Monthly Archives: February 2015

Paris Hilton en visite a La Havane

 havana-live-paris-hiltonSelfie avec le fils de l’ancien président cubain Fidel Castro

LA HAVANE, 28 Feb. (AFP) La starlette Paris Hilton est actuellement à Cuba, île sur laquelle sa famille avait perdu un hôtel il y un demi-siècle à l’arrivée de Fidel Castro au pouvoir.

L’héritière du groupe hôtelier a publié jeudi sur son compte Twitter une photo d’elle à La Havane intitulée “Cuba Baby”. La Britannique Naomi Campbell a également été aperçue dans la vieille capitale cubaine.
Apparemment les deux célébrités ont fait le voyage en même temps que d’autres personnalités, dont l’ancien secrétaire général des Nations unies Kofi Annan.

Depuis l’annonce en décembre dernier d’un rapprochement historique entre les Etats-Unis et Cuba , les restrictions de voyage ont été assouplies. L’arrière grand-père de Paris, Conrad Hilton, le fondateur de l’empire hôtelier s’est rendu à Cuba en 1958 dans l’intention d’ouvrir un établissement. L’hôtel a été nationalisé par le président Castro en 1960 tout comme les autres propriétés américaines installées sur l’île.

Nouvelle procédure d’encaissement de la taxe aéroportuaire a Cuba

havana-live-Cuba-Departure-Tax-Stamp LA HAVANE, 28 Feb. Une nouvelle procédure pour la taxe aéroportuaire de 25 CUC va être mise en place pour les voyageurs qui se rendront à Cuba.

Désormais cette taxe sera intégrée au billet d’avion, et ne sera plus réglée à l’aéroport de La Havane pour les voyages dès le 1er mai 2015, a informé Havanatour dans un communiquuaires, le Ministère de Tourisme de Cuba a modifié la procédure d’encaissement de la taxe aéroportuaire de 25 CUC (soit environ 23 €), a indiqué Havanatour dans un communiqué de presse.

Cette taxe sera intégrée directement sur le billet d’avion avec le code CU, elle ne devra plus être réglée au départ à l’aéroport de La Havane. Cette modification entre en vigueur pour les émissions à partir du 1er mars 2015 et pour des voyages à partir du 1er mai 2015.

Havanatour intégrera donc cette taxe sur tous les voyages ayant un billet d’avion à compter du 1er mai 2015, date de départ. De son côté, le Ministère des affaires étrangères n’a pas encore mis à jour cette nouvelle procédure dans sa rubrique “Conseils Aux Voyageurs”. http://www.tourmag.com/Cuba-nouvelle-procedure-d-encaissement-de-la-taxe-aeroportuaire_a72531.html.

Une ambassade américaine à La Havane en avril ?

LA HAVANE, 28 Feb (Euronews) Les Etats-Unis pourraient rouvrir leur ambassade à Cuba en avril prochain. Les négociateurs se sont rencontrés ce vendredi à Washington.

La diplomate cubaine Josefina Vidal souhaite que les Etats-Unis retire Cuba de la liste des pays soutenant le terrorisme, mais se félicite du dialogue en cours. “Je peux dire que les entretiens d’aujourd’hui étaient bons” dit-elle. “Nous avons réalisé des progrès dans nos discussions.” Côté américain la diplomate Roberta Jacobson est, elle aussi, optimiste.
La secrétaire d‘État adjointe pour l’Amérique latine pense que les obstacles à la réouverture des ambassades peuvent être levés avant le Sommet des Amériques, qui se tient à Panama les 10 et 11 avril, mais refuse pour l’instant de livrer les détails des négociations en cours.

“Il ne serait pas convenable pour moi d’entrer dans les détails des progrès réalisés ou non” dit elle. Mais honnêtement, nous ne sommes pas loin de résoudre certains problèmes.”
Pour le politologue de l’Université de Georgetown Jon-Christopher Bua, la décision de normaliser les relations avec La Havane pourrait devenir le symbole la présidence Obama. “Le président Obama cherche à se construire un héritage” crois savoir l’universitaire.

“Il cherche quelque chose qui marquera son mandat, tout comme on se souvient de l’initiative de Kennedy avec le voyage sur la lune ou Johnson pour les droits civiques.”
54 ans après la rupture de relations diplomatiques entre les deux pays, Cuba pourrait bien elle aussi rouvrir son ambassade à Washington comme l’explique Stefan Grobe, le correspondant d’Euronews aux Etats-Unis.

“Aujourd’hui, les intérêts cubains aux Etats-Unis sont représentés par l’ambassade de Suisse juste, mais d’ici quelques mois, ou quelques semaines, cet héritage de la guerre froide pourrait disparaître.”

US Cuba talks open

 havana-live-us-cuba-talks(2nd L-R) United States Interest Section in Havana Chief of Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South America and Cuba Alex Lee and their team host a delegation from Cuba for the second round of normalization talks at the State Department February 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. This is the second round of historic talks that could restore diplomatic ties and mark the end of more than 50 years of of Cold War-era hostility between the two countries. CHIP SOMODEVILLA GETTY IMAGES

HAVANA, 27 Feb. Talks between U.S. and Cuban diplomats opened Friday in Washington, exploring the possibility of restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries after five decades of estrangement.

The talks are part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to end the trade embargo against Cuba. A senior State Department official said Friday’s session will focus solely on opening embassies in Washington and Havana as quickly as possible
. “This is where we roll up our sleeves as diplomats and sit down at the table and make sure that we hammer all of the details out to get embassies up and running the way we have embassies all over the world,” the official told reporters.

The official said progress depends in part on what the Cubans bring to the table. Cuba has said it is linking the embassy issue to whether the U.S. drops it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The official said the U.S. delegation is not linking the two issues and that the review of the terrorism list is a separate, ongoing process. The State Department official said the Cubans should feel comfortable that the matter is under review.

“It would be very easy to restore diplomatic relations if they would not link those two things.” The official also said a human rights dialogue will be the first open conversation the U.S. will have with the Cubans as soon as diplomatic ties are restarted. Last month in Havana, the U.S. and Cuba began a series of meetings to re-establish ties.
http://www.voanews.com/content/us-cuba-talks-open/2661645.html.  havana-live-us-cuba-talks   havana-live-us-cuba-talks

Paris Hilton visits Havana

 havana-live-habana-libreHAVANA, 27 Feb. (HAVANA TIMES) — Paris Hilton, the billionaire heiress of the Hilton hotel empire, is visiting Cuba today, according to a photograph she published on social networks from Havana, reported dpa news.

“Taking off towards Cuba. I will not have phone service for a couple of days. So if I do not respond to your messages it’s because I’m not them getting,” Hilton wrote to her supporters this afternoon on her Twitter account.
Hours later, the “celebrity” published a picture on the social network Instagram where she is in Old Havana, in the heart of the Cuban capital, posing beside two lifesize United Buddy Bear bear sculptures that are part of a German exhibition that travels the world.paris-hilton-cuba

The Habana LIbre Hotel. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes The visit of the US heiress comes amid a historic rapprochement between the governments of Washington and Havana.
The two countries announced in mid-December they would move to resume diplomatic relations after more than a half century of hostilities. The Hilton family had a large hotel on the island, opened in 1958.

It was nationalized less than a year later after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The “Havana Hilton” was then renamed the “Habana Libre” and remains one of the most emblematic hotels of the Cuban capital.

Former President Fidel Castro lived there in a suite for several months after taking power January 1959. Several US politicians, both democrats and republicans, have also visited the island in recent weeks, after the announcement of the thaw between Cuba and the United States.

Insolite: ces “bricoleurs de génie” qui réparent tout

6a016300cc7d4e970d01901e4dbfc5970bLA HAVANE, 26 Feb. (AFP)  A Cuba, les réparateurs de matelas, parapluies, et appareils électroménagers sont omniprésents. Et prolongent la vie de tous ces ustensiles. Reportage chez ces pionniers du “développement durable”.

En proie depuis plus d’un demi-siècle à des carences d’approvisionnement, de nombreux Cubains ont été contraints de se transformer en réparateurs de génie, capables de prolonger de plusieurs années la durée de vie d’appareils et de véhicules hors d’âge.
Sur l’île, les réparateurs de matelas, parapluies, ustensiles de cuisine et appareils électroménagers sont postés à de nombreux coins de rue, aux côtés des fabricants de balais ou autres ustensiles faits maison.

Certains, appelés “alchimistes”, composent eux-mêmes des produits de nettoyage. Car tous ces articles ne sont pas disponibles dans le commerce, ou alors à un prix très élevé du fait du sévère embargo commercial et financier imposé depuis 1962 contre l’île communiste. Des restrictions qui privent les Cubains d’articles indispensables et qui les poussent à prolonger autant que possible l’usage de certains biens.

“On colle, on coud et c’est réglé”
“Ici tout peut être réparé, et même quand c’est délicat, on pose un patch, on colle, on coud et c’est réglé”, explique le cordonnier Raul Norguel, 40 ans, faiseur quotidien de miracles sur des chaussures vétustes à l’aide d’une machine à coudre qui date d’avant la révolution de 1959 et qui, selon son propriétaire, “devrait être au musée”.

Dans son atelier du Vedado, proche du centre de la capitale cubaine, M. Norguel a même bricolé une ponceuse avec le moteur d’une antique machine à laver russe “Aurika”, bien connue des Cubains.
Lassé de rafistoler les pièces défectueuses du moteur de sa vieille Buick, Raul Lopez a lui décidé de façonner lui-même un arbre à cames à partir d’une pièce empruntée à une autre voiture.
“Je me suis vu dans l’obligation d’inventer”, témoigne ce mécanicien de 51 ans dans son modeste atelier de La Havane, racontant sa déception face à la mauvaise qualité d’une pièce qu’il était parvenu après des mois d’attente à faire importer d’Argentine, et qui “n’a duré qu’une semaine”.

‘Une philosophie du recyclage’
Serafin Ortiz, un ancien facteur de 63 ans, gagne sa vie dans le Vedado en rechargeant en gaz des briquets jetables, une pratique très répandue à Cuba. “Dans un autre pays, on les jette quand il n’y a plus de gaz.
Ici on fait un petit trou dans le fond, on remplit et on referme avec une goupille”, détaille-t-il. Ses clients ? Des gens qui n’ont simplement pas les moyens de se payer de briquets, mais aussi des personnes aisées qui ne parviennent pas à en trouver.CUBA-ECONOMY-CAR SALES

Ce travail de “réparateur-remplisseur de briquets” fait partie des 200 catégories de petits entrepreneurs privés, ou “cuentapropistas”, autorisés par le gouvernement de Raul Castro dans le cadre de ses réformes économiques visant à instiller une dose d’économie de marché dans une économie largement étatisée et à bout de souffle.

Capacité de survie “incroyable”
Certaines de ces activités ont vu le jour pendant la profonde crise économique qui a suivi la chute du bloc soviétique en 1991. Privée du jour au lendemain des subsides de Moscou, l’île avait traversé une longue période de pénuries.
“C’est une philosophie du recyclage que le Cubain a dû développer et qui nous a donné une capacité de survie incroyable”, explique Fidel Rangel, un artisan de 65 ans.
Aujourd’hui, les réparateurs espèrent comme d’autres que le rapprochement historique engagé voici quelques semaines avec les Etats-Unis leur permettra d’améliorer leur quotidien avec un accès accru à des équipements de qualité pour des prix raisonnables.

L’encouragement du secteur privé cubain est l’une des priorités du président américain Barack Obama, dont le gouvernement veut autoriser l’exportation de biens destinés au développement du petit entrepreneuriat de l’île. (Avec AFP) tage chez ces pionniers du “développement durable”.
http://www.challenges.fr/economie/20150226.CHA3409/insolite-ces-bricoleurs-de-genie-qui-reparent-tout-tout-tout-a-cuba.html

Cheap Air asays it’s first U.S. online agent offering flights to Havana

 havana-live-cheapairHAVANA, 26 Feb. Travel to Cuba for Americans has become steadily easier since late 2014, and it appears another barrier to entry has been lifted.

CheapAir.com announced Thursday that it has become the first online travel agent in the U.S. to offer flights to Cuba in a single transaction.
But there are still some caveats, and whether this catches on with travelers remains to be seen. For its part, CheapAir says the demand has been there since January, when a key law for travel to Cuba was changed: while Americans still need to claim one of 12 authorized reasons for entry, such as education or religious activities, they no longer need to obtain a license for it.

“Since the rule change, we have seen a surge in search volumes for travel to Cuba,” said CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee in a release. “Arranging flights to Cuba is a little complicated, but it’s the kind of thing we’re good at and our technology platform is flexible enough to make it possible.
Our team did a great job building it out in just a few weeks’ time.” Will this service appeal to do-it-yourself travelers looking to bypass a cultural “person-to-person” tour where the company does all the legwork?

Business travel expert Joe Brancatelli told Yahoo Travel that he’s skeptical. “It’s a PR stunt,” he said. “Anyone who really is interested in Cuba would go to a specialist. I’d be shocked if they actually booked any substantial business.”
It will work like this: you’ll have to buy two sets of round-trip tickets: one set from anywhere in the U.S. to Mexico, and one set from Mexico to Havana.

CheapAir promises to take care of arranging the most convenient connecting flights, though you may need to spend a night in Mexico each way before your flight arrives. Since the two round-trip flights are unrelated, a change or cancellation to one might inconvenience you a lot more with the other.
The announcement is an incremental change from before, when if you wanted to see Cuba without going on a people-to-people tour, you had to book online from a foreign website such as Cubana.cu, CubaJet, or the Canadian version of Skyscanner, and without the option to add a U.S. departure point.

So you’d have to book through two OTAs. When selecting a flight to Havana on CheapAir, you’ll get a prompt displaying the 12 reasons you’re legally allowed to visit, and you’ll select one.
The site explains that you’ll need to re-check your bags in Mexico each way, and that you’ll likely need to stay overnight there. It does offer some lodging options near the airport. Cuba visitors will be required to purchase a visa, which can be had for a small fee in Mexico City.
https://www.yahoo.com/travel/cheapair-announces-flights-to-havana-cuba-112116911602.html

Havana says fast track to restoring ties ‘depends on U.S.’

havana-live-us-cuba-relationsHAVANA,25 Feb. (Reuters by Daniel Trotta) – Cuba would agree to restore diplomatic relations with the United States in time for the April Summit of the Americas if Washington quickly and convincingly removes the Caribbean country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a senior Cuban official said on Wednesday.

Diplomatic ties were severed in 1961, and negotiators for the two longtime adversaries will meet in Washington on Friday, following up on the first round of talks held in Havana last month.
If the two sides move fast enough, they could reopen embassies in each other’s capitals in time for the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas in Panama, where U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro could meet for the first time since they agreed to restore ties and exchange prisoners on Dec. 17.

It would be their first face-to-face-meeting since a handshake at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013, when unbeknownst to most of the world the two countries were six months into secret talks aimed at ending hostilities.
A senior Cuban official on Wednesday said relations could be restored in time for the summit but put the onus on Washington to first strike Cuba from the terrorism list, which can apply sanctions to banks doing business with the designated countries.

“It depends on what the United States does. It does not depend on Cuba,” Gustavo Machin, deputy director of U.S. affairs for the Cuban foreign ministry, told reporters on Wednesday. “It depends on whether we are really taken off the list of terrorist countries.” Obama would need to inform Congress of any decision to remove Cuba from the list, a notification that requires 45 days to become official, which is not enough time before the summit.

The American side has said Obama’s notification alone should be sufficient because Congress cannot overturn the president under current law.
“I cannot say today, right now, if the act of making the announcement would be a sufficient guarantee,” Machin said. U.S. officials have shown a willingness to expedite the six-month review process and remove Cuba before the summit.

Russia, Abu Dhabi in talks on new Havana airport

 havana-live-jose-martiHAVANA, 25 Feb. Russia may build a large international airport in Cuba with investors from the United Arab Emirates, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said in an interview with a newspaper in Abu Dhabi.

Manturov told newspaper The National that Russia is in discussions with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala investment company to invest in building a hub in Cuba for flights to Latin America. Russia is ready to invest $200 million in the project, Manturov said Tuesday.
A spokesperson for Mubadala told The National: “The company is regularly reviewing a number of different investment opportunities with its Russian partners.”

Manturov added that if the project goes forward, Cuba may provide a rail link from the airport to the nearby seaport of Mariel, where Havana has established a special economic zone to attract foreign investment.
Russia’s interest in investing in Cuba comes amid a larger pattern of courting Latin American countries in the face of Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in the conflict in Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin made Havana the first stop on his tour of the South American continent last summer, where he wrote off the majority of Cuba’s $32 billion debt to the Soviet Union. Under Moscow’s new terms, Cuba must now pay Russia $3 billion in 10 years time.

Cuba has historically denied that it owes Russia any money, asserting that the nation and currency it was indebted to disappeared in 1991 with the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Havana’s Danza Contemporanea stages three unforgettable pieces

  havana-live-danca-contemporadaHAVANA, 25 Feb. (HAVANA TIMES)  This past February 14th, Cuba’s Danza Contemporanea (DCC) dance company treated the audience to a marvelous Saint Valentine’s gift.

On this occasion, they performed two premieres and restaged a popular piece: English choreographer Billy Cowie’s Tangos Cubanos (“Cuban Tangos”), Cuban choreographer and former DCC dancer Alexis Zanetti’s Retorno (“Return”) and Belgian-Colombian choreographer Anabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Reversible”, which opened on January 9th in the same theater.

Tangos Cubanos enjoyed the support of the British Council in Cuba. In it, Cowie explores the universe of silence, showing us uniform bodies that move in sync to music and whispered texts.
Miguel Iglesias, who has been the director of DCC for 28 years, has said that “Billy Cowie is a poet of dance.” In the words of the author, Retorno “presents us with abstractions of time disguised as timeless memories. It portrays the act of returning as a demand, as a perpetual need.”  havana-live-danca-contemporada

The choreography was accompanied by music by the DCC Percussion Group, which performed Afro-Cuban music, seducing the audience with rhythmic cadences synched to the clean thumping of the dancers, imbuing these with tremendous vitality with every beating of the drums.
The performance was a celebration of tradition, a nostalgic invocation of the joy that reuniting with the city and its people involves. With Reversible, Anabelle Lopez Ochoa sought to address gender issues – its confrontations and pleasures.

As Jorge Brooks expressed, Danza Contemporanea is one of the most eclectic companies in the world dance panorama, proving its ability to take on different styles time and time again, keeping the idiosyncracies of our culture alive and masterfully using “bodies and the dance techniques of black and mulatto Cuban performers” conceived by Ramiro Guerra.
Photo by Maité Fernández havana-live-danca-contemporada

Galería Arte-Facto opens in Havana

havana-live-arte_factoHAVANA,25 Feb. This past Wednesday saw the debut of Arte-Facto, a new gallery in Vedado focusing on design, which opened under the auspices of the Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales.

The inaugural show, Sin móvil aparente—a punning title that could translate as “Without Apparent Motive” or “Without Mobile Phone”—presents posters by eleven contemporary graphic designers. On view through April 15.

Bienal Takes Shape
The curatorial concept for the 12th Bienal de La Habana has been announced, along with the artists invited to participate.
Under the theme Entre la idea y la experiencia (Between the Idea and the Experience), this year’s edition forsakes the usual central exhibition area in favor of a decentralized approach that sends Bienal visitors into neighborhoods around Havana for performances, events, and other experiences that encourage intersections of art with dance, theater, music, cinema, and literature.

More than two dozen Cuban artists have been invited to participate, including Glenda León, Esterio Segura, Lázaro Saavedra, Elizabet Creviño, and Nestor Siré. Invited foreign artists include Anish Kapoor, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and performance artist Tino Sehgal. The Bienal runs May 22–June 22.

The_Importance_of_BeingBelgian Contemporary Art at the MNBA.
Earlier this month, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana welcomed The Importance of Being…, a show of 40 contemporary artists working in Belgium. Including Belgian-born artists and others working in the country, the exhibition raises questions about Belgian identity and its multilingual, transnational character. The featured artists include Francis Alÿs, Chantal Ackerman, and Wim Delvoye. On view through April 26.
http://www.cubanartnews.org/news/update-new-gallery-in-havana-indie-film-in-miami-cuban-culture-fest-in-nyc/4348

Les cigares favoris de Churchill à l’honneur au 17e Festival du Havane

havana-live-winston_churchillLA HAVANE, 24 Feb. (AFP) A l’occasion du cinquantenaire de la mort de l’ancien premier ministre britannique Winston Churchill, sa marque préférée de cigares, “Romeo y Julieta”, sera un grand acteur du Festival du Havane, qui débute lundi à La Havane.

Ce festival réunit chaque années des centaines d’amateurs de havanes venus du monde entier pour participer à des dégustations, des visites de plantations ou des concours de confection de cigares.
On compte même depuis l’an dernier un concours de la cendre la plus longue. Des produits des marques “Montecristo” et “Romeo y Julieta” ouvrent cette 17e édition, et “se dégusteront en exclusivité au cours de la rencontre”, la plus importante au monde, qui durera jusqu’à vendredi, selon Habanos S.A., qui commercialise les cigares cubains.

“Romeo y Julieta”, marque fondée en 1875, a compté parmi ses plus fidèles clients Winston Churchill (1874-1965), amateur de bonne chère et implacable dirigeant lors de la Seconde guerre mondiale. Trois modules – les “Churchills”, “Short Churchills” et “Wide Churchills” – portent le nom de celui qui a visité l’île deux fois, en 1895, alors jeune officier d’un régiment de hussards, puis en 1946, alors leader mondial.

“Montecristo”, marque de référence la plus connue et appréciée des 27 que compte Cuba, sera mis à l’honneur lors de la soirée de gala qui clôturera l’événement et sera l’occasion de dévoiler une pièce spéciale “80e anniversaire”.
Cette édition est également la première à se dérouler depuis l’annonce mi-décembre d’un rapprochement historique entre Cuba et les Etats-Unis. Premier marché mondial, les Etats-Unis restent interdits aux marques cubaines en raison de l’embargo américain imposé à l’île depuis 1962.

Mais parmi les premiers signes de détente concédés par le président Barack Obama figure l’autorisation pour les voyageurs américains se rendant sur l’île de ramener pour 100 dollars de rhum et cigares. Les exportations cubaines de cigares ont cru de 8% en 2013, s’élevant à 447 millions de dollars, représentant 70% des cigares de haute qualité vendus dans le monde, selon Habanos S.A.

U.S. Supreme Court hands victory to Cuban cigar company

havana-live-cigaresHAVANA, 24 Feb. (Reuters) The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to a state-owned Cuban cigar company on Monday by declining to intervene in its long-running battle with a U.S.-based rival over the Cohiba trademark that both use for their products.

By refusing to hear an appeal filed by Delaware-based General Cigar Co Inc, the high court left intact a ruling in favor of the Cuban company,Cubatabaco. Due to the long-running U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, the Cuban company cannot sell its Cohiba cigars in the United States, but it does sell them inCuba and elsewhere.

General Cigar sells Dominican Republic-produced Cohiba cigars in the United States. General Cigar is owned by Scandinavian Tobacco Group A/S, which is partly owned by Swedish Match AB..

The legal dispute is over whether the Cuban company has the right to challenge General Cigar’s trademarks in the United States despite the embargo. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last June ruled in favor of Cubatabaco.

After the Supreme Court’s denial, the case will now move forward at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The case reached the high court just after President Barack Obama announced in December that he planned to loosen some of the U.S.-Cuban restrictions, although the broad trade embargo will remain intact.

Under an easing of travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba under Obama’s changes, American visitors will be able to buy up to $100 worth of cigars, the island’s most famous product, bring them home and smoke them. In January, the Obama administration said it would allow U.S. exports of telecommunications, agricultural and construction equipment, permit expanded travel by Americans to the island and open banking relations.

US boost for Cuban cigar festival

Women-Smoking-CigarsHAVANA, 24 Feb  Cuba’s annual cigar festival is getting under way in the capital Havana – with American visitors able to take cigars home legally for the first time in decades.

A thaw in US-Cuban relations means American smokers will be able to stock up on products worth up to $100 (£65). Havana cigars have been banned in the US for more than 50 years under the terms of a trade embargo.
Hundreds of visitors are expected at the week-long festival. Despite the recent rapprochement between Washington and Havana, most Americans are still not allowed to travel to the Caribbean island. However some US citizens, including relatives of Cubans or academics, are allowed to visit and take advantage of the new rules.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-31598280  havana-live-cigar-festival   havana-live-cigar-festival  havana-live-cigar-festival

Two Rolling Stones members in concert in Havana

 havana-live-fowler-johnsHAVANA, Feb 23.  (Prensa Latina)  Darryl Jones and Bernard Fowler, two active members of the music group Rolling Stones, will perform in Cuba along with the international rock superband The Dead Daisies.

Jones, the legendary ‘Munich’ has played bass with legends like Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, noted when he reached Havana that he feels honored of being in Cuba, whose music and culture loves.

‘With The Rollings Stones, I have traveled a lot but I’ve never been to Cuba. Needless to say I feel very lucky to know this country, “told the bassist to Granma newspaper.
The Dead Daisies will perform next Wednesday at the Maxim Rock and the next Saturday at the Salon Rosado of the Tropical.
Jones said he met Cuban music through the late Israel ‘Cachao’ Lopez, and affirmed that Cuban musicians have played an invaluable role in the defense of this vibrant culture.

A major exhibition of Belgian art opens in Havana

 havana-live-begien-art-exhibition HAVANA, 23 Feb. (Sam Steverlynck) So you walk into El Floridita, one of many Havana bars that prides itself on being a former haunt of barfly Ernest Hemmingway, and there is Guillaume Bijl, the Belgian artist known for absurd installations in which he brings a driving school or travel agency into a museum context.

On your way out, you try to hail a taxi, but it is already occupied by Joëlle Tuerlinckx. In a nearby eatery, video artist Johan Grimonprez is having lunch. It feels like Havana is having a Belgian moment—and in a way, it is.
For the exhibition The Importance of Being…in Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Cuban curator Sara Alonso Gómez selected 40 top-notch artists born or living in Belgium, including stars like Marcel Broodthaers, Wim Delvoye, Berlinde De Bruyckere, and Francis Alÿs, to showcase Belgian art—with all the complications and multiple identities that term implies—across Latin America.

Through July 2016 the show will travel to three other museums in South America: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. havana-live-belgian-art 20150223113408-Screen_Shot_2015-02-23_at_12.33.42_PM 20150223113048-DSC08228From top: Wim Delvoye, Guillaume Bijl, Kendall Geers

A number of artists were busy during their Cuban sojourn making new artwork commissioned specially for the exhibition. I caught up with three artists—two of whom are also participating in the upcoming 2015 Havana Biennial—whose work responds directly to context and environment of the host nation.

Koen van den Broek is making a new painting for every country where the The Importance of Being… will take place. Van den Broek is known for paintings in which he renders generous details of the urban landscape, like curb stones, in a style between figuration and abstraction.
“My work is often on location,” he says, “as the grey and clouded Belgian landscape does not work for me.

First I wanted to render the run-down beauty of Havana, but since I was here last time, I noticed they have been restoring a lot. And that was a bit too complex. I found a location in the street opposite Hotel Presidente, one of the oldest high-rise buildings in Havana. In this painting, there is a strong contrast between the architecture and the vegetation.
This is only the second time I’ve used this kind of green. It is a green that you see everywhere, and which has a kind of Miami atmosphere.” Van den BroekKoen van den Broek

Making the work on the spot was easier said than done. “We are here in a tropical climate with a high humidity.Because of that, the paint took a much longer time to dry. At 2 x 3 meters, it is also a big format. The work could not even enter the apartment where I was supposed to work.
Then they proposed a garage, but there was not enough light and too much dust. In the end, after some bureaucracy, I was allowed to make it in the museum, as I had hoped from the beginning.” The artist also took precautions to ensure he had all the material he needed. “We sent over a crate of 300 kilograms with all kinds of paint, even staples and a screw driver.

Finding material is not always easy here… Later, the crate will also travel to Buenos Aires and Rio. It almost becomes like a kind of mini-atelier.” Peter de Cupere, who typically works with smell, is one of the three Belgian artists—together with Koen van Mechelen and Michel François—who will be participating in the upcoming Havana Biennial.

De Cupere visited Cuba some time ago to do some advance research, and for The Importance of Being… he wanted to realize a work that captured the smell of Havana, including the powerful scent of gasoline that the old Chevys and Buicks spit out. “The pollution is strong here,” he says. “Initially I almost got sick from it. I took some samples from the various smells and sent it to a special laboratory in Paris. You only have three such laboratories in the world. I asked them to make a perfume from it. But I also added a smell that recalls smoked meat. As a reference to the pollution we inhale with our lungs.” The resulting artwork is created in a kind of cloud, in which the visitor can put his head in order to smell it.  havana-live-belgian-art   havana-live-belgian-artPeter de Cupere with his Smoke Cloud, which reproduces the scent of Havana

For the Havana Biennial, which opens in late May, he will present The Smell of a Stranger. In the Botanical Garden, he will give one plant the smell of another one, by manipulating some of its components. For over a decade Koen van Mechelen has been working on his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, which crossbreeds domestic chickens from around the world to create a truly global specimen.
He’s presented various steps of his research across the globe, including in the most remote areas in the world, and now the CCP comes to Cuba.

For The Importance of Being… he shows a 3D rendering of a chromosome of all the cross-breedings. “It is a visual rendering of immunity. It would show more resistance. The image is a chromosome of the Mechelse koekoek [a Flemish breed of chicken]. It is a very realistic image, which I call Evolution of a Hybrid, combined with a more poetic image. It is a kind of breeding center that consists of glass bowls with glass eggs that are under water. It is one installation, but consists of a meeting between two universes.”  havana-live-belgian-art

Van Mechelen will also participate in the Havana Biennial. “I was here in 2007 basically looking for the Cubalaya, a chicken species from Cuba that I could not find anywhere—until I was invited by a collector in the countryside, one hour from New York. In the fields, I saw a Cubalaya and asked the owner for some of the eggs.
The [collector] has died now, so apparently, I am one of the few people in the world who has all the varieties of the Cubalaya! When I was invited to the Biennial, I immediately decided to bring the Cubalaya back where it belongs: in Cuba!

We have sent some of the breed installations and eggs over, which was not easy at all. But we got support from the highest level, so it was possible. We have already bred some of the animals, but will continue to do so in Havana.
In a library, we will also show all the documentation material of our research, and we are organizing a symposium on fertility, inviting professors from all over the world.” Looks like Cuba hasn’t seen the end of Belgium quite yet.

In a perfect metaphor for the complexities of global and national identities, a trace of Belgium—in the form of a native Cuban chicken—will remain in Havana even after the artists have left.

The Importance of Being… is on view at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba until April 26, 2015.
http://www.artslant.com/ny/articles/show/42127

La Havane libère l’homme d’affaires canadien Cy Tokmakjian

havana-live- cy-tokmakjianLA HAVANE, 22 février (Reuters) – Cuba a libéré samedi Cy Tokmakjian, un chef d’entreprise canadien qui avait passé plus de trois ans en détention, a fait savoir la société de l’homme d’affaires. Cy Tokmakjian, 74 ans, avait été condamné en septembre dernier à 15 ans de prison par la justice cubaine pour corruption et crime financier.
Sa société avait alors dénoncé une “parodie de justice”. Présent dans les secteurs des transports, de l’exploitation minière et de la construction, le groupe Tokmakjian était l’une des entreprises étrangères les plus florissantes à Cuba jusqu’à sa fermeture et l’arrestation de son fondateur en septembre 2011.

Nod to Churchill at Cuban cigar festival

 havana-live-habanos-festivalHavana, 21 Feb.   (AFP) – Cigar aficionados will pay tribute to Winston Churchill in Havana Monday as the world’s largest Cuban cigar festival opens with a nod to the late leader’s favorite brand of cheroot.

The 17th Habanos festival will honor Churchill’s beloved “Romeo and Juliet” cigars at the opening of the five-day event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the former British prime minister’s death.
Churchill, who died on January 24, 1965, visited Cuba twice in his life — once in 1895 when he was a young military officer and again in 1946 after leading Britain through World War II.

Habanos has no fewer than three types of cigars named after the British leader, and the company’s Gran Reserva Cosecha 2009 Wide Churchills will be showcased at Monday’s opening ceremony, which will also feature a performance from Cuba’s Latin Grammy-winning singer Descemer Bueno.

The festival comes as the Cuban cigar industry possibly looks forward to a booming future following the historic announcement in December by US and Cuban leaders of moves to normalize relations after half a century.

Barack Obama’s administration authorized US travelers to Cuba to bring back up to $100 worth of rum and tobacco although the figure is largely symbolic as a relatively small number of Americans are able to visit the island.

Canada businessman home after released

havana-live- cy-tokmakjianHAVANA,21 Feb. (AP) — A Canadian automobile executive imprisoned in Cuba on corruption charges for more than three years was released Saturday after Cuba’s government ended a case that it called a demonstration of the fight against bribery and critics said was a warning against doing business here.

Cy Tokmakijian’s case was seen by some as a loose end in the U.S.-Cuba deal late last year that led to the release of three Cuban intelligence agents in exchange for U.S. contractor Alan Gross and CIA spy Rolando Sarraff Trujillo.
Canada and the Vatican hosted key talks in 18 months of negotiations leading up to the exchange, which was accompanied by a joint move to restore full diplomatic relations between the countries.

Canadian officials declined to comment on whether the deal boosted to their efforts to win freedom for Tokmakjian, who was serving 15 years after his arrest in a 2011 anti-graft drive that swept up Cuban officials and foreign business executives from at least five nations. Tokmakjian, 74, was sentenced in September and his representatives said that firm managers Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche got shorter sentences.

Their whereabouts were not immediately clear Saturday. Tokmakjian family says his prosecution was an excuse to seize his Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group’s $100 million in assets in Cuba. Some potential investors in Cuba said the case made them wary of Cuba’s drive to draw billions in new foreign investment.

“Cy returns home in good health, fantastic sprits, and is looking forward to spending time with his family,” lawyer Barry Papazian said. Foreign business people have long considered payoffs ranging from a free meal to cash deposits in overseas accounts to be an unavoidable cost of doing business in Cuba.

They have skeptically greeted government assertions that rooting out rampant corruption is among the country’s highest priorities.(BY MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN)

Creation of aviation hub in Havana is possible

 havana-live-jose-marti-aerportHAVANA, 22 Feb. (Sputnik) The creation of a transcontinental aviation hub in Havana is an interesting prospect, but will only be possible after the economic embargo on the country is lifted, the CEO of Mexican carrier Interjet said Tuesday.

“It’s only a dream now, first of all, the problem with lifting the economic embargo in Cuba must be solved,” Jose Luis Garza told RIA Novosti. The Interjet CEO believes Cuba has excellent opportunities to create a hub in the future, but first needs to work out a lot of issues. “But the creation of a transcontinental hub there [in Cuba] is a very interesting idea,” Garza added.
The United States had an embargo in place against Cuba since 1961, which was initially put in place due to Cold War antagonism between Washington and the Communist government in Havana.

In late 2014, US President Barack Obama announced Washington’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Havana and ease the five-decade-long US trade and travel restrictions on the island.

Under the new policy, the United States plans to ease travel restrictions for US citizens traveling to the country, and ease certain sanctions. Nevertheless, the decision of abolishing the US trade embargo against Cuba has still not been taken.

Crowdfunding takes off in Cuba

MBE_20150221085605_high.00_01_19_10.Still001HAVANA, 22 Feb.  While some are using the Internet to hack into personal information, others use it to support their dreams. Crowdfunding has reached the island of Cuba. Now the rest of the world can invest in emerging Cuban artists.

Cuban rumba beats like “guaguanc” and the Afro-Cuban sounds of the Bat drum mixed in with a little bit of Jazz to makes the eclectic sounds of the Cuban band “Banda Ancha” led by Yissy Garcia.
They call the style high-speed Cuban jazz. “We mixed it with funk, and a little bit of reggae and samba, and we mix all these rhythms together to produce a fun sound,” Yissy Garcia from Banda Ancha said.havana-live-Yssi1

27-year old Yissy is a well known percussionist in Cuba. She has worked on various studio albums and has scored a few deals like her partnership with Sabian cymbals, but when it came to putting together her first album, she didn’t want to be signed by a label.

“The idea is we want to own the recording rights, but it is really hard to record an album if you don’t have funds,” she said. That is how the idea of crowdfunding came along. It’s a way for people to raise money for everything from donations for personal art projects to equity financing for businesses. The goal for Banda Ancha crowdfunding campaign was about $6,000.

During the last five years, the crowdfunding industry has grown to be a worldwide phenomenon. One industry report said in 2013 alone more than $5 billion were crowdfunded online. But for those here in Cuba campaigning on the Internet isn’t easy, since the island has limited bandwidth and a low number of connections.
“We had to constantly move the campaign every hour, and from here that can be complicated. Sometimes we had the issue that we couldn’t find an Internet connection!

We would run to hotels, or ask friends for help that could maybe offer us the connection,” Garcia said. The efforts have paid off. Garcia and “Banda Ancha” surpassed their goal of receiving donations from the United States, Europe and all across Latin America. Related Read more:
http://www.cctv-america.com/2015/02/20/crowdfunding-takes-off-in-cuba#ixzz3SNv63EJO 

The tourist rush to Cuba is about to begin

 havana-live-hotel-pargue-central-poolThe rooftop pool at the Iberostar Parque Central hotel in Havana

America is ready for Cuba. Are Cuban hotels ready for Americans?

HAVANA, Feb 21 Imagine booking a $4,000 weeklong vacation to an -exotic locale near the ocean. Now imagine that when you get there, your room has no hand towels, the air conditioning is spotty, and it’s illegal to kick back by the beach.
Welcome to Cuba, home to miles of white-sand beaches, premium tobacco, oak-aged rum—and 50 years of a business-phobic government under a crippling trade embargo.

Thanks to new regulations the U.S. announced in January, which among other things will eliminate the need for a special travel license to go there, the island nation has become the world’s buzziest destination for Americans. It’s also probably the only one that won’t accept most credit cards. Cuba has long been the forbidden fruit of the American tourist.
A 30-minute flight from Florida, it already draws enough people from Canada and Europe to make it the Caribbean’s third-most-popular destination, after Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Cuba gets about 3 million visitors a year—just 90,000 of them from the U.S. New rules have made travel to the country easier than it has been in half a century, and President Obama has said he wants more barriers to fall. In the Senate, Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a bill to end the embargo outright.
If that happens, the IMF has said, the number of annual visitors to Cuba could easily double. Yet with a shortage of high-end accommodations, what Cuba will do with all of them is unclear.

Tour operators are already seeing a surge. Michael Zuccato of California-based Cuba Travel Services, which operates flights to Cuba and organizes tours for Americans, says he expects his business to increase 50% to 200% over the next several years. Michael Sykes, founder of Cuba Cultural Travel, has moved to secure some 10,000 rooms in anticipation of strong demand.
Pam Hoffee, a VP at Swiss travel company Globus, predicts its Cuba travel business will triple. The main obstacle to all that expansion? Hotel space.

Jennine Cohen, managing director for the Americas at high-end travel firm GeoEx, says it’s rooms rather than demand that’s limiting growth, a challenge that she expects will worsen in coming years as Cuba’s weighty regulations hold up private development.
But, however slowly, development is coming. In downtown Havana, Swiss luxury brand Kempinski is in negotiations to build a 200-room resort that would be the city’s most deluxe.

-Sebastiaan Berger, CEO of leading Cuba developer CEIBA Investments, says 10 to 15 hotels have a realistic shot at being built in the next few years. And there are signs of a more relaxed attitude toward new construction.
About the same time the country released imprisoned British businessman Stephen Purvis from a Cuban jail after 16 months in custody on murky charges, it gave the green light to a new $350 million golf resort (the island has only three courses, and one of them is at Guantánamo Bay).

What really gets developers going is the possibility that the restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba could be eliminated entirely. Full normalization of trade relations would unleash a tourist deluge in the country, make construction far easier, and beckon the likes of Marriott , Hilton and Coca-Cola , which have all expressed interest in investing on the island. Until then, discerning travelers and their guides still have options.

True luxury hotels on many itineraries include the Meliá Habana and the Meliá Cohíba, run by Spanish hotel company Meliá; the Iberostar Parque Central, also operated by a Spanish hotelier; the Hotel Saratoga, run by state-owned company Habaguanex; and the storied Hotel Nacional de Cuba, with stunning ocean views, though travel agents warn not to expect ultramodern amenities at the 85-year-old stalwart.

Increasingly Cubans are also opening their homes to travelers, in bed and breakfasts called casas particulares; some can be wonderful, but quality varies, and it’s difficult to arrive as a tour group.
What Cuba may lack in first-class amenities, it makes up for in culture, and the years before luxury development takes off may be the best time to go. “It’s a trip for people really interested in active learning who want to be engaged all the time,” Hoffee says. “If you want to sit on the beach and read a book, go to another island.” For CEIBA’s Berger, it’s a long-term play.

The very adventurous will come see the Cuba unspoiled by capitalism and frozen in time: old cars, vintage streetscapes, and the faded glamour of a wayward egalitarian experiment. “With all its romance, the slippage of five-star services is being forgiven,” Berger says. “That will last three or four years. Then Cuba will have to improve.”

To travel to Cuba legally under the new regulations, Americans must fall into one of 12 categories. Some are concrete, like religious or business trips. Other categories are less clear, including “support for the Cuban people.”
Most U.S. visitors travel under the education classification, using a subset that requires a full-time schedule of “people-to-people” activities. That typically means going with a tour agency that will coordinate city tours, talks with artists, and face time with locals. Packages for tourist activities like beach- going are explicitly forbidden. Travel may get easier soon, but in the meantime, these agencies can get you there and back.
http://fortune.com/2015/02/20/the-tourist-influx-to-cuba-is-about-to-begin/

Budget, conseils pour un voyage à Cuba

havana-live-Havana   by Bill Klipp,LA HAVANE, 21 Feb. On ne revient jamais vraiment d’un voyage à Cuba. Pays coincé dans le temps, entre 30 et 40 ans en arrière, on ne peut être que dépaysé en arrivant sur l’île. Pourtant, la vie sur place coûte plus cher que ce qu’on pourrait s’imaginer de ce pays où de vieilles américaines roulent encore…

Budget

Transporthavana-live-Taxi
C’est à coup sûr le poste de budget le plus important lors d’un voyage à Cuba. Pour de longs trajets, il vaut parfois mieux privilégier le taxi partagé que le bus, qui est bien plus rapide et parfois moins cher !
– Bus Viazul La Havane- Viñales : 12 CUC (8,64 €) (+ 6 CUC de taxi pour se rendre à la station de bus depuis le Parque Central).
– Taxi partagé La Havane- Viñales : 15 CUC (12 €) (et on vient vous chercher devant votre casa !).
– Taxi partagé La Havane- Varadero : 15 CUC (12 €)
– Bus Viazul La Havane-Varadero : 10 CUC (7,2 €)
– Un ticket de bus local à la Havane : 1 MN (0,033 €)

Logement
hsavana-live-casa_particular_habana_vieja_old_havana_emilio_2
Le meilleur moyen de se loger à Cuba reste les casas particulares, qui sont des chambres louées par l’habitant.
– Une chambre double dans une casa particular à la Havane : 25 CUC (20€)
– Une chambre double dans une casa particular à la Havane (prix internet) : 20 CUC (16 €)
– Une chambre double dans une casa particular à Viñales : 15-20 CUC (12-16 €)

Nourriture et boissons
 havana-live-street-food
Le prix peut varier du tout au tout en fonction de la région et du type de restaurant. Forcément à la Havane, il faut s’attendre à payer un peu plus qu’en province.
– Une bière Cristal ou Bucanero à La Havane : 1,50 CUC (1,2 €)
– Une assiette de poulet grillé à la Havane : 5 CUC (4€) – Un mojito : 3 CUC (2,4 €)
– Un dîner dans une casa particular: 10 CUC (8 €)
– Un petit-déjeuner dans une casa particular : 5 CUC (4 €)
– Un sandwich dans un stand de rue : 1 CUC (23 MN=0,8 €)

Sorties, activités et extras
tank_castro_museo-revolucio
Pour les activités et comme partout, il faut toujours comparer les prix.
A la Havane, mis à part les musées, vous n’aurez pas vraiment à dépenser niveau activités.
– Une entrée au Museo de la Revolucion à la Havane : 8 CUC (6,4 €)
– Une balade à cheval de 2 heures dans la vallée de Viñales : 10 CUC (8 €)
– Une entrée dans las Cuevas de Santo Tomas dans la vallée de Viñales : 10 CUC (8 €)
– Une boîte de rangement à cigares dans une boutique souvenir : entre 5 et 15 CUC (4-12 CUC)

Du coup, pour une semaine de voyage à Cuba, voilà ce que donne un budget… Une grande partie est allouée au budget, parce que le premier soir et comme tout bon touriste qui se respecte, j’ai eu l’immense honneur de me faire bien arnaquer et de payer un resto 55 CUC à deux, ô joie ! Cuba n’est donc pas un pays si économique que ça pour un voyageur petit budget.

Voici le budget par jour par catégorie:Sans-titre2
Transport: 9,94 €/jour
Nourriture: 17,14 €/jour
Logement: 11,57 €/jour
Sorties et activités: 3,42 €/jour
Extras: 2,28 €/jour

 

BILAN ET CONSEILS
● Il existe deux types de cubains : les cubains sociables qui sont toujours enclins à parler aux touristes, et ceux qui viendront avec l’idée en tête de vous vendre quelque chose, ou tout bonnement de vous arnaquer. Si un cubain vous propose d’aller boire un verre, assurez-vous d’abord que vous ne devrez pas lui payer son verre (expérience vécue !).
● Si possible, payez en moneda nacional (MN) : les prix sont toujours plus bas dans cette monnaie et vous économiserez un peu.
● Les cubains ne sont pas des gens qui négocient, sauf pour les taxis : n’hésitez pas à baisser le prix et à partir si besoin, car ils ont        tendance à bien gonfler la note, et parfois plus qu’en Asie !
● Au lieu des bus, privilégiez les taxis partagés, qui vous reviendront moins cher.
● Si vous voulez manger pour très peu cher, allez dans les stands de rue et évitez les restaurants en général : attention par contre, vous ne mangerez pas forcément local mais plutôt pizza/hamburger.
● Toujours demander l’info à deux personnes différentes ! On se rend vite compte que les cubains arrangent souvent la vérité à leur sauce : le taxi ne peut pas venir je vous emmène, mes cigares sont meilleurs que les siens, et tutti quanti.

IDT Corp to provide long distance call’s between U.S. and Cuba

havana-live-IDT_LOGOHAVANA, Feb 20  (Reuters) – U.S.-based telecom company IDT Corp has reached an agreement with Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), Cuba’s national telecom provider, to provide international long distance telephony between the United States and Cuba directly.

The company said that the agreement was filed today with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and is subject to FCC review for a period of ten days. FCC was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.
If the agreement takes effect, IDT will be the only U.S. carrier to have a direct interconnection into Cuba. “This is an important first step in the liberalization of telecommunications between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Bill Pereira, Chief Executive Officer of IDT Telecom in a statement.

IDT joins a list of U.S. companies looking to take advantage of thawing diplomatic relations between the United States and the communist-ruled island country. Netflix Inc launched its movie and TV streaming service in Cuba last week.

MasterCard Inc has said it will allow its cards issued in the United States to be used in Cuba, effective March 1. American Express Co has also said it would launch operations in Cuba. The announcement follows revisions to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations announced by the U.S. government earlier this month.

La fin de l’exception culturelle cubaine ?

 havana-live-artCubaLA HAVANE, 20 Feb. Des critiques et experts de l’art contemporain cubain s’interrogent sur l’avenir de l’art dans l’île. Le rapprochement entre la Havane et Washington ne risque-t-il pas de lui faire perdre son identité ?

“L’art cubain sera-t-il un vecteur de conciliation ?” C’est la question que se pose le critique d’art cubain Píter Ortega Núñez dans le quotidien de Miami El Nuevo Herald.
Le rapprochement entre les Etats-Unis et Cuba ne peut qu’encourager les investissements privés des mécènes, des collectionneurs et des professionnels au sein de l’île, estiment certains observateurs et experts de l’art contemporain.
Ce nouveau “business” ouvre en effet le champ à la création de galeries indépendantes, de publications sur l’art, mais aussi à des espaces de débat et de revendication sur la liberté de création des artistes cubains.

Nivellement par le bas ?
D’autres sont moins enthousiastes. Ainsi le directeur d’une galerie d’art à Miami, Robert Borlenghi, estime-t-il que l’accroissement des échanges entre les deux pays pourrait entraîner une sorte de nivellement par le bas de l’art cubain.”La situation politique de Cuba a forgé pendant longtemps l’inspiration de ses artistes”, affirme-t-il.

Or, le processus de mondialisation qui n’épargne pas le milieu artistique pourrait faire perdre son identité à l’exception culturelle cubaine “du fait de l’adaptation des artistes aux tendances du monde occidental”. La meilleure visibilité dont bénéficieront les Cubains sur le marché de l’art pourrait également, en multipliant l’offre, “faire baisser la qualité moyenne des œuvres”, ajoute le galeriste.

Nouvelle scène
A l’heure actuelle, seule une poignée d’artistes cubains ont pignon sur rue à New York ou en Europe, rappelle El Nuevo Herald. Ils sont les rares représentants d’une catégorie de Cubains disposant d’un niveau de vie supérieur à la moyenne sur l’île.

Mais à l’image de “Los Carpinteros” (un trio de sculpteurs) à New-York ou de Carlos Garaicoa (sculpteur) en Espagne, rares artistes cubains présents sur la scène internationale, une nouvelle génération de créateurs reconnus pourrait bientôt émerger. C’est ainsi que l’art pourrait bien jouer un rôle futur dans l’émancipation des individus à Cuba, conclut El Nuevo Herald.
http://www.courrierinternational.com/article/2015/02/20/la-fin-de-l-exception-culturelle-cubaine

Cuba is teeming with talent, but its film industry needs reforms

 havana-live-filming-havanaHAVANA, 19 Feb.(Paul Duran) Since President Obama eased tensions with Cuba late last year, the film community in the island nation has been optimistic, if cautiously so, about striking new relationships with its counterpart in Hollywood, and hopeful it can reform the Cuban film industry to compete on the world stage.

“Many (American) directors have expressed — more or less privately — their interest in filming in Cuba,” says Luis Barrera, senior advisor at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC), the government-run film commission that, in essence, acts as the sole movie studio in Cuba.
“On the other hand, Cuba has its own tradition in cinema, and is among the leading lights in the Caribbean region,” he adds. Helmers like Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”) and Daniel Diaz Torres (“La Pelicula de Ana”) are some filmmakers who’ve gained international recognition.

Barrera notes that it’s also important for Cuba to build an efficient and competitive infrastructure, with professional crews experienced not only in local productions, but in co-productions with Europeans. “This is one aspect we can quickly work on, as well as looking toward investments and joint ventures, including tax rebates and other incentives to attract U.S. filmmakers,” Barrera says.Havana-Club-2007

Local filmmakers, though, worry that ICAIC will prioritize the needs of foreign productions that want to film in Cuba over the needs to develop those of the nation’s own creative talent.
“The first step should be to see how Cuban cinema can flourish from this relationship on its home turf, and hopefully not get swallowed up by the great machinery of the U.S. film industry,” says Carlos Quintela, whose second film, “The Project of the Century,” about three generations of a Cuban family living near an abandoned Soviet nuclear power station, won a Tiger award at Rotterdam after being acquired for international sales by Berlin-based M-Appeal.

Filmmaker Yassel Iglesias, who made 2012 doc “The Chosen Island,” about Jewish emigres in Cuba, which ultimately brought him to the U.S., sees progress coming only after regulations ease.
“I think that (reform) will definitely help the production of Cuban films,” says Iglesias, “but I can’t use the phrase ‘Cuban film industry’ yet, because so far there have been no reforms or laws that recognize new independent companies, and the only ‘industry’ is ICAIC, which many Cuban filmmakers refuse to work with.”

Many Cuban filmmakers have had to seek funding overseas. Quintela, a former student at the Intl. Film and Television School (EICTV) in Havana, started a production company in England and raised coin for “Project of the Century” from Argentina (with production shingle Rizoma Films), as well as tapping coin from the Rotterdam fest’s Hubert Bals Fund.
At its heart, Cuba is a warm, welcoming nation full of vast promise and rich potential, yearning for opportunity, both economically and artistically.03062010422

Despite its communist roots, the country has an entrepreneurial spirit, built of raw necessity plus a desire to make its own way, without an intrusive government or an overbearing next-door neighbor.
For now, the greatest obstacle to rebuilding the local film industry may well be the lack of freedom of expression. The promise that a diplomatic thaw would change that took a blow when Boris Arenas Gonzalez, a professor at EICTV, was fired after being jailed for attempting to participate in a free-speech-themed performance-art event.

Especially troubling is that the school, which has an international charter, has been a beacon of free speech in Cuba for students and filmmakers from around the world. The hope is that this is a momentary blip on the radar, and that the thawing of relations with the U.S. will bring more free expression and less government intervention.
“I think it’s a historical change that presents opportunities and challenges to both nations,” says Barrera. Quintela agrees. “If we were to combine the shared histories of both countries, there would be enough material to create movies of great significance.”

For Iglesias, who just finished shooting his latest film, “Lois” in Havana, the future is already beginning to take shape. “There’s more hope, and Cubans need that. A year ago, nobody thought of change, and to find a smile on the streets was harder. Today people scream, ‘Ya somos amigos de los Yuma!’ — Now we are friends with the Americans!
And there is laughter, and rum … of course.”
http://variety.com/2015/biz/global/cuba-is-teeming-with-talent-but-its-film-business-needs-reforms-1201435562/

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons is coming to Havana

 havana-live-zz-topHAVANA, 19 Feb. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons is going to Cuba this June to play a jazz summit.

And even he doesn’t know why. “How did my name get on a jazz roster? I’m a blues and rock & roll player,” Gibbons tells Rolling Stone. “But I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’d love to go to Havana.”
Yet the ZZ Top guitarist, who recently recorded a weed anthem with his Nashville protégé Tim Montana, says he’s not going to come armed with only rock riffs.

Gibbons has been hunkering down in the studio, writing what he calls “Cuban music.” “The engineers were rolling their eyes, going, ‘Yeah, Gibbons is going to go Havana on us.’ But when I was 13, I got a guitar and my dad — being the consummate entertainer — sent me up to New York to study Latin percussion with Tito Puente. I learned maracas, timbales, clavas, bongos…you name it,” Gibbons says.
“And having lived in Mexico a couple years, I know just enough Spanish to get me in trouble.” Encouraged by the results, Gibbons is eyeing the project as a proper solo album. “I put together a little side band,” he says.

“I’m going back to wrap up the project and, believe it or not, it’s turning out to be such an obtuse, oddball, unexpected left turn from ZZ Top’s blues background. But there is something to it.” While filming Dave Grohl’s Sonic Highways documentary series, he even turned to the Foo Fighters leader for advice on balancing careers.

“I said, ‘How do you get around having multiple bands?'” Gibbons recalls. “He said, ‘Keep the golden goose. Doing a little side project ain’t no big deal!'” With ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill recovered from an August fall on his tour bus, Gibbons and the Texas trio will return to the road in March to resume their tour.
Last week, the band marked 45 years since playing its first gig together in 1970.
http://www.rollingstone.com/

Cuba temporarily cuts price of internet access

 havana-live-internet-50%HAVANA, 19 Feb. (AP) Cuba has temporarily reduced the hourly charge for using state-run Internet cafes in the country’s first small but substantive public move to increase online access since the declaration of detente with the U.S.

President Barack Obama said late last year that Cuba had promised to increase Internet access, although U.S. and Cuban officials have since provided few specifics. Virtually all home connections remain illegal in Cuba and getting online at government centers remains prohibitively expensive.
Post-discount, an hour costs roughly 10 percent of the average monthly salary of $20. Users nonetheless hailed the decision to cut the rate by 50 percent until April 10. State centers previously charged $4.50 an hour.

The promotion gives Cubans two hours and 16 minutes for $5. “The cut is something that’s really positive,” said Dimas Bencomo, an artist who goes nearly every day to one of the 155 cyber-cafes opened in 2013.
“They should be charging even less and it would be much better to have a connection in my house.” Cuba announced last month that it plans to open an additional 136 Internet centers around the country this year.

The price doesn’t appear to have changed in hotels, which charge $8 an hour. The price cut that began Feb. 10 has received virtually no publicity in state media and news of it spread by word of mouth. It doesn’t appear to have dramatically increased demand at state cyber-centers.(HabanaLinda)

New express bus tested in Havana

havana-live-Metro-bus-en-El-vedado-G-y-25HAVANA, 19 Feb. The Cuban Ministry of Transportation’s Trans-Metro company has been operating a new articulated bus to improve the Santiago de las Vegas – Vedado service in Havana since December 22 of last year.

This novel express metro-bus operates Monday to Friday during rush hours, making a total of 17 stops, from the town of Santiago de Cuba to the interesection of 25 and G streets in Vedado, and 18 stops on its way back.
With two articulated sections and air-conditioning, the bus charges 1 Cuban peso per person. This State initiative is part of a six-month experiment. Should it yield positive results, the country will import ten additional buses from Holland and operate them in different routes around Havana.(Havana Times)

Fort Lauderdale company will start a ferry service to Havana

havana-live-200_Pax_Catamaran HAVANA, 18 Feb. With travel restrictions to Cuba eased since last year, a Fort Lauderdale-based company is looking to start a ferry service from the Marathon City Marina to Havana,by the end of the year.

Catamaran broker Brian Hall, owner of KonaCat, said he’s confident he can get clearance for his 200-passenger catamaran to travel from the Florida Keys to Cuba twice a day. He hasn’t decided the number of days a week it would run.
A four-hour one-way trip would cost $169 or ($338 round trip). Ferry service between the Keys and Cuba was huge before the U.S. government halted travel to Cuba shortly following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Hall said he’s wanted to start roundtrip service to Cuba from the Florida Keys after a 2011 business trip to Havana. With President Obama’s announcement in December that most travel restrictions for Cuba were being lifted, Hall decided to apply to the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control to travel to Cuba.
The Office of Foreign Asset Control operates under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. “We’re going to operate as a nonprofit organization. I feel pretty certain we’ll get the OFAC license,” Hall said.

“The trips are going to be for religious groups, educational trips and for Cuban-Americans to see their families again.” General U.S. tourism travel to Cuba remains banned but the federal government has no way to enforce it. It’s basically an honor system — one must cite a specific non-tourism reason to go to the island.

Generally, travel to the country must be for family visits, official business of the U.S. government, journalistic activity, educational programs, religious activities and humanitarian services. According to Hagar Chemali, spokesman for the Treasury Department, Hall would still be able to take people from Marathon to Cuba even if he is denied a general license.
“General licenses have been issued for travel to Cuba within categories of travel that Treasury has jurisdiction over — that means travelers that meet the requirements within those categories do not need to apply for a license as the travel is generally permitted,” Hagar said.

“Travel service providers and air carriers also would not require a license to provide services to authorized travelers.” Hall must work out how he will work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clear travelers and prevent Cuban stowaways from hiding on board and coming to the U.S. Hall said he’s working with agents at the Customs station in Marathon to address those issues.
Hall said he hopes the under-construction Customs international entry point will be completed at Florida Keys Marathon Airport before the first vessel launches.

Assistant Director of Airports for Monroe County Thomas Henderson said the Customs office could be complete by August. Former Mayor Rick Ramsay, who helped spearhead getting the official international point of entry at the Marathon airport, has expressed interest in the past of extending Customs’ services from the airport to the city marina.
Regardless of the status of the entry point at the airport, Hall said he’ll work to have regular inspections with Customs agents. “When we dock, the boat will be given to a Customs agent who will sweep the whole boat and all the baggage,” Hall said.

“It will be similar to the Customs screening you get if you flew into the country by plane.” Space for what would be an increase in parking at the Marathon marina is another obstacle Hall said he’ll have to overcome. Still, having traveled to Cuba himself last month, Hall sees day trips from Marathon to Cuba as inevitable.
http://www.keysnet.com/2015/02/18/501276/fort-lauderdale-man-trying-to.html