Monthly Archives: November 2014

British Royal Navy Frigate arrived in Havana

 havana-live-britisch-fregattHavana, Nov 30 (PL) The British Royal Navy frigate HMS ARGYLL, arrived today in this capital for a friendly visit.
A 21-gun salute from the visiting ship was reciprocated by a battery from the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabana. Commander Paul Hammond said this is an opportunity to further strengthen relations with the Cuban people.

In a meeting held at the Mayors House, Vice President of the Public Administration Council in Havana, Juan Montalvo, told the visitor that he will be able to verify the Cubans’ effort to improve the economic situation of their country.
Montalvo gave Hammond the Medal for the 495th Anniversary of the City. As part of their stay in Cuba, the British sailors will develop a busy agenda, including meetings with top officials of the Cuban Revolutionary Navy and visits to places of historical and cultural interest. According to an official not, the population will be allowed to visit the ship on 11:00-14:00 local time today.

In Havana,’Rent’ rehearsals for 1st Broadway Musical in 50 Yrs

havana-live-Rent HAVANA, 27 November (Reuters) In Bob Nederlander Jr.’s mission to export Broadway to new markets around the world, he found an old one where the American art form lay dormant for a least 50 years – Cuba.

After testing the Cuban appetite with a 2011 concert of Broadway show tunes, Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment decided to stage a three-month run of “Rent,” the first Broadway musical exported to Cuba in decades. “We were all blown away by the reaction,” Nederlander said of the 2011 show. “Standing ovations. People cheering, on their feet dancing.”
Based on that and interest from Cuba’s Culture Ministry, “we then suggested we bring authentic Broadway here to Cuba; that we do it in Spanish with Cuban actors and musicians,” Nederlander told Reuters from Havana’s 350-seat Bertolt Brecht Theater on the second day of rehearsals. “Rent” will premiere on Dec. 24, just two months after casting.

The Americans will direct and provide set design, sound, lights, choreography and the wardrobe. Nederlander is part of the third generation of his family business, the entertainment empire behind hits such as “Chicago,” “La Cage aux Folles” and “West Side Story.” The Cuban production is a total financial loss meant as a cultural exchange, Nederlander said, declining to reveal any details.
Cuba’s National Council for Performing Arts is sharing expenses. Broadway shows were popular in Cuba before the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, but what happened after that is unclear, an official from the National Council for Peforming Arts said. The United States imposed a trade embargo, and Cuba banned some capitalist influences from the Caribbean island.

Whatever the reason, the curtain came down on Broadway in Cuba. Nederlander, who has a license from the U.S. government for this show, said “Rent” was chosen because it was contemporary, youthful and had a relatively simple set.
The show debuted on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre in 1996, winning the Tony for Best Musical, and ran for 12 years. Andy Señor Jr., a Cuban-American who will direct “Rent” in Cuba, also hoped the play’s gay story lines would resonate in a country where homosexuality was not decriminalized until 1979.

“‘Rent’ is such a celebration of who you choose to be in your life,” Señor said. “I’m hoping the gay community knows about the show and comes to see it, and that they’re able to see themselves on stage.”
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta)

Havana could be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World cities

2050966028_b0fb319930HAVANA, Nov 26 (acn) Havana has great possibilities to be one of the seven wonder cities of modern world, asserted on Tuesday Jean Paul de la Fuente, head of Value Development of the New 7 Wonder Foundation of Switzerland, who is on a visit to Cuba until Thursday.

The final list in which Havana could appear will be released on December 7, so in a meeting with the press the executive asked for Cuban support for the campaign with that purpose, with the creation and expansion of vote mechanisms throughout Cuba.
The process of voting on line to choose the seven wonder cities began in 2012 with over 1, 200 nominations of approximately 220 countries, and on October 7, 2013, the list with the initial 300 aspirants was made public. Later, the number of cities was reduced to 28 and on October 7 the 14 finalists were presented.

These cities are: Barcelona (Spain), Beirut (Lebanon), Chicago (the United States), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia), London (the United Kingdom), Mexico City (Mexico), Perth (Australia), Quito (Ecuador), Reykjavik (Island), Havana (Cuba) and Vigan (the Philippines).

Havana Film Festival to Honor one of his founders

 havana-live-marquezHAVANA, 26 November (Photo Reuters) The Colombian author and journalist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was one of the founders of the film festival. The 36th edition of the Havana Film Festival will honor one of his creators .

Gabo, as he was known, died in April in Mexico City, where he used to live. He is considered one of the greatest spanish speaking novelists and writers of all times and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. He was best known for his many books, like “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” but another of his passions was cinema and writing scripts.
Gabo even participated in several adaptations of his novels. His passion for cinema led him to found and preside over the Foundation of New Latin American Cinema, based in Havana. He was also one of the founders of the Havana Film Festival.

The festival will take place from December 4-14 and will also honor Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro, who has portrayed Ernesto Che Guevara two times on teh silver screen, and Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovski.
The director of the festival, Ivan Giroud, said on Tuesday during a press conference that a total of 478 movies will be shown during the festival. The countries that will compete in the festival are: Argentina, Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Dominican Republic.

Viva La Vie Boheme! Rent Is Heading to Havana

1.171761HAVANA, 25 November (By Ryan McPhee)  Rent is coming to Cuba! The Tony and Pulitzer-winning tuner by Jonathan Larson will mark Cuba’s first full production of a musical in over 50 years.
The Spanish-language production will open on Christmas Eve (the same day the first act of the show takes place), at Havana’s Bertolt Brecht Theater. Andy Señor Jr., who made his Broadway debut as Angel in Rent, will direct the cast of 15 Cuban actors.

Based on Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent tells the story of a group of young artists struggling in New York’s East Village in the early 1990s and the obstacles they face, including AIDS, homelessness, poverty, lack of healthcare and homophobia.

The Great Whiite Way production of Rent opened on April 29, 1996, following a sold-out, extended limited engagement at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop. The musical, directed by Michael Greif, went on to win every major Best Musical award, including the Tony, and became one of only eight musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The show closed on Broadway on September 7, 2008.

Señor made his professional stage debut in Rent. He also toured with the show. In 2011, he was assistant director to Greif for the show’s off-Broadway revival.
As previously reported, a workshop production of an updated Carmen Jones, another musical inspired by a classic opera, took place in Havana earlier this year.

XVII th Convention of Engineering and Architecture 2014 starts today in Havana

havana-live-architecturaHAVANA, November 24  About 450 experts and researchers from 33 countries, as well as 694 Cubans, are participating in 17th Scientific Convention on Engineering and Architecture, to be opened today in the capital.

 The meeting, the major event on this sphere of knowledge taking place in Cuba, will be run until November 28 at the Havana’s Conference Center.
About 15 scientific events conform this convention, among them are workshops, symposiums and collateral forums, with researches linked to energy, environmental issues, new technologies, biotechnology and food. 687 works by foreign experts plus other 760 by Cuban researchers conform the scientific and cultural spectrum of the convention.

The scientific program also includes 55 keynote speeches by figures from 18 countries. Organizers expect that this meeting helps to increase collaboration and exchange of experiences and results, which will be presented by representatives from universities, research institutes, and companies.

Tampa- Havana flight: $24,000 landing fees in Havana, $275 in Tampa

 havana-live-jose-martiHAVANA, 23 November The battle for the Cuban charter flight business out of Tampa International Airport has landed in federal court, exposing what U.S. citizens must pay the secretive Cuban government for use of Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

The annual total is somewhere between $31 million and $62 million — more than any other nation pays, said one Cuba analyst — enough to make critics question whether the fee is covering actual costs or going to support Cuba
. Tampa International Airport, by comparison, received $14.6 million in landing fees during 2014 for flights from airlines based in every nation that lands here. On a per-flight basis, the same U.S. plane that pays $275 for landing fees at Tampa International pays up to $24,000 in Havana.

The cost estimates on U.S.-Cuba flights is based on two factors: the revelation in court documents that landing fees range as high as $148 for each U.S. passenger, coupled with the projection that two-thirds of the 635,000 Americans traveling to the island nation in 2014 are destined for the capital city of Havana.
“It is a way to get more money off the U.S. since the U.S. government blocks it from making money in other ways,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a policy analyst for the Cuban government from 1992-94 who now is an academic in Denver and an advocate for better relations between Cuba and the U.S. Lopez-Levy said the U.S. is the only nation in the world that pays such high fees to land in Havana.

Four foreigners were sentenced in Havana for child abuse

 havana-live-child-abuseHAVANA, 22 November A Canadian, an Indian and two Italians were sentenced to prison in Havana for having sex with minors in Cuba. In addition two other foreigners are awaiting trial and 13 Cubans have been convicted on this.

The Canadian was sentenced to 13 years, the Indian sentenced to a combined 30 years for crimes of corruption of minors and illegal drug trafficking and the 2 Italian sentenced to 23 and 25 years respectively on charges of murder and corruption of minors . While 2 other foreigners (English and Spanish) are pending the hearing of the trial for having sex with minors.

All this was presented in a report published by the Cuban Foreign Ministry which says that Cuba applies zero tolerance to human traffic and sexual abuse of any kind.
Moreover, the report noted that “since the middle of 2013 the police authorities because of provide tracking information indicating the existence of alleged cases of trafficking of young Cubans abroad, giving rise to research that still maintain its course.”

“We have been able to identify a group of Cubans traveling or residing in the related foreign-nationals, who are dedicated to the collection and transfer of victims under false promises of employment contracts, for which cover expenditure on output and the journey of these, fulfilling the legal formalities in place” it said. The report added that “in this way a debt must be paid by the exercise of prostitution in the country of destination.”
Source: Diario de Cuba

Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona win 3 Latin Grammys with “Bailando”

havana-live-enriqueiglesiasbailandoHAVANA, 21 November  “Bailando”, the popular theme of Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias and the Cubans Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, was the big winner at the gala of the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

The song won the awards for Song of the Year, Best Urban Performance and Urban Song on a night in which the announcement by President Obama on US immigration policy, made shortly before the Grammys got underway, was widely celebrated.
“This is a historic day for all Latin Americans living in the United States,” said Enrique Iglesias on a video connection from Paris when receiving one of the three prizes. In addition, the 43 students missing in Mexico since 26 September were remembered by the artists and audience.
Iglesias, Bueno and Gente de Zona were the big winners, but they were not present in Las Vegas as they are on a European tour. The gala ended with “Dancing” but played by them at a concert in Madrid. 

Land for mosque in Havana is ready

 havana-live-mosqueeHAVANA, 21 November  After the Turkish president said a mosque would be appropriate on the spot where he claims that Muslims discovered the Americas, a site has reportedly been allocated for a mosque’s construction in the Cuban capital Havana.

Five acres of land in the Old Havana district of the city have been spared, and Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is working towards constructing the mosque, daily Vatan reported on Nov. 20.
Diyanet Vice General Manager Mustafa Tutkun, who is negotiating the possibility of a mosque’s construction in Cuba between Cuban officials and Turkey, said they had proposed the construction of a mosque similar to the picturesque Ortaköy Mosque in Istanbul. However, he added that Cuban officials would prefer the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (IOC) to construct the mosque, rather than one country.

“Our foundation is ready to pay the costs of [the mosque]. This idea first came out as our foundation’s project and bilateral visits then took place. The land where the mosque can be constructed is ready. We are thinking of building a [mosque] similar to the Ortaköy Mosque,” said Tutkun.
Speaking to an audience at the 1st Latin American Muslim Leaders Summit in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hit international headlines by claiming that Muslim sailors arrived in America in 1178, more than 300 years before Christopher Columbus. He also said Columbus had mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast.

Erdoğan later instructed Turkey’s educational institutions to adopt a policy of highlighting the contribution of Islam to global science and arts, including the discovery of the American continent by Muslim sailors. The president underlined that he is not the first to make this suggestion, referring to claims found in books written by Germany-based Turkish Professor Fuat Sezgin.

New flights from New York to Havana

 havana-live-sun-countryHAVANA, 20 November (eTurboNews) Cuba Travel Services will now be offering direct flights from New York’s JFK Airport to Havana, Cuba. Cuba Travel Services arranges flights operated by American Airlines and Sun Country Airlines to popular destinations including Havana, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santa Clara, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba Travel Services believes expanding its flight network will provide licensed travelers more options at a substantial savings. Currently, authorized passengers from the New Jersey/New York areas experience connection delays, additional baggage fees and extra domestic ticket costs when connecting to Cuba through Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa.
Although initial request to operate flights to Havana from Newark Liberty International Airport was denied by local airport authorities, the JFK airport is easily accessible from New Jersey.

This new market features one of the largest Cuban American populations in the United States, second only to Florida. In the spirit of the recent New York Times Editorial published on October 11, 2014 titled “Obama Should End the Embargo On Cuba”, Cuba Travel Services chose to provide this important cultural and social link between the two cities.
The new service will also offer a cost effective travel solution to those Cuban Americans seeking to visit family.
Flight Information: The new flights to Havana will be arranged by Cuba Travel Services and operated by Sun Country Airlines which will utilize next generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft with first and coach class configuration.

Cuban Couple Keeps Rodents Called Huitias as Pets

 havna-live-huitiasIn this Nov. 17, 2014 photo, Congui, a domesticated huitia, rides on the front door of an American classic car driven by its owner Rafael Lopez, in Bainoa, Cuba. Five years ago Lopez and his wife Ana Pedraza adopted Congui, their first pet huitia, a large rodent that lives in Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas and some of the smaller Caribbean islands. More than a half-dozen more of the furry animals have been born at their home after occasionally bringing in a male huitia in to mate with Congui.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA, 19 November (AFP) Some people keep guinea pigs or hamsters as pets. But in Cuba, where a larger, more exotic rodent runs wild, Ana Pedraza and her husband prefer the huitia.

With a rope-like tail and long front teeth, the huitia looks like a giant rat, only cuter, some would say. They live in Cuba and other Caribbean islands where they are sometimes hunted for food.
But Pedraza and her husband Rafael Lopez say they only want to want to protect and take care of the animals, which measure nearly a foot long (about 30 centimeters), with the largest ones weighing in bigger than a small dog.

The couple began collecting huitias about five years ago when they found one languishing on a roadside and named her Congui. They found her a mate and now have more than a half-dozen huitias in their home about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the capital, Havana. Congui and her brood like to drink sweetened coffee and munch on crackers and vegetables. Her son Pancho enjoys an occasional nip of rum.

Appealing week for Partagas Fans in Havana

 havana-live-partagas-factory HAVANA, November 18 (Prensa Latina) The XXVII edition of the Meeting of Clients and Friends of the Partagas House began yesterday in Havana and was attended by 350 businessmen from twenty countries, rather interested in smoking cigars.

Businessmen, executives and traders arrived in Cuba this Monday 21 November to hold ceremonies and meetings mostly private, which will allow a close approach to one of the most important brands of the handmade Premium Cuban cigar.
The director of the Partagas House, Grecia Quiñones, said that smokers worldwide who love this brand and place, located in the Partagas building (founded in 1845, Industria No. 520, behind the Capitolio of Havana) will participate.havana-live-Partagas

Among those attending the ceremony are cigar lovers from Germany, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Kuwait, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, Greece, Cayman Islands, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Singapore, Chile, France, United States, Sweden and the hosts. This event is organized by the Commercial Business Group Tiendas Caracol S.A. when the Partagas House also celebrates its 21st anniversary.
Dinners for smokers, competitions, artistic performances and tours in Havana, Varadero beach and rural farms complete the event, that has already become customary, including a closure in the protocol center of the Cuban government El Laquito. Habano cigars are considered the best in the world for the three-fold condition of the soil, climate and the experience of producers, with 37 brands, among which Partagas stands out.

Havana asks for investment to help combat its economic crisis

 havana-live-solarHAVANA, 17 November  Cuba asked international companies on Monday to invest over $8 billion to help the island combat its economic crisis. The money would assist with kick-starting a centrally planned economy starved for cash and hamstrung by inefficiency.

Foreign Commerce Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz announced that it will cost about $8.7 billion to build a list of over 200 potential projects. The list of possible investments is a big step in a push for foreign capital.
“Cuba is pushing strongly to take advantage of the benefits associated with foreign investment to stimulate development,” he said. Hopes for foreign capital could allow fewer restrictions on investments. It could also help to create a special trade zone around a new deep-water port west of Havana.

Yet, foreigners at Havana’s International Fair say that Cuba is a place that still makes investors deeply nervous. The comments made at the country’s main economic promotional event come at a time when many basic supplies are lacking and simple decisions could take months for approval from overlapping government agencies.

The Cuban government refuses to release basic information about current levels of foreign investment. Malmierca says refusal of the information is to protect Cuba against the United States misusing the figure.
Cuba blames the U.S. for much of its economic misfortune while America maintains an embargo on the island. Cuba is “in an economic war with the world’s primary power,” he said to the Associated Press.

“We don’t give out that data.” The country says it needs to drive foreign investment to more than $2 billion a year in order to help raise an economic growth rate not expected to exceed 1 percent this year
. The main goal is to push growth to 5 percent annually. Foreign executives also complain that doing business with Cuba is not the best idea because they would have to hire Cuban employees through a state agency, making it difficult to directly choose and promote people.

Cubana added more direct flights to Costa Rica

 havana-live-cubanaHAVANA, 17 November At 9:30 am Sunday morning at the Juan Santamaria International Airport the inaugural direct flight of Cubana Airlines landed from Havana. Flights from Cuba have been suspended since 2008 but the airline stated it would be starting this route again.
That time is now.
Cubana will have this flight on Thursday’s and Sunday’s in an Antonov 158 aircraft which has a capacity of 85 passengers. The general manager of Cubana Aviation, Daniel Mendez, said the aim of reviving direct flights to Costa Rica is to strengthen the business alliance and enhance development in both tourist markets of the nations. Rafael Mencia, CEO of Aeris Holding Costa Rica, said the decision to start this route again is to facilitate the arrival of the Russian tourist market.
“It also represents an opportunity for Costa Ricans who decide to travel to that destination,” said Mencia. In 2013 there were 3.372 Cubans that came into Costa Rica and this number is expected to increase with the new service. A total of 4,146 Russian tourists also visited the country.

Eat in Cuba, Let Relatives Pay in Miami

el-gato-tuertoHAVANA, 15 November (Café Fuerte By Daniel Benitez) A new Cuban initiative to obtain dollars mainly from Miami is up and running: Dining in Havana with dollars from family or friends from abroad.

Starting this month, state officials authorized restaurant reservations for Cubans living on the island made from abroad; people can now make invitations for lunch or dinner for their relatives or friends with all expenses paid. The new service began on November 1 and allows purchasers to select a table and menu, only via the internet, to 43 restaurants and cafes in four provinces: Havana (13), Villa Clara (6), Camaguey (13) and Holguin (11). The website allows those interested to choose dishes ranging in price from $13.83 dollars at the Gato Tuerto to the menu 4 at the Bodeguita del Medio for $ 28.08. Payments with Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

Contribution from Cubans Living Abroad

The service is similar to that established by the State monopoly phone company ETECSA for online payments from outside the country for telephone bills of residents on the island, in force since January. The objective of the ETECSA and restaurant pay from abroad system seems one and the same: tap the potential of the Cuban diaspora as a source of capital for the island’s economy.
The assistance not only comes from outside in the form of shipments of food, clothing, medicine and electronics and more than $ 2.600 billion in annual family remittances, but now begins to branch out into other expenses of daily life. These include payment of phone bills, cash to finance buying houses and cars, supplies for private restaurants and even moments of relaxation and enjoyment, such as footing the bill for stays at resorts and now dinners at restaurants.
The announcement of this new type of food service is promoted by the state company Cubanacan Travel with the attractiveness that reservations may also be made at private business associated with the tourism company.

Diversifying the Offer
Dining at the famous Bodeguita del Medio is also available via online payment form abroad. Dining at the famous Bodeguita del Medio is also available via online payment form abroad. Oscar Mederos Mesa, manager of the Havana Cubanacan office, told the local media that the tourist agency has contracts with 27 private restaurants in Havana, Mayabeque and Artemis, but said that only five are currently visible on the new pay by Internet service.
With this new step to diversify the market for national and international tourism, and in the process attract more dollars, the company also has contracts with private owners of 33 vintage cars, 32 taxis and 13 private lodgings. The manager said that to choose the private cars they took into account many details, giving preference to convertibles … “and the more original cars, preferably with factory engines”, all geared to please the visitor.

The fusion of government with private initiatives started in 2013. At present, 68 percent of the country’s 11,000 food service units have state administration, although the government plans to gradually move them to the private sector. The launching of the pay online service for dining comes on the eve of beginning preparations for year-end festivities, so the invitation to dinner can be a good gift for a family member to say goodbye to 2014 and welcome 2015.

Two top chefs plan to open restaurant’s in Havana

havana-live-enrique-olveraEnrique Olvera

HAVANA, 14 November (Reuters)  They have already earned a place in the firmament of the world’s best chefs. Now Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and Mexico’s Enrique Olvera have set their sights on one of the world’s toughest markets: Cuba.

The island has seen a restaurant boom in recent years, fed by market-style reforms enacted under President Raul Castro, though ingredients can be scarce. The pair are eager to take on the challenge.
Aduriz’s restaurant Mugaritz, in Spain’s northern Basque region, was named the sixth best restaurant in the world this year by Restaurant Magazine, while Olvera’s Pujol in Mexico City ranked at No. 20. “We’re at a stage where we don’t just want to cook good, creative, avant-garde food,” Aduriz told Reuters by telephone as he prepared dinner with Olvera at Pujol on Wednesday.

“Why not do a project that aspires to be on a hypothetical list of the most fun restaurants in the world?” Since 2011, restaurateurs in Cuba, who previously were limited to 12-seat establishments in their homes, can seat up to 50 people in rented spaces. While state restaurants and joint ventures with the state can import luxury items, Cuba’s private restaurants, known as paladares, often struggle to find ingredients from supermarkets and other retailers.
havana-live-andurizAndoni Luis Aduriz

In keeping with Cuba’s ideals, Aduriz and Olvera aim to create a restaurant that levels the social playing field. “Gastronomy is not a privilege of people with money, but rather of intelligent people. Why not dream of a restaurant in which we manage to mix all social classes of people and no one asks who anyone else is?” Adruriz said.

It is not clear how economically viable the planned restaurant would be. The pair are still at the early stages, with no planned start-up date. Havana’s dining choices now include inventive fusion spots, ethnic choices offering Spanish, Italian or Russian food, and white-tablecloth restaurants serving haute cuisine.

They serve tourists, foreigners including diplomats, and a growing number of Cubans who have access to hard currency from their jobs, small businesses or relatives working abroad. “We are going through the beginnings of something that didn’t exist a short time ago,” said Pilar Fernandez, who opened her second restaurant, Casa Pilar, in Havana a month ago.

“This is going to create a new school in the world of Cuban gastronomy. With time, all these young people learning new skills will end up being good chefs.”
(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta in Havana; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Cubans to be allowed more than 1cell phone line

 havana-live-cell-phonesHAVANA, Nov 12 (EFE) Cuban state telecoms company Etecsa said Tuesday it is relaxing its service restrictions and will allow ordinary citizens to obtain up to three wireless phone lines, state-run media reported.

Individuals on the island, where mobile telephony use has grown quickly since President Raul Castro’s government lifted a ban on personal cellphone ownership in 2008, had previously been limited to a single wireless line.
The new policy, set to take effect in February 2015, responds to the need to “relax contracting terms and the use of mobile ground telecommunications service,” Etecsa said in a resolution that the Communications Ministry published in the Official Gazette.

Earlier this month, the company lifted another restriction that had required users of pre-paid cellular service – the only option available to Cubans – to buy a minimum amount of minutes per month or else lose their wireless line.
Under the new rules, users must buy a minimum amount of minutes annually. Among other developments this year in Cuba’s mobile telephony market, Etecsa also inaugurated a new wireless e-mail service, although it does not allow Internet access.

Demand for that local wireless e-mail (located on Cuba’s intranet) exceeded the company’s expectations in just a few weeks, leading to system crashes. The number of wireless subscribers in Cuba – whose population was just over 11 million in 2012 – climbed to nearly 2 million last year, according to official figures.

Marabana will receive 562 foreign participants

cabecera_web_marabana4HAVANA, 12 November  A total of 562 foreign riders have already confirmed their attendance at the 28th edition of Marabana to be held on Sunday, said Carlos Gattorno, race director.

Besides that number of foreign representatives, confirmed their participation over two thousand contestants from Cuba. Among the foreign athletes stands a group of over 150 Americans, benefit from a special amateur sports license issued by the Treasury Department of the United States. According to the director, on Monday arrived here a delegation from the Madrid Marathon and the representative of the World Marathon Series circuit.
Gattorno also confirmed the availability of the necessary for the completion of the grueling resources, which this year pays tribute to the 495 anniversary of the founding of the town of San Cristobal de La Habana and the Day of Physical Culture and Sports (November 19).
On November 16 at seven o’clock there will be the Marabana snatch while Maracuba will be race the day before, both with accurate output across Radio Reloj. The official presentation of Marabana-2015 will be held on Friday at the Melia Cohiba Hotel.

JOJazz 2014 will be held in Havana from November 13 to 16

 havana-live-jojazz-2014HAVANA, 11 November  Victor Rodriguez, director of the music festival JoJazz 2014 revealed the artistic program of the event that promotes young figures of Cuban Jazz and will be held in Havana from November 13 to 16.

The event will begin with a concert-tribute to renowned Cuban singer Pablo Milanes, where winners of previous editions will perform iconic songs of the singer. As a surprise for the concert Rodriguez said the inclusion of a little known song composed for four hands by Milanes and Chucho Valdes.
Among the winners of the previous contest who gathered at the Lazaro Peña Theater for the opening concert will include Rolando Luna, William Roblejo, Zule Guerra and the female vocal group Sexto Sentido, among others.

“This is an event that over the years has become an essential date in Cuban music, not only of jazz but of national music as a whole,” said Rodriguez, who added that in his opinion the musicians participating in the event have an undeniable quality and proven experience, despite their youth.
The chief of artistic direction of JoJazz 2014, Alexis Vazquez, referred to the primary goal of its organizers: show the strength that is in the young jazz today in Cuba, for-his understand- since you hear a work of an artist their sound is recognizable, which speaks to its authenticity, said.

Former winners of the musical, Michel Herrera and Yasek Manzano, will preside over the jury of the major categories of interpretation and composition, while this year contestants from all provinces are participating concluded one of three musicologists of event Yentsy Rangel. JoJazz, which in 2014 will be dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Jazz Plaza Festival, takes place in Cuba since 1998 and has served as a way to boost the careers of some 500 young talents from the current Cuban jazz firmament

German firms explore investment in Cuba

  havana-live-trade-fair2The Cuban government has unveiled a raft of investment projects in hopes to attract foreign capital. But German firms criticize the lack of support from their government, DW’s Andreas Knobloch writes from Havana.

HAVANA, 11 November  Now that Cuba’s economy has made steps to open up to foreign capital, the island’s communist government hopes to lure potential investors with numerous incentives. But doing business in Cuba requires a different approach.
“The Cuban market has many special features,” said Stephan Gruber, one of the directors of Casa Alemania, a German umbrella organization for German companies wanting to do business in Cuba.
“The short term does not work in Cuba.” Gruber said Casa Alemania, which means Germany House, has built up experience in dealing with Cuban businesses through years of discussions, earning what he described as “acceptance through continuity.”

No room at the German pavilion havana-live-trade-fairPeter Scholz German ambassador Peter Scholz (r) visited the trade fair
This experience includes a stand at the 32nd Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2014), which has just come to a close. Some 2,000 companies from 60 countries took part in the week-long show that covered over 18,000 square meters.
Thirty-seven exhibitors traveled from Germany – most of them technology and engineering companies, including heavyweights such as Bosch, MAN and ThyssenKrupp. For the third year in a row, the German pavilion was fully booked. It’s no secret that Cuba is now in transition.
For several years, the country has been undertaking a cautious economic realignment. Under the motto of “updating the socialist model” Raul Castro’s government has lifted restrictions on private sales of cars and real estate, allowed more free-market initiatives and set up a Brazilian-funded special economic zone around the port of Mariel, 45 kilometers west of Havana. The centerpiece of this new openness is a new law on foreign investment that took effect in June. It allows foreign companies to invest in all sectors of the Cuban economy for the first time.

‘Trial balloon for the free market’  havana-live-trade-fair1Cuba enters the smartphone era
The trade fair in Havana and the new law are part of a push that the government hopes will bring much-needed capital into the country. Foreign investors will be offered tax benefits and investment protection. “It’s a trial balloon for the free market,” Tobias Schwab, another of Casa Alemania’s directors, called it. The investment law means Cuba “for the first time can form deeper and more complex economic interrelationships,” said Klaus Hartmann, a former East German ambassador to Cuba who now works as a consultant on Latin America.
Expectations are high on all sides. “Cuba has invested heavily to reap the benefits associated with foreign investment,” Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz said as he unveiled the government’s 8.7-billion-dollar spending program at the fair. It includes 246 projects – from chicken farming to manufacturing vaccines to constructing wind farms – across the whole island.

Rebuilding power networks
“What’s positive about this program is that concrete projects are finally being presented in detail. Not many investors know much about Cuba,” said Udo Volz, an economics specialist at the German embassy in Havana. “But it can only be a first step.” Cuba, he said, would need to get the word out about its investment law, not least because it is competing with other investment-hungry nations on the world market.
The Caribbean island needs about 2 billion dollars of foreign direct investment every year to increase its overall economic growth to 5 percent from its current 1 percent, Malmierca said. “Governments can do much to create a business environment, but in the end, it’s companies that must make something of it.” And the once-secretive state has changed its approach to foreign business. “The communication from the Cuban side has changed,” Volz said, describing a new “openness.”

Whereas the government in Havana once understood foreign capital to be “complementary,” it is now expected to play a “fundamental” role in some sectors, especially food production, agriculture, tourism, construction and energy. In the latter case, Cuba wants to move from fossil fuels to renewable energies and cannot do so without foreign expertise
Germany could be a valuable partner, especially in this field, Ambassador Peter Scholz said during his visit to the trade fair. Renewable energies are also a priority for Casa Alemania. It held initial talks with the Cuban government on wind power in 2004, its director Mathias Schultze said. “But in the years that followed, German policymakers scaled back their commitment to Cuba.”

‘Germany is holding back’  havana-live-trade-fair3Casa Alemania directors Klaus Hartmann, Stephan Gruber, Tobias Schwab, Mathias Schultze fly the flag for Germany
Today, Schwab said, Chinese companies were taking the lion’s share of Cuban foreign trade, not least because of aggressive state-backed Chinese financing. “In contrast, German companies have to fend for themselves in Cuba.” Schwab said the German government needed to offer more support to its companies, because there was clear rethinking on the part of the Cubans.
Quality and sustainability now played a greater role and German engineering still enjoyed an impeccable reputation, he said. But, he said, any financing schemes would require stronger backing from Germany, especially in light of the US economic boycott of the island: “German policy is too focused on the United States.” Investment in Cuba was overshadowed by this political and cultural agenda, he said.

And while countries such as Spain and Canada have shown it is possible to follow a different course, Schwab said, “There’s no political desire for that in Germany.” Even the German embassy in Havana had done little to encourage economic cooperation, he said. This is a criticism that Volz is unwilling to accept. He said efforts were being made to support German companies with consulting advice.
But he also acknowledged that Cuba is not a priority as a business partner. “Cuba is not just on the agenda.” This is made clear by the fact that Cuba lacks an independent German chamber of commerce – the German Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala is responsible for Cuba – or even a German trade office. “Other countries have done much more,” Schultze said. “Britain, Portugal and Italy sent ministers to the fair.” Germany, however, didn’t even send an undersecretary.

Havana pins economic hopes on foreign investment

havana-live-diazHAVANA,10 November (AP)  Havana is asking international firms to invest more than $8 billion in the island as it attempts to kick start a centrally planned economy starved for cash and hamstrung by inefficiency.

Foreign Commerce Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz has announced a list of 246 projects Cuba wants that would require $8.7 billion in investment, ranging from farms to a light auto plant. Cuba says foreign investment must reach $2 billion annually to increase an economic growth rate not expected to exceed 1% this year.
The list announced at Havana’s International Fair on Monday is the latest step in Cuba’s push for foreign capital that also includes a law relaxing conditions for investment and the creation of a special trade zone in the Mariel port west of Havana. It’s looking to push growth to 5% annually, but the reform effort appears to have had few results so far.

Cuba has yet to announce any foreign investment projects for the Mariel trade zone nearly a year after the port opened with $600 million from Brazil — two-thirds of the project’s cost. Chinese executive George Yan said he asked in May for permission to build a $1 million plant at Mariel that would employ 100 Cubans to assemble energy-saving LED lights

. Despite receiving initial approval three months later, he has not been shown potential sites for the factory or received other indications the project can proceed. In China, he said, “this would take 24 hours.” “The Cubans have a certain fear that if they go fast they can’t reverse any decision, so they prefer to go more slowly and do all the studies,” he said.
Yan nevertheless said he was optimistic Cuba would move faster in the coming year. “Many people complain about the time in which we do things, but everyone’s got their own pace,” Malmierca said. “We’re going to do this our way and we want to do it well.”


Bacardi will return to Cuba

imagesHAVANA, 2 November (By Olly Wehring)  The president of Bacardi has reiterated the company’s intention to return to its native Cuba once the US embargo of the country is lifted.

The Bacardi family – and its rum company – was expelled from Cuba in 1959 following the country’s revolution, led by Fidel Castro. Since then, the US authorities have imposed an embargo on the country in protest against the revolution. Bacardi has subsequently set up a head office in Bermuda, a distillery in Puerto Rico and other operational offices in Miami.

US president Barack Obama has long been thought to be keen on ending the embargo. Speaking to just-drinks at his company’s Puerto Rico facility, Joaquin Bacardi confirmed that the firm will return to Cuba in some capacity at the earliest possible opportunity. “We are hopeful that the facilities (Bacardi owned before the revolution) that exist in Cuba will be returned to us,” he said.

“We have all the documentation to prove that that property is ours. “Because that property has been abandoned for so many years – although it is being operated to produce other rums – we know that the conditions of that operation are very poor; they don’t maintain it very well.

So, it’s going to require a significant capital investment.” Joaquin Bacardi, who is a member of the fifth generation of the family that set up the company, flagged that it is unlikely that Bacardi would produce all of its namesake rum portfolio in Cuba, if the embargo is raised.
“We have a lot of (distilling) assets around the world,” he said. “It’s going to take a balance between what products should come out of Cuba and what products should come from our existing facilities – there will likely be a combination of those.

“Rest assured,” he added, “when the embargo lifts, Bacardi is going to have a presence in Cuba again some day. There is absolutely no question of that.” The Cuban Government, through its Cuba Ron unit, jointly owns and produces the Havana Club rum brand in the country with Pernod Ricard.

The two spirits companies have been in long-running legal disagreement over the Havana Club trademark, with Bacardi selling a rum by the same name in Florida. Pernod and Cuba Ron own the trademark in almost all markets outside the US.

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The town of Australia in Cuba

 havana-live-australiaHAVANA, 2 October (By Cameron Atfield) When US-backed forces attempted to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, the Caribbean nation’s revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, orchestrated his nation’s response from Australia.
Yes, Australia.
The Australia Township, an old sugar town about 140 kilometres south-east of Havana in the province of Matanzas, is a place far removed from Cuba’s tourism hotspots. And getting there isn’t easy. havana-live-australia1
We’ve been in Havana for the best part of a week and have become accustomed to the endless procession of vintage cars that are as offensive to the respiratory system as they are pleasing to the eye. With a lifetime of leaded petrol fumes in our lungs, it’s time for some fresh air.
And where else would a trio of Aussies go but Australia? Prior to arriving in Cuba via the Bahamas – it remains near-impossible to get a commercial flight to the Cuba from the United States, due to an outdated embargo – we became aware of Australia’s existence and were determined to visit our namesakes. 

With the help of a Cuban tourist board staffer, we make sense of the regional bus routes required to get to Australia. A bus transfer here, a short taxi ride (availability permitting) there, piece of cake. So a deal is struck with a Havana taxi driver – 160 convertible pesos for the day – and we’re on our way out of the capital. An hour or so later on the drive along the Autopista Nacional, passing horse-drawn carriages and a seemingly endless army of roadside vegetation pruners, the “Australia” road signs appear. We’re almost “home”. And, before too long, we arrive.
Our driver insists on stopping for a coffee at a stop just outside of town – “The best coffee in Cuba,” he says – and we oblige, which he no doubt is rewarded for through a traditional Cuban kickback.

The first clue that Australia is an old sugar town is the stick of sugar cane I’m given to stir my coffee, which was nice enough, but certainly not the mindblowing caffeinated experience I had come to expect. 

While the etymology of Australia is unclear, one theory goes it was established by Australian ex-pats working during the pre-revolution sugar industry. But whatever the history of the name, the town itself played a significant role in the history of Cuba. Castro arrived in Australia on the afternoon of April 17, 1961, after CIA-backed Cuban exiles launched a failed invasion of the newly formed communist state.
 havana-live-australia2The tiny township, about 50 kilometres north-west of Playa Girón on the Bay of Pigs, served as Castro’s base of operations during the three-day offensive. The Bay of Pigs invasion is commemorated with a propaganda mural at the entrance of town, while steam trains, once used to transport sugar cane, still operate for the few tourists that come to town.
1413955836069But, today, we seem to have missed that train. Australia is dominated by the old, out-of-service sugar factory’s chimney, with “Australia” written prominently down its length. But other than the name, the Australia Township holds little in common with the island continent 16,000 kilometres to the south-west. Australia is tiny, with unsealed dirt roads and the barest of facilities.

Children come out of their school building for their lunchbreak and seem more than a little curious as to why a trio of gringos would be walking down their main street. As Cuba continues along its slow, inexorable path to a free market – little Australia could well be in a position to capitalise on its links to its larger, affluent namesake.

Cuba at the World Travel Market (WTM) 2014 in London

wtm-london-2014HAVANA, November 1 (PL)  Cuban recreational attractions will be present at the 35th edition of the International Tourism Fair World Travel Market (WTM) 2014, London, United Kingdom, in early November, local authorities of the sector reported. A statement from the Cuban Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) stated today that such meeting is one of the major events of this sphere in the world.
The note states that the Cubas delegation will be led by Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero, and including commercial director, Maria del Carmen Orellana, and representatives from hotel chains such as Gran Caribe, Islazul Cubanacan, Gaviota and Habaguanex.

Executives from companies associated to the Cuban tourism such as Iberostar, Barcelo, Blue Diamonds, Super Club, Accor, Melia Hotels International and Roc Hoteles, along with receptive agencies Viajes Cubanacan and Gaviotatours, Palmares and Caracol, will be also present in that group. The delegation will be accompanied by representatives of the Cuban embassy in the United Kingdom, among other executives. The Cuban presence this year in the WTM responds, among other objectives, to the interest for strengthening ties with important English partners for tourist operation from that market to Cuba, states the report.

During the fair, the Cuban delegation will show the latest news of the recreational industry in this country, such as the openings of new facilities and services and, above all, the important work in the field of local brands and products. The official statement also aims to spread the real estate development associated to golf with emphasis for the project named Carbonera, near the western resort of Varadero. The Summit of Ministers WTO-WTM (World Tourism Organization-World Travel Market), with the issue “Tourism and Mega Events: Building a lasting legacy,” will be held during the Fair.