havana-live-abel-prietHavana, Juin 9 (EFE) A prominent Cuban intellectual who serves as an adviser to President Raul Castro has urged progressive elements in the international community to lead a “decolonizing” approach to the use of new technologies.

Abel Prieto, a former culture minister, spoke during Sunday’s closing session of an international conference in Havana about digital political communication.

In his speech, published on the government website Cubadebate, Prieto described access to the Internet as a “social right” that needs to be extended to the poor and disadvantaged.

Cuba must use new information technologies to make society “more dynamic, efficient, participative and just” and as “a tool for the country’s sustainable human development and its effective insertion in the community of nations.”

Prieto emphasized the need to promote alternatives in the use of information and communications technologies in the regional and international contexts “to counter hegemonic practices in the digital world.”

“We must build a digital socialism, not the imitation of the Internet user as frenzied consumer,” he said. “The technological challenge must be matched with the cultural challenge and both must be tackled strengthening a collective critical awareness, with the participation of all citizens.”

More than 200 delegates from 34 countries participated in the three-day conference at the Havana Convention Center.

Cuba has one of the world’s lowest rates of Internet penetration. Only a select few are provided with connections at home and fees to surf the Web at state-run Internet cafes or in hotels are beyond the means of many Cubans.

Traditionally, the Cuban government has blamed the island’s lack of Internet capacity on the U.S. economic embargo, but with the current thaw in bilateral relations, Washington has promised to facilitate Havana’s acquisition of the technology necessary to expand Internet access on the island.

havana-live-club-de-parisHAVANA, June 8   Cuba and the Paris Club of wealthy creditor nations have agreed that Cuba owes $15 billion stemming from a 1986 default, an important first step toward renegotiating the debt, Western diplomats said.

“The final amount of $15 billion has been approved by both parties, so that is a big first step and now the creditors will meet to set policy for formal talks,” said one of the diplomats with knowledge of the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The figure represents the total that Cuba owes 16 Paris Club nations from its 1986 default and includes principal, service charges, interest and penalties.

The diplomats said the agreement was another sign that Cuba’s communist government is interested in rejoining the global economy and adhering to international financial rules.

The two sides can now move on to the next phase of renegotiating payment terms. Cuba has achieved significant debt forgiveness in similar negotiations with other creditors in recent years.

Most Paris Club creditors are willing to show flexibility with Cuba due to their increased interest in doing business here following the Caribbean island’s detente with the United States, the diplomats said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December their governments would work toward a normalization of relations after decades of confrontation.

“Everyone wants to put this behind them now and move forward, and frankly, after 30 years I think the banks will be happy just to get something back,” a European diplomat said.

Cuba does not comment on debt negotiations.

The government last reported its “active” foreign debt, accumulated after it declared a default, at $13.9 billion in 2011. It no longer reports its “passive” debt from before the default, which economists estimate at $8 billion plus interest, service charges and penalties owed governments and commercial creditors.

The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated Cuba’s total foreign debt as $26 billion at the end of last year.

Negotiations with the Paris Club creditors would be the first since negotiations failed in 2001, in part due to a huge $35 billion debt owed Cuba’s former benefactor the Soviet Union, and since then largely forgiven by Russia.

“I think both sides are more optimistic this time around,” another European diplomat said. “The Russian issue is out of the way, relations are improving with the United States and the European Union, and Cuba is seeking international credibility and more investment.”

The Paris Club is an informal group of creditor governments composed of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

It has a special working group on Cuba that does not include the United States.

Russia and Germany have already negotiated bilateral agreements with Cuba, but want to participate as observers in the upcoming negotiations, the sources said.

Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel as president in 2008, has drastically reined in imports and cut state payrolls and subsidies while insisting the near-bankrupt government get its financial house in order and pledging to pay its past-due debts.

Cuba has had a trade and current account surplus since 2011 and has improved its payments record to creditors and suppliers.

In the past four years, Cuba has restructured its debt with Japanese commercial creditors, Mexico and Russia, each time obtaining reductions of 70 percent to 90 percent in what was owed in exchange for extended payment plans it could meet.

Cuba has also restructured its debt with China, estimated by local economists at more than $6 billion. (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Leslie Adler)

US Medical Students with diplomas in Havana. Photo: www.birthingprojectusa.org

US Medical Students with diplomas in Havana. Photo: www.birthingprojectusa.org

HAVANA, June 7 (HT) While hotels like Havana’s Melia Cohiba are full of Americans who think they are getting an early taste of international travel’s forbidden fruit hundreds of United States citizens have been calling Cuba home away from home for some time now.

Every morning US students studying at the University of Havana walk to classes, State Department diplomats and US Marines drive into the bustling Vedado neighborhood from restful Playa-Miramar, medical students from New York City, Oakland, and New Orleans make their rounds, US tour operators head out to the Jose Marti International Airport to pick up the latest bus full of their compatriots, and a few dozen United States exiles begin yet another day in Havana.

Even with the waxing and waning of bilateral relations over the decades there has never been a complete absence of US citizens on the island.

I showed up as part of the one of the more recent groups making Cuba a temporary home base, as a student of the Latin American School of Medicine. At any one time there are about 100 of us studying medicine here, split between a campus on the far western edge of the Havana and the more central Salvador Allende Hospital in the Cerro neighborhood.

Early 1960s billboards in Miami.  Photo: www.ft.com

Early 1960s billboards in Miami. Photo: www.ft.com

Well before the first group of US medical students showed up in 2001 the United States Interest Section became home to at least a few dozen State Department and U.S. Government personnel. Their presence dates back to President Carter’s administration, who in 1977, thought the Interest Section would be a critical step to opening an embassy.

Sadly President Carter’s second term never came to pass and the Interest Section became a centerpiece of contention instead of a functioning embassy, at least up until now…hopefully. Havana is no stranger to roving bands of American college students on short term study abroad programs.

Their unwashed Converse tennis shoes and tattered jeans make Cubans wonder, “Since when did the United States send homeless teens to university?” At any one time the number of US citizens on educational programs in Havana can number from a few dozen to over 100. This contingent is expected to grow significantly as relations continue to improve.

After swelling rapidly in the late 1960’s and into the 70’s the US exile/fugitive community Cuba has been shrinking the past few years. Some members have died, others, like William Potts have called it quits in Cuba and gone back to the United States. Recently Charlie Hill came out of hiding and gave conflicting interviews about his position on a possible voluntary return to the United States. While extradition seems a long way off the prospect of more cooperation between Cuba and the USA on law enforcement matters means this group will not be adding many new members.

The emerging US community in Cuba belongs to tourism operators. President Obama reopened the possibility of group travel, otherwise known as people-to-people tours, during his first term and further loosened the travel restrictions earlier this year. Due to various layers of complex legalese these tours require a Cuban and a US tour guide. This has led to an influx of US tour leaders who move so frequently between the United States and Havana they might as well call the latter home. Now with an end to the travel ban in sight the tourism industry expat clique will soon be in the majority.

The US community in Cuba has even inspired local business that caters to this demographic. Cuba Libro, run by American expat Connor Gorry, is a secondhand English language book store, coffee shop, art gallery, and community center in Havana’s leafy Vedado neighborhood. The last time I was there gossiping with a fellow medical student we watched as an American tour leader led a bus full of our compatriots through the house-cum-bookshop.

Cuba Libro is an anomaly (or “oasis” as it is known among its fans) in Havana. And even though Americans can’t just pop down to Cuba and set up shop Cuban owned private businesses are beginning to catch on to the potentials of the US market. The restaurant El Litoral near the US Interests Section caters to Havana’s only lunch crowd that shows up with neckties. Meanwhile in the sketchier Cerro neighborhood several houses near the Salvador Allende Hospital sell cheap plates of grub to on-call US medical students.

Being a US citizen in Cuba doesn’t always mean living in Cuba as at home. Unlike other capital cities around the world Havana isn’t peppered with American fast food chains, clothing stores, or our ubiquitous advertising. So we mostly bring what we want from home. Our suitcases so full of prepackaged foods it looks as if someone robbed the checkout display at convenience store or took Halloween way to seriously.

I’ve often wondered what the Transportation Security Administration inspectors think when they are rifling through my luggage in transit to Havana…another weirdo.Cuba Libro is an anomaly (or “oasis” as it is known among its fans) in Havana. And even though Americans can’t just pop down to Cuba and set up shop Cuban owned private businesses are beginning to catch on to the potentials of the US market.

The restaurant El Litoral near the US Interests Section caters to Havana’s only lunch crowd that shows up with neckties. Meanwhile in the sketchier Cerro neighborhood several houses near the Salvador Allende Hospital sell cheap plates of grub to on-call US medical students.

Around 200 years ago there were enough Mexicans living in Old Havana to create a “Little Campeche” and enough Chinese immigrants to establish a “China Town” in Central Havana. US citizens came later, with significant communities in the Playa-Mirarmar neighborhood of Havana and the gated beach community of Tarara; the Island of Youth even boasts a US Cemetery as part of its cultural heritage. Of course all of those places became solidly Cuban shortly after 1959.

Cuba is still a long way off from having a “Little Miami” in Havana. However, considering that the largest group of US citizens living in Cuba are Cuban-Americans and their children, such an experiment could become reality. Right now the only thing certain about the future of United States citizens in Cuba is that there is one.


carbonera-clubHAVANA, June 7  (FT)  London & Regional, the UK property developer, plans to invest more than $500m to develop a luxury Cuban tourist resort in one of the first signs of big money interest in the island since Havana began talks to normalise relations with the US in December.

The resort will allow foreigners to own beachfront property on the socialist island for the first time. It will also boast an 18-hole golf course – once considered by Fidel Castro a bourgeois sport .


“We’ve long liked Cuba, and signed this deal before the US talks began,” Ian Livingstone, London & Regional co-executive chairman, told the Financial Times. “I think the Cubans see it as something of a pathfinder project.” He said the total build-out value would be “well north of $500m”.

London & Regional, privately owned by Mr Livingstone and his brother Ian, has a £9bn property portfolio, two thirds in the UK, the rest in emerging markets. Group accounts at Companies House reported net assets of £1bn in 2013 and operating profits of £213m.

One of its largest projects is a 6m sq. ft redevelopment of Panama’s old US Air Force base into a mixed-use business, residential and recreational centre, also with a golf course.carbonera-cuba

The 1.5m square foot Cuban project, called Carbonera, lies 100km north of Havana, near the Varadero beach resort. Palmares SA, a state company charged with developing Cuban golf, is the joint venture’s 51 per cent partner and contributed the land, free of property claims by nationalised owners. France’s Bouygues and Brazil’s Odebrecht, already operating in Cuba, may tender for construction.

“We’ve long liked Cuba, and signed this deal before the US talks began. I think the Cubans see it as something of a pathfinder project.”– Ian Livingstone, London & Regional co-executive chairman

“This will be a very top-end development, with a boutique hotel of 100 rooms and some 1,000 residences for sale, from villas to condominiums,” said Desmond Taljaard, London & Regional managing director. “It is part of Cuba’s drive to move up from three star tourism.”

Around 3m tourists visited Cuba last year, half the neighbouring Dominican Republic’s numbers. But an end of the US embargo could see another 3m US tourists visit, according to International Monetary Fund estimates. Mr Taljaard said Carbonera was aimed at the Canadian, European and regional markets, “with US clients one day”.

After 56 years of cold war enmity, the prospect of détente with Havana has ignited a carnival of expectations among US businesses, drawn by Cuba’s “forbidden fruit” allure – despite the difficulties of doing business there.

Carbonera, started by a Scottish entrepreneur, took eight years to reach this stage. London & Regional became a keystone partner in early 2014 and the project won Cuban cabinet approval soon after. It has since been upgraded and redesigned, and will be financed internally by the British group.

“If you are an investor focused on quarterly results and internal rates of return with immediate exits, Cuba might not be for you,” Mr Livingstone said. “But we are enthusiastic about Cuba, and committed. We are long-term investors. We build long-term relationships and we have patient capital.”





 havana-live-Cira Garcia health centreHAVANA, 6 June  (ACN) — The Havana-based Cira Garcia health centre, offering services to foreigners in Cuba, is expanding its services to compete with other similar centres in the Americas.

“We are expanding our services, not only in terms of space, but also in our attention capacity,” said health centre director Joaquin Garcia.

The institution was set up in the 1980s to offer health services to the diplomatic corps accredited in Havana. In the 1990s the facility began to assist not only foreign residents there, but also those who came for medical attention in Cuba.

The health centre, which is part of the Cuban heath system, contributed nine million Cuban convertible pesos (US$9 million) to the country’s economy. It was a modest contribution to the country and to public health, Garcia said.

In Cuba health care is free of charge for the Cuban people, but the system includes a group of facilities that charge services to foreigners.

The Havana health care centre offers services in all clinical and surgical specialties, along with pediatrics and gynecology.

 havana-live--digital-fashion-show-1-537x402 HAVANA, Jun 6 Cuba will launch its first commercial fashion show ever in an effort to become a good taste reference in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The commercial event, which is organized by Palco Entrepreneurial Group and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, will be hosted by Pabexpo Exhibit Pavilion, June 8 to 11, in western Havana.

Cuba is looking forwards to finding a place at the most representative fashion markets in this region, particularly in Brazil and Jamaica, according to the organizers, who explained that the exhibit will include a wide array of articles, including textiles, cosmetics, sports clothes and fashion magazines.

The forum will gather commercial experts in the field as well as exhibitors and visitors so that they all exchange of views on international fashion trends. Also included are workshops, presentations and different services promoting the commercial fair.

A recent survey by the local newspaper Juventud Rebelde revealed that the majority of Cuban youngsters is not dressing appropriately for different occasions in everyday life due to the lack of variety of clothes in the national shopping network and economic limitations.

Another factor is the lack of fashion magazines that bring Cuban designs, which leads young people to follow patterns promoted by foreign magazines.(acn)

havana-live-tatoo--David-Lazar-Myanmar1Havana, Jun 6  (PL) The ancient art of tattoo of the Burmese ethnic Chin will arrive to the Cuban capital on June 12 with the exhibition Marcadas, from the Catalan photographer Edu Bayer, today organizers announced.

The exhibition includes portraits of elderly women of that group, who look at their faces fascinating tattoos.These are also Patriarchate traces of their culture, a press release says.

During the ceremony, Bayer will be interacting with the participants in a sort of performance, taking photographs of people interested in showing their own styles of expressing romantic-affect relationships, without distinction of gender, age or place of origin.

The Havanan Gallery La Marca will host the event of this photographer, who resides in New York. The artist, 33, has regularly collaborated with publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde or The Guardian.

The Chin are an ethnic group of Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country,. Its population reaches around a million and a half inhabitants. In addition, they are located in border States of India like Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Assam.

  havana-live--six-cuban-artists-humberto-diaz-reynier-leyva-novo-alex-hernandez-duenas-ariamna-contino-mendozaHAVANA, June 5   (Devoid of art supplies, Internet, and a connection to the international art market, contemporary Cuban artists have been making some of the most innovative work the world has yet to see.
As the coils of the embargo begin to loosen, an emerging force of pioneers are debuting their work to American audiences: painting, sculpting, and crafting work, most of it politically charged, all of it distinctively Cuban.

With the Havana Biennial, running through June 22, and a major exchange of works between the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba making waves on the Malecón, here are six Cuban artists you need to know.havana-live- -artists-novo

Behind a man bun, laid-back attitude, and youthful flair, Reynier Leyva Novo is a leading Cuban conceptual artist, whose work is deeply rooted in the weight of history and politics—literally.
For an installation in the Biennial, The Weight of History, Novo calculated the amount of ink used in five creeds of totalitarian regimes, written by Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Gaddafi, and Fidel Castro, using software he developed. He then transcribed the same weight of paint into corresponding squares onto the curved, stone walls of a 16th century fortress.

The towering black squares evoke a somber profundity. During a studio visit, the artist exhibited smaller works on paper reacting to Communist iconography. Novo’s work is stripped down to its essence, reminding us that the basis of ideologies can be just as abstract as his art.havana-live-carlos-garaicoa

A luminary artist, Garaicoa is well established on the Cuban art scene and a sought-after star of international art fairs. Since the early 1990s, the Havana native has used sculpture, photography, performance, and video to comment on social and political issues ingrained in urban planning, specifically on policies following the 1959 Cuban revolution.

His exquisite architectural models, intricate pop-up books, and masterfully delicate pins-and-needles work illuminate the neglected edifices that punctuate a city frustrated by stalled political and social progress. Garaicoa’s contributions extend to his artist-in-residence initiative, ARTIST X ARTIST, which champions a younger generation of emergent Cuban artists in the global art scene.  havana-live-artists-duenas-mendoza

Collaborating on work for the Biennial and a show at Havana’s prestigious art gallery, Galería Habana, the young couple, in their early 30s, fuse their artistic skill with a social and political awareness.
For The Path of Eden, in the Biennial, Contino has created expansive, dazzlingly beautiful landscapes of delicately hand-cut paper to represent the major drug corridors in Latin America. The layers of meticulously cut, cocaine-white paper represent the complexity of the drug industry, with Cuba as a natural corridor.

On smaller cut-outs by Contino, Dueñas has printed abstract and colorful images, which evoke line graphs and statistical data charting the drug markets and resulting deaths. The artists are beginning to exhibit on a small scale in the U.S., and Contino will be part of a group show at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York this fall. Keep an eye out for this dynamic duo. havana-live-artists-campins

Campins, the lithe, serene, and cerebral painter, is a calming presence in the Havana heat, devoid of ego despite being one of the pre-eminent artists working in Cuba today. His canvases, both small- and large-scale, demonstrate a masterful command of landscape painting, boldly establishing a richly distinctive style.

Catalogues in his studio suggest his artistic influences, from Caspar David Friedrich to Anselm Kiefer and Mark Rothko, but his dream-like, enveloping, textured surfaces are all his own. The recipient of numerous awards, Campins continues to revitalize Cuban art and make a name for himself in the international art world. havana-live-artists-diaz

Díaz, of modest size but not stature, wears his heart and ambition on his sleeve, renowned for his site-specific installations and performance art. The prolific, multi-disciplinary artist impresses with his epic, labyrinthine installations in public places, interactive performance art, and inventive sculpture.

In a 2011 performance piece, Diaz stood in front of a clock and watched it for five hours, which he called “pretty boring.” Currently in his studio, he displays a retro, operating refrigerator stuffed full with Hollywood cigarettes, and a photograph he took of a street grate in Rome, each nook filled with a discarded cigarette butt. The piece, made up of 22 different panels, is called DNA. Díaz is currently exhibiting at the Bronx Museum, as part of an artist exchange, through August 16.



MIA-WORLD-ATLANTIC-FIS-HAVANA-1HAVANA, june 5 An amendment to eliminate a measure that would restrict travel to Cuba failed Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives, reported the Hill.

Previously Republicans had added a provision to the funding bill for both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to prevent licensing flights or cruise ships to Cuba if they involved property confiscated by the Castro regime. The provisions were part of the $55.3 billion measure to curb President Barack Obama administration’s recent thawing of relations with Cuba.

By preventing the licensing of flights and ships under specific circumstances, proponents aimed to continue some form of a ban on U.S. travel to Cuba. The failed amendment, which would have reversed the provisions, was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and lost by a vote of 176-247. “Not only are the current provisions in this bill wrong for diplomacy, they’re patently anti-business,” said Lee.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee who authored the measure and is also a Cuban-American, said the amendment was only meant to protect property seized by the Castro government, according to the Hill. “Increased travel to Cuba directly funds the individuals and institutions that oppress the Cuban people,” Diaz-Balart said, according to NBC News.

In December, Obama announced that he would begin normalizing and restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, which has not had a U.S. Embassy since 1961 and the Cuban Revolution. The United States had maintained some form of trade embargo with Cuba ever since that time period.

The Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill also includes a provision prohibiting exports to the Cuban military or intelligence service, or their family members. Obama has threatened to veto both spending bills if the anti-Cuban relations measures remain.

“The bill also reduces funding for other vulnerable populations, such as low-income children at risk of lead poisoning, and for programs that invest in public housing to revitalize distressed communities,” the White House said.


 havana-live-mexican-restaurant-Logo HAVANA,june 4   (HT por Pilar Montes)  Andrés Buenfil, a businessman from the Mexican Yucatan who has visited Cuba regularly since 1988, has always been taken aback by the fact that our country lacks a good Mexican restaurant.

“We Mexicans are very attached to our cuisine and, wherever we travel to in the world, we always try and seek out places that serve our favorite dishes,” Buenfil told Havana Times.

Therefore, he proposed to open up this kind of establishment here in Havana, not in the typical touristy neighborhoods of Old Havana, Vedado or Playa, but in Santos Suárez, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city in the 10 de octubre municipality.

Many friends and acquaintances advised him against the venture, but Andrés had already made up his mind. Recently opened, Buenfil invited locals to the opening of El Chile Habanero and the restaurant’s dishes and novelty have kept its tables constantly busy.

Located on Calle Durege, on the corner of Santa Emilia, a bright-colored two-story house, with colorful walls and furniture and numerous Mexican motifs, attract passers-by.

The restaurant opens up into a spacious hall with lots of tables and a smaller one on the right which receives diners with a mural painting, depicting a steam train carrying women such as those who joined Emiliano Zapata’s or Pancho Villa’s revolutionary troops.

On the walls, there are photos from films starring María Félix, Jorge Negrete and other famous actors, as well as stained glass windows with some more national motifs.tamal-criollo

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, a Mariachi band comes to entertain in the evenings and, if customers want to take pictures of themselves with the Mexican decorations the musicians loan them their typical sombreros.

Buenfil explained to Havana Times that his main businesses and sources of income are still in Mexico, which are linked to services targeted towards the tourism industry, such as car rentals.
A red wooden staircase takes diners up to the second floor where there are other booths reserved for families and groups of friends.

So, you consider your restaurant to be a pioneer of Mexican food here in Cuba? asked HT. “El Chile Habanero, as well as being profitable, was set up mainly with the aim of promoting Mexican food among the Cuban people, which has already won over fans in many other countries,” he replied.

Buenfil explained to Havana Times that his main businesses and sources of income are still in Mexico, which are linked to services targeted towards the tourism industry, such as car rentals.

Upon mention of the United States and one of the American fast food chains that supposedly offer Mexican cuisine such as Taco Bell, Buenfil did not hesitate in describing it as an “insult to my country’s cooking.”

The history and brotherhood that unite the Mexican and Cuban people “is also manifested in the kitchen, as the Cuban tamales wrapped in corn or banana leaves are also found in Mexico, the only difference being that some different spices are used back home,” he said.

El Chile Habanero Delicacies
In order to introduce these new tastes of Mexican cuisine to novices, many of which are spicy, the restaurant offers, without charge, a starter of plantain chicharritas which are cut along their length so they can be used as spoons to try four different salsas, including avocado, tamarind and chili salsa.

Familiar with Cuban’s passion for pizza, the menu features a wide variety of this popular Italian dish, including the ‘House Special’ which is made with different meats and chile.

Representing the north of Mexico are the fajitas, served in a frying pan while the oil is still bubbling away, the ‘cochinita Pibil’ and prawn ceviches from the Yucatán and Mexican Caribbean coasts.



Amongst the most sought after Cuban dishes are the ‘ropa vieja’ and pork dough balls with congrí.

The restaurant has an innovative cocktail bar serving up mango and pineapple daiquirís, tamarind and other fruit margaritas (made with tequila), well-selected wines as well as national and international beers.

However, the best and most attractive offers are those that have been adapted to the community’s needs, as ‘El Chile Habanero’ has special options on the menu at a lower cost for the elderly, a gesture which is greatly appreciated by senior diners from the neighborhood.



CUBA PAPAHAVANA, june 4  In some destinations, tourist areas are located far from the rhythms of everyday life. But visitors who wander through Old Havana — Habana Vieja, as locals call it — can’t help but get a sense of how ordinary Cubans live.

You’ll see uniformed school children, street vendors selling colorful fruits and peppers from carts, clotheslines hung from patios, and small dogs sunning themselves on sidewalks.
There are lines at government-run offices for phone service and banking, and bicycle taxis ferrying passengers through the narrow streets. You might hear a rooster crow, a caged songbird, salsa music or the engine of an old car roaring as it trundles past. Watch out for pipes jutting from windows: Water may pour out from housework being done inside.Cuba_Neighborhoods_Old_Havana__19168165_ver1.0_640_480In this June 1, 2015 photo, a vendor, wearing a muscle shirt with a Cuban national flag motif, stands next to a souvenir T-shirt featuring Che Guevara, in the shop’s doorway, in Old Havana, Cuba.

Visitors who wander through Old Havana or Habana Vieja, as locals call it, will find that every street seems to have a sign attesting to something of cultural or historic significance.” cafe_o_reilly

Nearly every street seems to have a sign attesting to something of cultural or historic significance. O’Reilly Street, for example, named for an Irishman who became a leader in the Spanish colonies and married into a prominent Cuban family, bears a plaque with a rather poetic allusion to the histories of Ireland and Cuba: “Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope.”

Many buildings are terribly rundown. It’s not unusual to see the sky through a roofless stone facade or piles of rubble in the street. But other sites have been beautifully restored, especially around the squares in the eastern half of the neighborhood bordering the water.

Spend a few hours walking through Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco and Cathedral Square. Many museums and other attractions are located here, including the Museum of Rum, which offers visitors a swig at the end of the tour, and the Ambos Mundos Hotel, which has an excellent short tour of a room where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote.Cuba Neighborhoods Old Havana-3

Another cluster of major attractions is located in the western half of the neighborhood, near the, a boulevard that divides Old Havana from Central Havana. The Prado itself is worth a stroll, especially on Sundays when it hosts an outdoor art market. Adjacent to the Prado is the Parque Central (Central Park), home to a statue of revolutionary hero Jose Marti.Paseo-del-Prado

A block over, between Agramonte and Avenida de Las Misiones (Belgica), you’ll find the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, with extraordinary collections of Cuban art in one building and international art in another, and the Museo de la Revolucion, with a tank and the famous boat “Granma” used by Fidel Castro outdoors and a wall of cartoons inside called “Cretins’ Corner” mocking American presidents Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes.

Watch out for hustlers near the Parque Central. Resist all invitations from overly friendly strangers who invite you to a bar or to buy cigars. But if you need a drink, choices abound, including a trio of historic spots.13-Sloppy-Joes-Havana

Hemingway frequented El Floridita (located at Obispo No. 557) and La Boguedita del Medio (Empedrado No. 207), while Sloppy Joe’s, where the messy ground beef concoction supposedly was invented, was a setting for the movie “Our Man in Havana,” based on the Graham Greene novel about a bumbling spy.

But more enjoyable than the tourist crowds and watery mojitos at La Bodeguita are the relaxed outdoor cafes in the old squares on the other side of Habana Vieja.
Nothing is lovelier than sipping a Cristal beer in Plaza San Francisco or Plaza Vieja in early evening, when the day’s heat dissipates and sweet sounds from a three-piece band playing “Guantanamera” drift across the square.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/article23005026.html#storylink=c

 havana-live-The Cuba of Hemingway in WatercolorsHAVANA,  Jun 3 (acn) The exhibition “The Cuba of Hemingway in Watercolors” by U.S. artist James Richards will be opened on June 4th at the Ernest Hemingway Museum, former residence of the famous Nobel Literature Prize winner.

In the words of the artist, these watercolors offer a different and genuine look to today’s Cuba, where past and present intertwine with many environments, largely unchanged, which fed the imagination of Hemingway and of some of his best literary works, the www.cubasi.cu Web site reported on Monday.

The artistic work of James Richards crosses many creative boundaries. He is a designer, an author and an educator, whose interests and work projects include, creatively, urban design and landscape architecture. James Richards is associate professor of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas in Arlington and renowned professor of design in different workshops internationally.

He is also founder and director of TOWNSCAPE Inc., an urban design consultancy. He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and has been awarded the Bradford Williams medal of the Society in 2014, for his creativity and artistic contributions.

The exhibition precedes the carrying out of the Ernest Hemingway Colloquium, a meeting that every two years brings together several international experts in the study and preservation of cultural heritage related to this prominent U.S. writer. havana-live-The Cuba of Hemingway in Watercolors  havana-live-The Cuba of Hemingway in Watercolors  havana-live-The Cuba of Hemingway in Watercolors

 havana-live-cuba-libanoHAVANA, Jun 23  (acn) Entrepreneurs from Cuba and Lebanon will explore this week new business and investment opportunities in key sectors, in order to develop trade between the two nations.

The forum will take place on June 4 and 5 at the National Hotel in this capital, on the occasion of the visit members of the Lebanese Council of Businessmen -an initiative created in March to promote bilateral economic ties- will pay to Havana. The multi-sector mission is made up by more than 20 business persons, the vast majority young, who in founding the company confirmed their interest in knowing details about the Cuban market and the new business portfolio approved by Foreign Investment Law 118.
According to the agenda of the meeting, announced on Monday by the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, the visitors represent important business groups in the biopharmaceutical and petrochemical industries, health, tourism, transport and agribusiness.

“We believe in Cuba and see its potential, there are 30,000 Lebanese immigrants or descendants who live there, so we have well-rooted ties,” declared in March Ali Kazma, chairman of the Council.
At that time, Rene Ceballo, Cuban ambassador to Lebanon, asserted that the Cuban market, of both business and investment, is at a very important moment, with the creation of the Special Development Zone of Mariel.

The diplomat told the members of the initiative that this will be a “strong, consolidated relationship, a good marriage, with ups and downs,” but always with the purpose of developing the two countries and the Lebanese and Cuban companies and those of other Arab states expected to join them.
The Chamber of Commerce also reported on Monday that on June 8 and 9, in Havana, a delegation from Aruba will hold exchanges on business interests with Cuban counterparts.

The New York Cosmos have made history before, just not in this manner.

HAVANA, june 3 The Cosmos defeated Cuba’s national team 4-1 Tuesday in a friendly that was the first visit to the island by a U.S. professional team since the two countries began their detente effort in December.

A franchise that brought Brazilian superstar Pele to America in the 1970s was greeted warmly before the match as both national anthems were played. And even as the Cosmos dominated the action, the locals were, well, friendly.

“I felt like the atmosphere from the fans was phenomenal,” said forward Lucky Mksona, who scored twice. “Everyone was just trying to support us wherever we went and I think that was big for us today.”

The game was played in a persistent rain that prevented the 74-year-old Brazilian soccer legend from making the symbolic opening kick. But thousands filled the stands at Pedro Marrero stadium, cheering on the game with a series of soccer songs and chants.

After the final whistle, Cosmos players saluted the audience, which responded with applause and cheers.

Soccer’s popularity is growing on this baseball-crazy island, and officials held up the game as another important step in the moves by the U.S. and Cuba to normalize relations after decades of Cold War antagonism.

The New York club was the first professional U.S. soccer team to play in Cuba since the now-defunct Chicago Sting visited in 1978. President Jimmy Carter made an attempt then to improve relations with Cuba and opened the U.S. interests section in Havana that both countries want to soon convert into a full embassy.

US team football team New York Cosmos' player Gonzalez (C) and teammates applaud after a friendly football match against Cuba on June 2, 2015 at Pedro Marrero stadium in Havana. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGE

US team football team New York Cosmos’ player Gonzalez (C) and teammates applaud after a friendly football match against Cuba on June 2, 2015 at Pedro Marrero stadium in Havana. AFP PHOTO/YAMIL LAGE

“We hope the Cosmos can once again be a leader for New York and help create further opportunities in the future,” team chairman Seamus O’Brien said during a press conference in March. Mksona scored in the seventh minute and again in the 41st, sandwiched around goals by teammates Sebastian Guenzatti in the 31st and Hagop Chirishian three minutes after that.

“We were able to find good spaces wide, get good crosses in, and the guys were able to make runs inside the box and finish with quality,” Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We had a lot of patience. Sometimes the headers didn’t go to goal, and we pulled it back and found more open players to score.”
Andy Vaquero scored for Cuba in the 50th minute.


 havana-live-trade-embargoHAVANA, june 2   The Obama administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism became final on Friday, 45 days after it was announced, partly because Congress failed to move to block the change.

While removal from the list clears another hurdle to normalized diplomatic relations between the U.S. and its communist neighbor to the South, members of Congress have not had their final say on the issue. Congressional lawmakers still have some leverage to prevent much deeper rapprochement: Trade embargos against Cuba, solidified in the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, can’t be permanently lifted without an act of Congress.

Although the House of Representatives failed to take action to block the terror list change, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) assailed the move. He said the Obama administration had handed the Castro regime a political victory without extracting any concessions on human rights abuses in return.
“Removing the regime from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror is just the latest example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies, but fortunately it will have little practical effect,” the Speaker said. “Most U.S. sanctions on the Cuban regime are contained in other laws — laws the U.S. House will ensure remain in place as we work to protect those fighting for freedom, and in many cases, simply their own survival.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been a vocal opponent of easing relations with the nation from which both his parents emigrated, similarly criticized the administration. “President Obama and his administration continue to give the Cuban regime concession after concession, in exchange for nothing that even remotely resembles progress towards freedom and democracy for the Cuban people, or assurances that the regime will discontinue working against America’s national security interests,” he said.

Other observers, though, said that Cuba isn’t actually a state sponsor of terrorism anymore. “This is a nonevent,” said attorney Jose W. Fernandez, co-chair of the Latin America Practice Group at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “Cuba has not supported revolutionary movements in the Americas for years — indeed, it is currently hosting the peace talks between Colombia and the FARC guerrillas.”

If taking Cuba off the list was really a big deal, Fernandez added, Congress ought to have acted to block it. “There was little appetite even among the traditional Castro-bashers in Congress to get in front of the terrorism-list-removal train,” he said.

Other steps in the process might play out much differently, though, and Rubio in particular will likely be a key player in how the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba develops in the near term. Just by virtue of being a member of the Senate, where a single member’s refusal to grant unanimous consent can cause enormous delays, Rubio can stand in the way of approving an ambassador for Cuba and can block funding of a U.S. embassy in Havana.

However, Rubio also serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairs the panel’s subcommittee with explicit jurisdiction over the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Should he choose to do so, Rubio could be an enormous drag on the normalization process, and in public remarks, he has indicated that is precisely what he intends to do — regardless of the consequences.

“This is not a political thing,” he said when normalization was first announced. “I don’t care if polls say 99 of the people support normalizing relations with Cuba.”

His objections extend to normalizing trade as well. “This Congress,” he promised, “is not going to lift the embargo.”

This story was originally published by  The Fiscal Times.


 With advertising and PR deemed illegal in Cuba, brands must adopt outside-the-box strategies to make an impact.

HAVANA, June 1 Cuba is an untapped landscape for PR pros. And it may remain that way for years to come, even with the end of the US trade embargo in sight. Just because Cuba and the US are taking steps to normalize relations, it is important to note that the Cuban government’s policies and basic rules of business are not changing with them – not just yet, anyway.

JeffreyGroup’s CEO Jeffrey Sharlach notes Cuba is still a communist country where the state controls the media and most business enterprises. Because of this, the country’s PR and marketing industry is unlike anything most American companies are used to, according to Kirby Jones, founder of Alamar Associates, which advises companies on doing business in Cuba. havana-live-advertising

None of the top communications firms in the world have, as Jones puts it, “hung out their shingle” in Havana. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find any PR agencies on the island.

The reason behind this is simple: Commercial advertising and PR is not allowed in Cuba and continues to be illegal for a US company to open an office there.

“You do see posters or visual depictions of people drinking certain rum and of cigar brands, but there is no advertising at all, not even on TV, inside Cuba,” Jones says.

This means American companies who want to do business there will just have to get inventive about the way they promote their brand or product.

Finding loopholes
Companies should, for example, keep an eye out for vehicles on which they can showcase their name, Jones advises.

“Cuba’s policies won’t change in terms of commercial advertising, but the opportunity for non-advertising promotion may increase,” he adds. “Organizations will have to do things such as sponsor concerts and sporting events to get their brands out there in a way that doesn’t conflict with Cuban rules and regulations.”

Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment got a taste of doing business in the country earlier this year when it produced Cuba’s first full Broadway musical in 50 years: Rent.

The American production company needed permission from the Cuban and US governments to put the show on due to the embargo. The licensing process took one year, according to CEO Bob Nederlander. habvana-live-advertisingOnce they got the green light, Rubenstein Public Relations supported Nederlander in promoting the event. Although the firm mainly targeted press outside Cuba to spread the word globally, Rubenstein VP Jodie Thomas says she also had to set up press interviews with the all-Cuban cast members.

“This proved to be difficult due to a lack of communication,” she adds. “There was only one cellphone for the entire cast, so getting things like that scheduled was hard.”

Cuba’s Ministry of Culture helped promote the show locally. A press conference was also held in Havana.

However, Cubans mainly heard about the musical via word of mouth, says Thomas. Despite these challenges, every night of the show’s three-month run was sold out, and 20% of the audience was made up of tourists.

Other companies striving to establish a foothold in the country include Airbnb and Netflix.havana-live-CubaNetflix“Netflix is no longer illegal in Cuba so we made it available,” says Kari Perez, Netflix’s senior PR manager. “We launched in every other country in Latin America in 2011, so once we were able to, it was simply a question of unblocking transit to the country.”

But Netflix is already facing numerous complications. For instance, only 5% of Cubans can access the Internet from home and they cannot legally subscribe to Netflix as the company won’t accept Cuban currency as payment. In addition, Cubans are not allowed to hold foreign bank accounts. Moreover, the $7.99-a-month bill is also considered fairly steep in a country where an entry-level nurse is paid $25 a month, according to Granma, the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party.

“In time, Cuba will get better Internet and more access to foreign exchange; it is a long bet for us,” she adds.

While it might be premature for companies to promote directly to Cubans, Sharlach predicts that tourism, already a booming industry in Cuba, will explode with the ease on US travel restrictions.

Although Cuba’s close proximity to the US and well-educated residents make it an appealing market for US businesses, Sharlach says it is key to note that only 11 million people live on the island.

“There are a lot of changes that need to take place before it can be a vibrant business scene,” he adds.


Brazilian football legend Pele (R) arrives with the  New York Cosmos at Jose Marti Airport on May 31, 2015 in Havana, Cuba.  The New York Cosmos will kick off a new era in sporting relations between the United States and Cuba on JUne 2, 2015 when they become the first American sports team in 16 years to play in Cuba.    AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE        (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazilian football legend Pele (R) arrives with the New York Cosmos at Jose Marti Airport on May 31, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. The New York Cosmos will kick off a new era in sporting relations between the United States and Cuba on JUne 2, 2015 when they become the first American sports team in 16 years to play in Cuba. AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)

HAVANA, June 1  (AFP)  A blizzard of camera flashbulbs from local media and fans greeted a Cosmos delegation led by Brazilian legend Pele as the team touched down in Havana on a private charter flight.

Former Cosmos star Pele, who has battled a series of health problems in recent months, was mobbed by well-wishers before being whisked through security with the rest of the squad.

The exhibition match against the Cuban national team at the Pedro Marrero Stadium reflects the rapidly thawing ties between the United States and Cuba.

Moves to normalise relations after a bitter five-decade schism began last year when the two nations announced a historic rapprochement.

The diplomatic milestone has already shown several signs of extending into the sporting arena.

Cuban officials announced last week that the Baltimore Orioles baseball team – the last professional US team to play in Cuba back in 1999 – would return later this year to play against the Cuban national team.

Earlier in May, Cuba’s state-controlled television also took the unprecedented step of televising a Major League Baseball game involving a Cuban player, Kendrys Morales, in the Kansas City Royals game with the Texas Rangers.

It was the first time Cuba had screened a match involving one of its legion of MLB players, who are, officially at least, barred from playing in the United States and often portrayed as “deserters.”

Planning for the match began earlier this year, when the Cosmos first sounded out officials in the US and Cuba about the possibility of organising a game.

The project gathered pace when Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese travelled to Jamaica in January and met Cuban officials on the sidelines of regional qualifiers for the Under-20 World Cup.

“I had the chance to come to the president of the Cuban national federation, I said ‘We would like to play a match against you’. At the beginning, he said ‘Okay, let’s talk about it. Where are you coming from?’

“I said ‘New York, and we are the New York Cosmos.’ His eyes opened up.”

For the Cosmos, the game is in keeping with the team’s evocative history, an exotic nod to its famous 1970s heyday when it lit up the North American Soccer League with stars such as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia.

Though the Cosmos do not play in the biggest US league, Major League Soccer, competing instead in a resurrected NASL, it remains one of the most globally recognised brands in US football, a testament to the club’s glittering history and willingness to take its show on the road.

It has played friendlies in Hong Kong and El Salvador already this year; Cuba will be the 42nd country the team has visited.

“No other team, past or present, gets close,” said Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien. “The club has a history of travelling overseas, opening doors.
“This happened naturally, very quickly. There was instant reciprocity from both sides, wanting to do the game.”