goods, Blanco says.
Not far from Blanco’s shop is another Hialeah store which has a thriving business with Cuba. Fabien Zakharov sells auto parts for cars you rarely if ever see in the U.S. — Ladas, Volgas, Moskvitches and other brands of Russian cars popular in Cuba. In his shop, display cases contain pistons, belts, and light bulbs; and dashboards and windshields hang on the walls. Zakharov is a Russian who lived in Cuba for nearly 30 years before moving to Hialeah several years ago. And his store started when a friend from Cuba requested an auto piece.
He quickly found getting Russian parts in the U.S. wasn’t easy. Using Russian contacts, he began ordering and stocking parts for Soviet-era models still on the roads in Cuba. All the parts get shipped over from Russia — directly from manufacturers, Zakharov says. An old Soviet-era car in Hialeah, Fla. Fabien Zakharov’s store sells auto parts for these cars, which are still popular in Cuba.i An old Soviet-era car in Hialeah, Fla. Fabien Zakharov’s store sells auto parts for these cars, which are still popular in Cuba.
In the last two years, more of his business than ever before is with Cubans who now can travel — and shop — in the U.S. Zakharov says most of them carry their purchases back on the plane. Even plastic liners and windshields are wrapped up and taken on the flight as baggage. In fact, each traveler can carry as many as 100 auto parts with them on the plane, provided they’re small enough and light enough to meet restrictions, he says.
Many of his parts are being resold by entrepreneurs on the island. It’s a good business to be in, he says, especially with the changes that he and others believe may be coming to Cuba. But it has also earned Zakharov a small degree of fame. “Almost everyone in Cuba that has that type of car or needs parts like that knows about this store,” he says through an interpreter. And when he goes to visit and he gives his business card, “people smile ear-to-ear because they’re like ‘Oh, you’re the owner of this store? Like, oh wow!'” http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/07/08/329798899/miami-stores-enjoy-thriving-business-from-cuban-shoppers

Cuba resists speedier path to free enterprise

havana-live-cuba-is-reforming-but-wealth-and-success-are-still-frowned-uponHAVANA, 7 July (Reuters By Daniel Trotta) Cuban President Raul Castro told parliament on Saturday the country’s market-oriented reforms must remain gradual, a clear signal he would resist calls to accelerate change in order to address an underperforming economy.

He also praised Cubans for “defeating imperialism” by resisting U.S. aggression ever since the 1959 Cuban revolution. Since taking over for his ailing older brother Fidel in 2008, Raul Castro, 83, has enacted widespread reforms such as turning state enterprises into private cooperatives, freeing Cubans to work in small private businesses, and reducing the role of the state in everyday life.
The reforms have raised expectations for improvements in the economy while also generating debate within the ruling Communist Party about how much more free enterprise should be allowed. Castro said the pace of reforms would remain deliberate. “The gradual nature of a series of activities that we are approving is indispensable,” Castro told 548 members of the National Assembly in its one-day, semiannual meeting.
The reforms have created a new class of wealthy Cubans, but a large majority still lives on $20 a month and overall Cuban productivity has stagnated. Low salaries remain a chronic complaint, even with free education, healthcare and a ration card good for a small amount of basic foodstuffs.
Castro blamed the 52-year-old U.S. economic embargo of Cuba for much of the country’s economic difficulty, saying the Cuban people deserved a medal for resisting U.S. hostility. “We have had success. We have had success in which our people have played a fundamental role. … They have resisted and they are defeating imperialism,” Castro said. The man charged with implementing the reforms, Marino Murillo, told the assembly more salary increases would be tied to productivity and that more state enterprises would be turned into private cooperatives in order to improve efficiency.
For example in the food products and services sector, the government had authorized 498 cooperatives, of which 249 were functioning, said Murillo, a member of the elite Poltiburo. Cuba has also now authorized 467,000 people to work in the private sector, making them eligible to work in nearly 13,000 businesses, mostly restaurants, Murillo said.
The assembly meets more to hear updates on the economy and government activities rather than to approve laws. Special sessions are sometimes called to pass major legislation, as with a foreign investment law approved in March. The Cuban economy grew just 0.6 percent in the first half, forcing the government to revise down its full-year projection to 1.4 percent from a target of 2.2 percent established in December, Economy Minister Adel Yzquierdo told the assembly.
Yzquierdo attributed the downward revision, which had been previously reported, to industries such as tourism, sugar and nickel mining coming up short of projections. Other sectors outperformed expectations, Yzquierdo said. Transportation, warehousing and communications grew 6.2 percent while agriculture, livestock and fishing grew 5.6 percent. Sugar was up 5.3 percent, but well short of the target of 17.5 percent.
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140705/economy-stalled-cuba-resists-speedier-path-free-enterprise

London Globe Theatre to Perform in Havana

havana-live-globe_theatreHAVANA, 6 July On the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the arrival William Shakespeare and as the primary demonstration this summer, the Globe Theater will present two performances in Havana.
Hamlet, a classic by Shakespeare,is the piece to be premiered at the Mella Theater by this world famed troupe, known also by its direct bond with the British playwright. In a press conference, Dania del Pino, a specialist with the National Council of Performing Arts, clarified this group will offer two presentations -2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.- to satisfy the public’s requirements.On the other hand, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported the Globe has the intent of taking the historical theatrical production to distinct regions of earth, on a worldwide tour.The Nes paper clarified that 16 men and girls traveling by train, boat, bikes, sailboats, buses and planes through the world and perform in different areas, from squares of towns to national theatres, palaces and seashores.The English troupe’s present headquarters is the Globe Theater constructed according to the first, erected for the Chamberlain’s Men in 1599, the firm directed by Shakespeare.
 

Putin will visit Havana, with Argentina and Brazil

havana-live-putin-powerHAVANA, 5 July   President Vladimir Putin will next week start an important Latin America visit that will take him to Brazil , Argentina and Cuba as he seeks to counter the growing international isolation through the Ukraine disaster in Russia.

La Habana has sided in the struggle with its old friend Russia. Putin along with his Cuban hosts are expected to discuss cooperation in air travel, electricity, transportation, area and wellbeing, the Kremlin stated.
Forward of the visit, Russian parliament voted on Friday to write-off 90 percent of Cuba’s Soviet-era debt of over $35 million (26 billion pounds) and said the rest would be earmarked for investment jobs. With Leader Cristina Kirchner, Putin may travel to Argentina for power and trade talks from Cuba, before moving on into a summit of underdeveloped countries in Brazil’s group.
On the sidelines of the summit, Putin is expected to meet with leaders of Southern Africa, India and China, the Kremlin stated. The high-light of the trip’s final leg will be a hand over ceremony at the end of the World Cup finals, where Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff may pass on obligation for the championship event.
Russian Federation has pledged to invest billions of dollars on infrastructure and stadiums for the championship and will sponsor the soccer extravaganza. The strongman may also satisfy Brazilian business people as he seeks investment for his country’s embattled market.

Havana completes Mariel port rail link

havana-live-railway-marielHAVANA, 3 July Havana completed construction of its first new railway for more than two decades on July 1 with the opening of the 65km link between Havana and the port of Mariel, which provides access to a new container terminal.
The line uses parts of an abandoned railway between Havana and Guanajay and a new alignment between Guanajay and Mariel. The railway is double-track throughout and includes a link from Guanajay to Artemisa, where it joins the Havana – Pinar de Rio main line. At Havana the line joins the existing network at Almendares station. The new container terminal at Mariel will replace existing facilities in Havana, which will release land in the capital for redevelopment.
The port of Mariel has recently been developed in a joint venture with Odebrecht, Brazil, and in addition to the construction of new intermodal facilities this includes the establishment of a free trade zone. The new line will be officially inaugurated on July 26, which is a national holiday in Cuba, although trains have already begun running. A passenger service operates over the line, primarily to carry dock workers from Havana to Mariel, although the new line will also help to improve passenger services in Artemisa province.
It is expected that the new Russian DMUs currently being delivered to Cuba will be used for these services. Cuban Railways hope to increase container movements by rail significantly as the port of Havana suffers from insufficient capacity at present and this situation should improve with the new terminal, which will have capacity to handle 1 million TEUs per year, compared with just 350,000 TEUs at Havana.
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/central-south-america/cuba-completes-mariel-port-rail-link.html?channel=536

Cuban diplomat promotes trade opportunities in Pittsburgh

havana-live-josé-cabanasHAVANA, 3 July (By James P. O’Toole) The head of Cuba’s diplomatic interest section in Washington was in Pittsburgh the past two days meeting with business and academic groups, taking in a little baseball, and hoping to promote a continuing thaw in a relationship still profoundly chilled a generation after the end of the Cold War.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, invited Ambassador Jose R. Cabanas to visit the city. In a meeting with Post-Gazette editors Tuesday, Mr. Cabanas promoted the potential for trade and commerce that could follow some future change in the ties between the two wary neighbors. He holds the diplomatic rank of ambassador, but the U.S. and Cuba do not officially exchange ambassadors.
Instead, diplomats such as Mr. Cabanas operate under the umbrella of the two capitals’ Swiss embassies. He described offshore drilling as one huge opportunity in the near future. Alluding to the renewed surge of young undocumented immigrants on the southern border, he said that only measures to spread prosperity more broadly in Central American and the smaller islands of the Caribbean would contain such unregulated immigration.
havana-live-pittsburgh“There’s the danger of lost opportunity,” he said. There is trade between the counties, but since the Kennedy administration, a variety of legislation, notably the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, has sharply restricted it. Mr. Cabanas acknowledged that political circumstances, including the influence of a Florida Cuban community strongly critical of Havana’s human rights record, don’t suggest the likelihood of any imminent change in the the geopolitical realities. He said he is optimistic that attitudes of younger citizens of both countries will set the stage for closer ties in the future.
“What I have found this time is completely different from what I have found before,” he said, emphasizing that he was not comparing the attitudes of Washington administrations but the attitudes of ordinary Americans he encounters in a variety of unofficial contexts. Mr. Cabanas had dinner Monday evening in Pittsburgh with Mr. Doyle and met public officials including county Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Bill Peduto.
The rest of his Pittsburgh itinerary included a stop at Carnegie Mellon University and meeting with a variety of business executives. Former U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, who accompanied the group, said he hoped the trip would pave the way for future contacts including a trade mission to Cuba for local officials and business leaders in October. Asked whether he were considering the potential trade mission, Mr. Fitzgerald said, “We are looking at it if there are economic opportunities for our companies.”http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/07/02/Cuban-diplomat-takes-in-sites-scenes-of-Pittsburgh/stories/201407020072#ixzz36LLwPBah

Niños from Havana

havana-live-Lizt_Alfonso_3Lizt Alfonso – The Children’s Ballet

HAVANA – Hamburg, 3 July  Already twice captured the stunning dance shows from Lizt ALFONSO DANCE CUBA in recent years, the Hamburg audience. After the two successful shows “Fuerza y compás” (2009 in the Deutsches Schauspielhaus) and “Amigas” (2011 at the Thalia Theatre) guest performance “Lizt ALFONSO DANCE CUBA now again at the invitation of Corny Littmann in Hamburg – this time with 10 -14 -year old dancers.
Lizt Alfonso and her company combine all dance styles of Cuba, combining elements of flamenco ballet, contemporary dance and the rhythm of Africa and Spain in an inimitable way. Cuba’s most successful dance theater company not only fills at performances in the Havana theater with 5000 seat, even abroad, from Canada to Holland to the Arab countries.
For over ten years, Lizt Alfonso committed her self to the promotion of young dancer’s and founded especially in Old Havana a school.
The excellent education was already after a very short time so successful that out of the individual age groups independent dance groups araises since then – just like the big boys – successfully occur.havana-live-Lizt_Alfonso2 havana-liveLizt_Alfonso havana-live-lizt-alfons1

Cubas new foreign investment Law takes effect

 havana-live-investment-lawHAVANA, 2 July  The new investment law Cuba has passed to draw capital to the island and refloat its economy came into effect this past Saturday, DPA reported.

Cuba’s Foreign Investment Law, unanimously approved by the country’s Parliament at the close of March this year, opens up broad sectors of the nation’s economy to foreign capital. Among other things, it also offers potential investors tax prerogatives, such as a profit tax cut anywhere from 15 to 30 percent and tax exemptions for hired personnel.
According to official declarations made during the parliamentaray assembly of March 29, Cuba hopes to secure direct foreign investment of up to 2.5 billion dollars a year with this new law. The foreign investment law replaces a legislation that had been in effect in Cub since 1995, when the island began to open sectors of its economy, particularly tourism, to foreign capital. Cuba has been suffering a chronic economic crisis since the early 90s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, once its main commercial partner.
The new law also affords Cuban émigrés the opportunity to invest, either as individuals or members of organizations. The potential inflow of capital arising from Cubans living in the United States, where 85 percent of all Cuban immigrants live, will be significantly reduced by the effects of the economic embargo that Washington has maintained for over 50 years.
The law does not however envisage the possibility of having Cuban citizens living on the island invest as individuals and only authorizes domestic investments in the form of entities (State companies). The legislation also maintains current conditions on the hiring of personnel by foreign investors, to be carried out indirectly via State employment agencies. Wage payments will also be subject to an ad-hoc exchange rate that shall be applied to the Mariel Free Trade Zone, some 40 kilometers west of Havana.
The rate for exchanges between Cuban Pesos (CUP) and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) will be lower than the country’s official rate.

Cuba sells 50 new cars in first 6 months

havana-live-peugeot-508-HAVANA, 1 July  Cuban dealers sold 50 cars and four motorcycles nationwide in the first six months of the year under a new law that removed limits on auto purchases for the first time in half a century but came with prices so high few people could afford them.

Long-frustrated Cubans welcomed the law that took effect in January until they saw sticker prices were marked up 400 percent or more, pricing family sedans like European sports cars. Cuba has said it would invest 75 percent of the proceeds from new car sales in its woeful public transportation system. But total sales at the country’s 11 national dealerships reached just $1.28 million in the first six months of the year, the official website Cubadebate.com reported on Monday, citing Iset Vazquez, vice president of the state enterprise Corporacion CIMEX.
Most of the sales this year appeared to be of the second-hand variety considering the average sale price of $23,759 per vehicle, including the motorcycles. A Havana Peugeot dealership was pricing its 2013 model 206 at $91,000 when the new rules came into effect, and it wanted $262,000 for the sportier 508. Such prices drew howls of protest from the few Cubans who could even consider buying a car. 
The high prices have also been a complaint of foreign businesses and potential investors, who need government permission to import a new or used car without the huge markup. Cuba only gradually is loosening the auto market. In 2011, it started allowing its people to buy and sell used cars from each other. Before then, only cars that were in Cuba before the 1959 revolution could be freely bought and sold, which is why there are so many U.S.-made, vintage 1950s cars on the streets. Giant Chevys and Buicks rumble alongside little Soviet-made Ladas, another popular brand dating from the era before 1991 when Moscow was the communist island’s main benefactor.
http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/139779/cuba-sells-50-cars-in-first-6-months-of-year