Monthly Archives: August 2016

New Cuba tourism seen slow to take off despite U.S. flights

(L to R) Mayda Molina, an official of the Institute of the Cuban Civil Aviation, Eduardo Rodriguez, Cuba's vice-minister of Transport and Alfredo Cordero, President of the Institute of the Cuban Civil Aviation, attend a news conference in Havana, Cuba, August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

(L to R) Mayda Molina, an official of the Institute of the Cuban Civil Aviation, Eduardo Rodriguez, Cuba’s vice-minister of Transport and Alfredo Cordero, President of the Institute of the Cuban Civil Aviation, attend a news conference in Havana, Cuba, August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

HAVANA, August 30th (Reuters)  An expected explosion in U.S. tourism to Cuba will likely take years to materialize even after U.S. airlines resume commercial flights to the Caribbean island this week for the first time since 1961 Continue reading

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More flights from US the end for Cuba’s ‘Mules’

havana-live-charter-mulesHAVANA, August 29th  The start this week of the first regularly scheduled commercial flights from the United States augurs the likely demise of Cuba’s “mules” — suppliers of last resort for scarce consumer goods on the island.

For more than half a century, commercial air travel between Cuba and the Continue reading

Cuba, China sign new accords to boost economic cooperation

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Rodrigo Malmierca (2nd-R), Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, and Zhang Xiangchen (2nd-L-Front), deputy international trade representative with China’s Ministry of Commerce, sign the agreements reached by both countries to deepen bilateral cooperation with joint projects in the sectors of telecommunications, industry and water resources, in Havana,

HAVANA, Aug. 28 (Xinhua)  Cuba and China on Friday signed new agreements aimed at deepening bilateral cooperation in a number of fields.

Zhang Xiangchen, deputy international trade representative with China’s Ministry of Commerce, and Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, signed the Continue reading

U.S. commercial flights welcome in Havana

havana-live-american-airlinesHAVANA, August 27th (Reuters) JetBlue is scheduled to inaugurate direct flights between the long-time nemeses on Aug. 31, when it flies from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Villa Clara in central Cuba.

American Airlines in September will start flying from Miami to the provinces, followed by other airlines.

There will be 20 daily flights to Havana by the end of the year.

“It is a positive step and contribution to the improving relations between Cuba and the United States,” Deputy Transportation Minister Eduardo Rodriguez told local media.

Josefina Vidal, who heads Cuba’s U.S. diplomacy department, said Cuba had confirmed the JetBlue flight, removing the last technical hurdle of official approval.

Rodriguez said U.S. airlines would be handled in a similar fashion as the 110 airlines currently flying to Cuba and with equal attention to security issues that were already a normal part of the country’s system.

“Cuba is strong in matters of operational and aviation security, which are recognized internationally,” the Communist Party daily, Granma, quoted him as stating.

Seventeen U.S. charter flights land every day in Cuba, but they are expected to gradually succumb to competition from the airlines.

Cuba has been experiencing a tourism boom since the announcement in December 2014 that the United States would normalize diplomatic ties and work to solve various outstanding issues.

Last year a record 3.5 million tourists visited, straining dilapidated infrastructure and pushing up prices, especially in the capital. Thousands of homes now rent out rooms, helping to ease the strain, and some 2,000 private restaurants have opened.

The Obama administration has focused on allowing normal travel, loosening restrictions despite a ban on tourism that only Congress can lift, and authorizing travel related businesses to set up shop in Cuba and communications companies and banks to provide support such as roaming and credit cards.

The direct flights follow the opening of the first U.S. administered hotel and arrival of the first U.S. cruise ship earlier this year.

Some 300,000 Cubans living in the United States now travel home annually. In 2015 the Cuban government reported 161,233 Americans visited, compared to 91,254 in 2014, and arrivals through June nearly doubled compared with the same period last year.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Phil Berlowitz)

JetBlue US to Cuba flights to begin next week

JetBlue-lance-mercredi-la-reprise-des-vols-commerciaux-americains-vers-CubaHAVANA,August 26th  American low-fare airline JetBlue is set to become the first United States airline in more than 50 years to fly a non-charter Cuba route Wednesday, when it starts nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Santa Clara .

Several airlines have gained U.S. Department of Transportation approval for non-Havana routes, but travelers eager to see the country before it is inundated with camera-touting American tourists need to act quickly, travel expert Rick Seaney said.

“There is going to be a gold rush,” said Seaney, CEO and co-founder of the travel websiteFareCompare. “More capacity is coming on almost every month over the next 18 months.”

JetBlue announced it will operate three weekly flights before adding daily service Oct.1. Destinations in two additional Cuban cities, Camagüey and Holguín, are slated to be added in November.

“I don’t think it’s going to be commercialized for another couple years, (but) they are putting some infrastructure in and … it would be great to see it in its pristine state,” Seaney said.

Although Havana, the most American-known destination, hasn’t been included in the first wave of routes, Seaney said the island is relatively small and easy to get around. JetBlue said routes to Havana will be announced at a later date.

Frontier, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines have also been approved by the DOT, and Seaney said many of the flights are already available to book.

“When they initially came out with the price points, they were in the $200 to $400 range depending on what part of the country you are flying out of. Cheaper out of Charlotte and Florida, a little more expensive out of places like Chicago and Minneapolis,” he said, noting prices are certain to come down.

Ferry Service to Cuba Right Around the Corner ?

5990281486_f865088635_b (1)HAVANA, August 25th (Agencys) Ferry travel could be the wave of the future for Americans who want to see Cuba and it could be a tourist bonanza for South Florida as a “gateway destination” — particularly if hotels in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Key West are willing to offer packages that include a few days in Cuba.

About Travel says when ferry service does launch, expect it to go to Havana from at least two Florida destinations: Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) and Key West. Miami, Port Manatee, Tampa and St. Petersburg are other departure points being considered by ferry companies. U.S. ferry service is being eyed for the historic, south coast port city of Santiago de Cuba as well as Havana.

“I can hardly imagine anything more exciting than uniting two countries that are so close, and yet have been cut off from each other for more than 55 years,” says Matt Davies, managing director of Direct Ferries, a global booking site for ferry service that will offer Cuba reservations by clicking here.

“We expect Cuba to sign the bilateral agreement very soon, and we will be ready with the widest selection of ferry routes to Cuba.” About Travel believes service could actually begin by the end of 2016.

Where you depart from will make a big difference in your travel time to Cuba: a traditional ferry from Port Everglades to Havana would take about 10 hours one way, according to Direct Ferries. However, the Spanish ferry company Baleària plans to operate a high-speed ferry between Key West and Havana that would make the crossing of the Florida Strait in just three hours.

Fares aren’t likely to be prohibitive, says About Travel. Look for them to start at around $300 roundtrip, car included.

Cuba eyes Iran trade to fight US sanctions

Mohammad Javad Zarif,Bruno Rodriguez

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, talks to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, right, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Iran’s foreign minister begun a Latin American tour in Cuba, declaring Iran and Cuba united by their histories of resisting what he called U.S. atrocities. Zarif also plans to visit Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA, August 24th  Cuba says US sanctions on the Latin American country and Iran have opened a common ground for the two countries to forge special trade ties.
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Havana where he met Cuban leaders, including President Raul Castro in what they described a new chapter in bilateral ties, PressTV reported.

Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Malmierca Diaz described Iran an “important partner” with a capacity to help his country enter Asian markets.

Diaz said despite President Barack Obama’s historic three-day visit to the island in March, the US maintains its sanctions on Cuba and his country has no choice but to implement short-term projects to achieve development.

“Both Cuba and Iran have reached a roadmap after years of sanctions which they should use to explore new economic opportunities and take advantage of each other’s capabilities,” he said.

A large economic delegation is accompanying Zarif on his six-day Latin America tour which also includes trips to Chile, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela aimed at boosting trade after the removal in January of US-led sanctions against Iran.

The first Iran-Cuba economic forum opened in Havana on Monday, with Diaz telling Iranian companies that they could become the engine of economic growth and dynamism in his country.

Iran and Cuba have long been close friends. Last week, Cuban Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas visited Tehran and met top Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani.

Cuba’s Female Boxer Fighting for Recognition

havana-live -Namibia-FloresHAVANA, August 23th After more than seven years of tireless fighting and training, of never being knocked out by dejection, Namibia Flores, the most qualified woman boxer in Cuba, will not enter the ring to fight for her biggest dream.

Born in Matanzas province and brought up in Havana, it is too late for the flyweight boxer to fight in the Olympics. In Cuba, women are still banned from taking part in international boxing competitions.

“I’m 40 years old. In this sport that’s old. It’s the age limit for the Olympics,” said Namibia after her five-kilometre morning run, while she prepares for her daily training session at the Rafael Trejo boxing gym in Havana Vieja.

The place needs repairs. The leather bags are heavily cracked, and the majority of the gloves can’t take any more rounds. The mirror has lost part of its shine and in some areas it no longer reflects the boxers’ images.

On the ring’s old canvas Namibia seems to be dancing with her sparring partner Maikel. She throws jabs, straights and hooks while holding Maikel back so that he cannot counterattack. Her three training partners watch her closely. They would like to have Namibia’s resistance and punch.

She trains every day from ten in the morning until two in the afternoon. She almost always goes to the gym in Havana Vieja, but sometimes she goes to a vale todo (anything goes) gym in the Víbora neighbourhood, close to Córdova Park, where they practice mixed martial arts.

“There’s got to be sport in Namibia’s life every day, even if I’m ill,” she said.havana-live -Namibia-FloresBefore training she just drinks a coffee and takes her vitamins. After she drinks an ice-cold pru oriental, a frothy Haitian drink made by fermenting different plant roots.

Namibia eats whatever is available and what she can buy in the market, but tries by any means possible to eat vegetables and proteins.

For two months she trained with a male boxing team in Indonesia, where she managed to beat one of its members. She has been fighting men fearlessly for 25 years after a bout with a boy.

“They constantly harassed my brother, who was smaller than me then. I went out to defend him and I ended up with a swollen eye,” laughed Namibia.

The next day she started to practice a combat sport to learn how to fight, although so far she has not needed to use it to dodge another punch. She chose taekwondo, training for nine years and reaching black belt 1st Dan. She gave Havana province its first bronze medal for the sport in the provincial games. Then she started to work as a trainer, but she gave up the martial art because it bored her.

At the beginning boxing was just a hobby, a way of channelling her negative energy.

Love for the gloves came later, motivated by the esteem of her trainer Nardo Mestre. He discovered her knack for boxing and he encouraged her to prepare for the day in which women could officially measure up against each other with their gloves on. He put the idea of an Olympic medal into her head and she has not stopped training since.

Also, the intense physical training made her optimistic and fed her vanity. Namibia has always enjoyed hearing that she looks young for her age.havana-live-Namibia FloresBut she does not understand why the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which was created in 1960 with the objective of “achieving full equality for woman in all areas and levels of society,” has not supported women’s inclusion in boxing.

Vilma Espín, the deceased wife of President Raúl Castro headed the FMC until her death and María Yolanda Ferrer has been the General Secretary for two decades; neither ever took a stance on lifting the ban on women in boxing.

The silence and lack of support demonstrates the Federation’s refusal to recognise female boxing in international competitions, a posture that serves to strengthen sexist ideas on the issue.

It is even more difficult to understand the FMC’s silence when almost all combat sports, such as taekwondo, wrestling, karate and judo have female competitors who achieve outstanding results.

In judo, for example, Cuba has Olympic and world championship medallists such as Amarilis Savón, Yurisleidy Lupetey and Driulis González. González, with four Olympic medals and seven world medals, is considered to be a judo legend and the best judoist of the Americas in the 20th century.

After so many sacrifices without tangible results, Namibia has two options left and neither has yet come to fruition. One option is professional boxing but this could mean moving to a different country, and it is not always easy to find a promoter.

“When I went to the United States I could have stayed, and now I could be knocked out or earning money, as we say,” Namibia explained. “But that wasn’t what I wanted. I don’t want to live outside of Cuba. But the formula that we have created to be able to fight and also live in Cuba doesn’t work either because there’s no money in it.”havana-live -Namibia-FloresNamibia has gone to the US on two occasions. First in March 2015 to attend the presentation of Boxeadora, a documentary about her life produced by the North American Meg Smaker. The second time was in July of the same year to try and finalise a contract where she could train in Havana and travel to Miami a few weeks before each fight.

She still thinks it is possible, with the help of some friends, to sign a contract in Europe to take part in professional female boxing before age beats her for a second time.

Namibia’s second option, which she believes has potential, is to become a trainer for young boxers in Cuba. If female boxing is officially approved, Namibia, who also has a degree in physical education, could train female boxers or give private personal defence classes. If all else fails, she could fall back on her cooking skills.

“I don’t have work at the moment, but I’m also a good cook,” she said. “I’ve cooked for paladares [small private restaurants].”

Her trainer, Mestre, believes that Namibia is physically and mentally capable of teaching new boxers.

“She has the fortitude and the willpower. She’s been training for years for nothing. Imagine what she could achieve if she could at least train others officially.”

Mestre believes that female boxing will be approved in Cuba soon.

Although so far Cuban women have not been allowed to access training programs or to choose boxing in sport schools, this reality could change shortly.

The president of the Cuban Boxing Federation, Alberto Puig de la Barca, told ESPN in April 2015 that “we are still considering female boxing. We are looking at the pros and cons.  It’s a subject that is being evaluated; there hasn’t been a decision. We’ll see over the coming years what decision we make.

“For the moment, the Federation does not approve female boxing, at least not in the competitive system. But we know that women are practicing this sport. Here sport is everyone’s right”.

According to reports in the official media, such as the newspaper Vanguardia, at the beginning of March the National Commission suggested teaching women interested in boxing because the World Boxing Confederation had approved women’s participation in the Seventh Word Series of Boxing, to be held in 2017.

The Cuban sporting authorities have not made an official statement on the subject and the FMC still has not issued any declarations.

But female boxing fans and the general public are used to all kinds of changes being experienced first on a small scale and with limited publicity, and this seems to be the case for women’s official entry into boxing.

Namibia has complete confidence that female boxing will be approved as an official sport, as well as total assurance that she will continue training until she dies.

“I’m going to be the super boxing grandmother. I’m going to carry on boxing as long as I can throw a punch on the bag,” she said jokingly. “I think that they’ll bury me in a punching bag instead of a coffin.”havana-live -Namibia-Flores

This story originally appeared in Vice Sports Latinoamerica.

Agape Flights to start Havana trips Tuesday

rssImages (2)HAVANA, August 23th When pilots Steve Koch and Jeff Yannucciello touch down in Agape Flights’ Embraer E100 at Jose Marti international Airport in Havana, Cuba, at about 9 a.m. Tuesday, a new chapter will officially unfold for the 36-year-old Christian aviation ministry.

Agape Flights typically delivers supplies for visiting mission groups in the Bahamas, Continue reading

AT&T to offer service in Cuba

UnbenanntHAVANA, August 23th Telecom giant AT&T Inc. has reached agreements for Cuba roaming and direct interconnection with Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba (ETECSA), giving travelers another option to make calls as they visit the island-nation.

“Cuba is a growing international calling Continue reading

Cuba’s Private Businesses Need’s Architects

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Le Chansonnier Havana

HAVANA, August 19th (Havana Times)  In real life, la China is the owner of a restaurant that has an entrance hall, a bar, a room with 11 tables, a reserved area, a unisex bathroom, kitchen, a stockroom and another bathroom for employees. In the parallel universe of building licenses, la China’s restaurant was remodeled as Continue reading

Cubans and tourists complain over trash on beaches

920x920HAVANA, August 19th (AP)  Hayde Lanza, her sister-in-law and their children left home in their swimsuits after breakfast, loaded with food, juice and bottled water. A 40-minute bus ride later they were staring at a turquoise sea riffled by a gentle Caribbean breeze — and a powdery white beach littered with food wrappers and aluminum Continue reading

Latin American Civil Aviation Commission holds meeting in Havana

Alfredo Cordero Puig (I), Presidente del Instituto de la Aeronáutica Civil de Cuba (IACC), interviene durante la inauguración de la LXXXVIII Reunión del Comité Ejecutivo de la Comisión Latinoamericana de Aviación Civil (CLAC), en el Hotel Habana Libre, Cuba, el 17 de agosto de 2016. ACN FOTO/ Omara GARCÍA MEDEROS /rrcc

Alfredo Cordero Puig (I), Presidente del Instituto de la Aeronáutica Civil de Cuba (IACC), interviene durante la inauguración de la LXXXVIII Reunión del Comité Ejecutivo de la Comisión Latinoamericana de Aviación Civil (CLAC), en el Hotel Habana Libre, Cuba, el 17 de agosto de 2016. ACN FOTO/ Omara GARCÍA MEDEROS /rrcc

HAVANA,Aug 18th The Cuban Institute of Aeronautics hosts the 88th meeting of the Executive Committee of Latin American Civil Aviation Commission (CLAC) Continue reading

2 Californiens who opened a restaurant in Havana

920x1240HAVANA, August 16th  Shona Baum had lived in San Francisco for 20 years. Paver Core Broche had left Cuba with the intention of never returning.

Yet, a few years ago, the San Francisco couple decided that new laws allowing Cubans to own their own businesses offered them a rare Continue reading

Madonna visits Havana to celebrate 58 birthday

madonna-en-cuba-vistar2HAVANA, Aug. 16 News outlets from around the world and the social media have leaked that Madonna is in Cuba. Right now, the pop diva is staying at the larger-than-life and bustling Saratoga Hotel in Havana, the same lodging where Paris Hilton stayed a couple of years ago.

Tonight, followers, journalists and paparazzi had swarmed Continue reading

Cojimar Female Entrepreneurs Design Afro-Cuban Fashion

HAVANA, 15 agosto (Havana Times) Video Report by Luis Rondon Paz In an apartment in Cojimar, located in Havana del Este, Cuban women start out as fashion designers for a project that aims to make visible the work of women of African descent in Cuba, show their beauty in all its diversity and become a source of employment.

First all-female crew lands private plane in Havana since embargo

636066415784634358-Amanda-FarnsworthHAVANA, August 14th After the two-seater airplane landed at José Martí International Airport in Havana Tuesday, the airport workers stared wide-eyed at the flight crew as they disembarked.

“They looked at us like we had three heads or something,” Nashville-based pilot Amanda Farnsworth said.

The port director explained to Farnsworth and her friend Continue reading

Cuba – Puerto Rico Investment Relation

d503b79bddae5a3eeed71620c726e5d6_XLHAVANA, August 14th Nowhere more so than in linking Cuba’s rapprochement with the U.S., which is driven by normalizing diplomatic relations combined with decade’s worth of pent up business and tourist interests, with the need to turn around Puerto Rico’s fortunes in a manner palatable Continue reading

Santeria’s animal cruelty must stop

havana-live-santeria1HAVANA, August 12th  Aniplant were contacted a few weeks ago from a resident of Havana who witnessed animal torture in a neighborhood Santeria ritual. Santeria is a faith that blends West African religious customs with Caribbean tradition and Roman Catholicism. Sadly, animal sacrifices are often part of it.

The e:mail came with five horrific photos Continue reading

A momentary darkness ?

12541161_10153780643901083_7341025473107288063_nHAVANA, August 12th  Is has been widely reported, Cuba has entered a new period of austerity. On July 8, President Castro told the Cuban National Assembly that Cuban Continue reading

The Arcades of Havana

Arcades1HAVANA, August 11th As an exceptionally hot and humid summer crawls into August, we think this is a perfect time to focus on the architecture of Havana—specifically, on the arcades that for centuries have kept habaneros cool, shaded, and sheltered from the tropical rains.

This spring, Coral Gables-based architect Ángel C. Saqui posted Continue reading

Tiny Polish car, the new sensation in Cuba

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Evilio Aguilar poses with his Fiat Polski 126p in a garage in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, August 10, 2016. An estimated 10,000 Polskis are registered in Cuba, according to aficionados. Photo: Ramon Espinosa, AP

HAVANA, August 11th  (AP)  Ramses Fernandez’s most cherished possession is barely larger than a refrigerator, with the legroom of an economy airplane seat and a little more horsepower than a riding lawnmower.

“That’s my second baby,” said Fernandez, smiling proudly at the 39-year-old Continue reading