Screen-Shot-2015-08-07-at-4.52.14-PMHAVANA, Nov. 27 (AP) Hundreds of angry Cubans gathered in front of Ecuador’s embassy in Havana on Friday in an unusual public display of discontent. They said they were frustrated by Ecuador’s new rule that Cubans need a visa to visit — a move that complicates both legitimate travel and efforts to reach the United States.

The lack of a visa requirement for Cubans made Ecuador a favored destination for those seeking a vacation or job abroad, as well as those who leave the island and make the 3,400-mile (5,500-kilometer) overland route to the United States, where they can receive automatic legal residency.

Many people lined up early in hope of getting a visa, which will be required for travel as of Tuesday. But diplomats told the crowd by loudspeaker that they would have to apply for a visa via a government website. Most Cubans have almost no internet access.

A sort of impromptu protest broke out, with many in the crowd chanting “Visa! Visa!”

Police blocked off the area around the embassy in Havana’s Miramar district and by late morning, the crowd began to dwindle to at most about 200.

Ecuador announced the visa requirement on Thursday as part of an effort to stem a flow of migrants using Ecuador as a transit country to reach other nations without permission.

“We do not close the door to Cuba,” but Ecuador is committed to efforts by the Latin American community to prevent migration without authorization, Deputy Foreign Minister Xavier Lasso said in making the announcement.

Latin American officials held a weekend meeting in El Salvador to discuss the plight of 3,000 U.S.-bound Cuban migrants who are stranded at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which has balked at allowing them to cross its territory.

Many Cubans fear that the normalization of relations with the U.S. will bring an end to Cold War-era special immigration privileges that give U.S. residency to any Cuban who sets foot on U.S. soil

11011300_10204679387677844_9036447984397426693_nHAVANA, Nov. 27th Have you started feeling the pressure yet? If you’re a fan of Latin America travel, you know what I’m talking about: that sometimes-overwhelming feeling that you absolutely must go to Cuba. Right this very minute. Before everything changes.

The island nation has been making an awful lot of news lately, as the relationship thaws between the U.S. and Cuban governments — so more people are talking about Cuba vacations. There are more companies offering Cuba tours and cruises. I’ve written about the phenomenon for various travel publications, and also for my travel blog,

And some travelers seem in a hurry to get to the largest island in the Caribbean before it changes too much — in other words, before relations are so normalized that McDonald’s and Starbucks invade the island. So does that mean you should ditch your Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic vacation plans and go to Cuba instead?

The short answer: No.

The reason? Because a Cuba vacation is still a completely different experience from a vacation in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic (if you’re a U.S. citizen, that is). That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider a trip to Cuba — after all, it’s a fascinating destination that has been mostly off limits to most U.S. travelers for a long time.
But you need to know what to expect in Cuba, and realize how it’s different from every other vacation destination in the Caribbean (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter).

How Travel to Cuba is Different from Travel to Puerto Rico and the DR
The main thing that makes travel to Cuba different for U.S. travelers is regulation. The U.S. government only allows U.S. citizens to spend money legally in Cuba when their visit falls into one of 12 categories:

• Family visits
• Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, or intergovernmental organizations
• Journalistic activity
• Professional research and/or meetings
• Educational activities
• Religious activities
• Public performance (as a performer — are you Beyoncé? Piece of cake!)
• Clinics, workshops, athletics, or other competitions and exhibitions
• Support for the Cuban people or humanitarian projects
• Activities of private foundations or institutes
• Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
• Authorized export transactions

Basically, that means that if you want to go to Cuba, you need to go through an authorized travel agent and/or tour operator, and need to adhere to the U.S. guidelines.

That also means that, if you’re a “normal” U.S. citizen, you can’t legally travel to Cuba for a relaxed beach vacation, or to wander around much on your own. You’ll be kept busy with tours, activities and other approved “people to people” programs designed to connect visitors with Cuban culture and people, but also to stay in line with U.S. government restrictions.

In addition, Cuba isn’t up to speed like other destinations when it comes to WiFi and Internet connectivity — so be prepared to be less connected than in other Caribbean vacation destinations.

In a recent report I wrote for Travel Weekly about travel to Cuba, a variety of industry insiders weighed in on what makes the island different. “Cuba is a unique Caribbean destination, and we feel that managing clients’ expectations is key,” said Bryan Murray, marketing manager for Vacation Express.

“For example, the star rating system for hotels in Cuba is not the same as in Cancun or the rest of the Caribbean. Menus at even the best hotels change based on food availability, so people with very strict dietary needs may want to wait to visit Cuba. Travelers should also have realistic expectations about internet access and cell phone service, as internet access is limited, and cell phones will not work on the island.

Some suggest that creature comforts like your favorite snack or personal hygiene items are best brought with you, because they may not be available.”

If you go to the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, on the other hand, you can do whatever you want. Fly when you want. Stay where you want, visit where you want and spend what you want. You’ll find plentiful WiFi and Internet connectivity, too. You can also go to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and do nothing more than stretch out on the beach and sip cocktails for a few days.

The Dominican Republic has the advantage of offering lots of all-inclusive resorts as well, while Puerto Rico offers the advantage of being a U.S. territory, so you don’t even need a passport to visit if you’re a U.S. citizen.

In short, there are plenty of reasons to consider a trip to Cuba and also a vacation in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. But the experiences you’ll have in Cuba, if you’re a U.S. citizen, are likely very different from what you’ll have on the other two islands. Go to Cuba for the amazing culture, history, music and people — and full itineraries of U.S. government-approved activities.

But go to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico for everything else: culture and history and people, of course, and full itineraries, if you want them, too — but also flexibility, freedom and plenty of time to kick back and enjoy some rest and relaxation.

In a perfect world, with plenty of vacation time and a healthy travel budget, my personal preference would be to go to all three islands.

KELSIE NETZER/SPECIAL PHOTO Penn State catcher Ryan Sloniger (11) catches a throw to tag out Ciego De Avila shortstop Yorbis Borroto during the Nittany Lions’ 2-0 loss Wednesday in Havana.

KELSIE NETZER/SPECIAL PHOTO Penn State catcher Ryan Sloniger (11) catches a throw to tag out Ciego De Avila shortstop Yorbis Borroto during the Nittany Lions’ 2-0 loss Wednesday in Havana.

HAVANA,  Nov. 26th  Penn State’s baseball team lost 2-0 on Wednesday to the defending Cuban league champion, Ciego de Ávila, as the Nittany Lion bats were again stifled by some of the best pitchers Cuba has to offer.

HAVANA, Nov. 26 The game was the second of a four-game tour for Penn State in Cuba, a rare opportunity for a U.S. college team.

The Nittany Lions lost 2-1 Monday to the nation’s most famous club, the Industriales, but that squad was largely made up of subs and young prospects.

This time, Penn State faced the starters on a team that is the defending league champion and holds the best record in Cuba at 30-12.

Much like Monday’s matchup against the Industriales, Penn State fell behind in the first inning before shutting down Ciego de Ávila’s bats for long stretches.

Penn State starter Sal Biasi effectively settled into a rhythm on the mound.

“I thought the first inning I was rushing a little bit, but I was able to get ahead in the count following that,” Biasi said.

Raul Gonzalez’s one-out double gave the Tigers an early scoring opportunity. He advanced to third on Biasi’s wild pitch. then crossed the plate on a RBI groundout from Jose Garcia.

It proved to be the only run the Tigers needed.

Frustration set in following the first inning for Ciego de Ávila, as Biasi went on to retire seven straight batters. Tiger players seemed upset, swinging early in the count and shaking their heads at the female home

plate umpire when a call did not go their way.

The tour has served so far as a snapshot of the relative abilities of players from a U.S. college baseball and Cuba’s top league. While Penn State — which started four freshmen Wednesday — has been competitive, the Nittany Lions can’t seem to buy a run when it counts.

“Cuba is renovating its game,” said Evyan Guerra, a sports broadcaster for a Cuban television network. “We are trying to better prepare our players and increase the level of our game.”

Tigers pitcher Vladimir Garcia, who is the ace of the staff with a 1.94 ERA on the season, dominated through five frames of work. He finished with nine strikeouts, including five in a row between the second and third innings.

“He’s not just one of the best in Cuba. He’s one of the best in the world,” said Penn State head coach Rob Cooper. “Our guys showed no fear and I am proud of that.”

The Nittany Lions best scoring opportunity came in the fourth inning. Penn State got its leadoff man on with a broken-bat infield single from Greg Guers. Two batters later, Tyler Kendall was hit in the arm by Garcia’s fastball.

A two-out double steal by Guers and Kendall caught the Tigers by surprise, putting two runners in scoring position, but freshman Austin Riggins whiffed on a 3-2 fastball.

Luis Robert, whose emotion was running high after two strikeouts to start the game, added an RBI double in the seventh to give the Tigers an insurance run.

In the eighth, Bowersox’s single set up Penn State’s best power hitter with a chance to tie the game, but Guers’ drive to right got snagged on the warning track.

“Off the bat, I thought it was a tie ball game,” Guers said, adding. “It’s a great experience overall. But it’s an even better baseball experience.”

HAVANA, Nov.26 One of those challenges involves wire transfers of money to Cuba that fund passenger charter flights to the island.

U.S. banks sometimes hold up the process, which seldom happened before normalization, ironically.Air charter companies say they are suffering the consequences.
The Cuban government used to be more patient with the hassle, but now if it doesn’t get its landing and passenger fees ahead of time, landing rights are canceled.

Earlier this year, Florida-based Stonegate Bank became the first U.S. bank to establish a corresponding banking relationship directly with Cuba, under terms of the two governments’ new relationship.
The hope now is that other banks will follow suit, in order to make wire transfers to the island easier.


police_2623764bHAVANA, Nov. 25th (REUTERS) A 36-year-old Cuban man has been arrested in Greece in connection with the theft of dozens of modernist art works from Havana’s National Museum of Fine Arts, Greek police said on Wednesday.

The heist, believed to be the largest ever at the museum, was confirmed in February last year by Cuban officials. Most works were by Cuban artists and several by acclaimed Cuban painter Leopoldo Romañach.Jorge-ArchePrimavera-o-Descanso

Greek police said the man, who was arrested in the Koropi district east of Athens on Monday, was thought to be the main suspect of the theft of 71 pieces.

“He was probably in Athens looking for buyers,” a police source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The man, against whom Cuba had issued an international search warrant, will appear before the prosecutor in Athens on Thursday before he is extradited, the police official said.

havana-live-IATAHAVANA, Nov. 25th IATA plans to start operating a Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) banking system in Cuba in 2016, helping to facilitate ticket transactions between airlines and travel agents.

The BSP system would be an important step in the gradual opening up of Cuba’s travel and tourism business as relations between Cuba and the US thaw. Ultimately, a bilateral air agreement is expected to be formed, enabling direct scheduled air links between the two countries.

Although no timing has been set for a bilateral, IATA DG Tony Tyler announced last week during a visit to Havana the plan to operate a BSP system in Cuba next year. He also pledged the association’s support and expertise as the country adapts its aviation infrastructure to cope with the anticipated large increase in air traffic and passengers.

Tyler’s visit also marked the 70th anniversary of IATA, which was created in Havana at a meeting in the Hotel Nacional, where he hosted a celebratory dinner with the CEO of Cubana, the US and Canadian ambassadors to Cuba and the head of Cuba’s civil aviation authority.

IATA’s BSP system is a critical enabler for airlines, facilitating financial transactions through travel agents via a standardized agreement and settlement mechanism.

Cuba we has four accredited agents with over 100 branches across the country, but no BSP system.

“Direct scheduled air links are a much anticipated outcome of the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba. That will certainly create opportunities for growth. Establishing an IATA BSP in Cuba will be an important facilitator for growth in outbound ticket sales,” Tyler said at a press conference in the Hotel Nacional.

“Cuba’s air transport industry has tremendous potential. Even in my brief visit, I have come to realize that aviation could be contributing much more to Cuba. Look at tourism. Cuba welcomed a record 3 million tourists in 2014.
But the Dominican Republic attracted 5 million. They are both amazing countries, but even just looking at Cuba’s size compared to the Dominican Republic indicates that it should be able to accommodate a much larger tourism industry than it does today.”

Tyler said that IATA estimates there were about 300,000 departures from Cuba in 2014—outbound travel—a relatively small number for a country with over 11 million people.

“We did a projection to 2034 and conservatively see the potential for one in four Cubans to be traveling by air at that time. Even if the population were steady—an obviously unrealistic expectation—that would see a market of 10 times the size of today in less than two decades,” Tyler said.

Tyler also pledged that IATA will assist Cuba as it tackles the major airport terminal and airfield upgrades that will be needed to cope with the increase in air and passenger traffic.

“IATA is not in the business of building or upgrading airports. But we do help airports and governments plan infrastructure developments. By bringing deep knowledge of airline and passenger needs we can ensure that the infrastructure investments deliver maximum benefit,” Tyler noted.

“Cuba has the potential to leapfrog to become a model in the region for modern air transport infrastructure.”

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

HAVANA ,Nov. 25th   Without ample access to the Internet, some Cubans satisfy their hunger for media through a black market of digital “paquetes,” packages of content that bypass government censorship.

The content ranges from pornography to soap operas, foreign news and movies. Telemundo’s Spanish language Al Rojo Vivo, Univision’s Primer Impacto and The Deadliest Catch are some of the most popular requests.

“I only distribute it, I don’t produce it,” a man who sells content said. “I buy it and resell it and like me there are thousand who live of off this. What aired last week, we will get this week.

The unidentified man said he makes about $32 a month and spends about $2 to buy content. He uses his earnings to supplement the government food rations, he said. To run his business, he needs a computer, hard drives and connections.

Customers can order a download of a terabyte of data, which can last a viewer about a week or a month. Some share memory cards, much in the same way teens in South Florida rent video games to their friends.

Some use SIM cards, a portable memory chip used to hold data. Others use Flash USB drives and .Zip files on CDs. A “paquete semanal” can cost between $1 to $3.

The data traffickers have a network and they specialize on different types of content. Some only focus on distributing the content.

The traffickers must be meticulously organized and fast. The older the content the worst the resell value is.  He or she also has to be familiar with antivirus software, so clients keep coming back for more.

Some use illegal satellite to have access to the content that can be digitized. They get Vampire Diaries, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. And as long as the Internet remains slow, the lucrative “paquetes” will continue to have demand.

havana-live-Billy-GibbonsHAVANA, Nov. 25th (AP)  For those who have not heard his Latin-infused solo debut “Perfectamundo,” Billy Gibbons offers this warning, “For the uninitiated I’ll leave it with one word: Beware.”

Gibbons’ musical departure from rock band ZZ Top mixes Cuban rhythms with hip-hop and blues, congas, bongos and the Hammond organ.
“You can mosh to it or mambo to it,” the 65-year-old guitarist and vocalist said in a recent interview.
It all began with a phone call asking Gibbons to play at the Havana Jazz Festival in 2014. The gig fell through, but inspired the new album and Afro-Cuban sound.

“We have about five or six additional — call them records — in the can, however, they were so predictably ZZ Top-like, ZZ Top-esque,” said Gibbons. “This was so off-the-wall, so weird and out of the ordinary that it just kind of took precedent.”

The gravel-voiced singer is preparing to hit the road with his new band, The BFG’s. They start Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Gibbons recently took a break from rehearsals at his studio in Los Angeles to chat about making “Perfectamundo,” released earlier this month, the staying power of ZZ Top and finally getting to Cuba.

AP: What was the recording process like for ‘Perfectamundo?’
Gibbons: It was basically gathering a bunch a very talented guys and gals in the studio to make a lot of loud noise. We are surfing the Web in the meantime, smoking cigarettes, drinking wine — basically a private club with no time clock running and no real thought of, ‘Let’s make a record.’ We were just making experiments in music that just happen to have an Afro-Cuban twist.

AP: How do your ZZ Top bandmates feel about your solo effort?
Gibbons: ZZ Top is three guys and two of those three guys are sitting back smiling. They’re going, ‘Yeah, you go out on the road! You take a new band out there. We’re gonna have a nice holiday.’ …By the time we have some breathing room (from the solo album), I’ll be able to go back into the studio with Frank Beard, the man with no beard, Dusty Hill.

havana-live-emir of quatarHAVANA, Nov. 25th  HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s visit to Cuba opens a new era in the Qatari-Cuban relations with wide and promising prospects.

The official talks between the Emir and the President of Cuba Raul Castro on Monday covered several topics that would contribute to further strengthening bilateral relations and mutual co-operation in various fields, to fulfill the aspiration of both countries.

Remarkably, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two countries for the investment in Cuba, which allows Qatar to invest $2bn over five years, in addition to the agreement on the abolition of visa requirement for holders of diplomatic, special and service passports of both countries, a MoU on air services; and a co-operation agreement in the field of sports.

The importance of speeding up the necessary procedures and transactions to open a representative office of Qatar National Bank in Havana was also discussed during the talks.

In politics, mainly the Palestinian issue, the Emir and the president of Cuba affirmed both sides’ determination to continue efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and stressed the need to support the Palestinian people in the international arena.

havana-live-inter cariebeanHAVANA, Nov.25  This December sees the launch of a new Gateway to Cuba from Providenciales (PLS), Turks & Caicos Islands. Services to Santiago de Cuba (SCU) commence on December 10th, 2015.

With this new service to Santiago from Providenciales, visitors to the Turks & Caicos Islands will be able enjoy easy access to Eastern Cuba with the initial twice weekly flights.

Providenciales to (PLS) Santiago de Cuba (SCU)
Flight No:  JY310
Effective Date:10-Dec-15 12-Mar-16
Days: Thu, Sat
Depart :4:00pm
Arrive :4:10pm* (*1hr difference)

Santiago de Cuba (SCU) to Providenciales (PLS)
Flight N0: JY 311
Effective Date: 11-Dec-15 12-Mar-16
Days: Mon, Fri
Arrival: 11:20am* (*1hr difference)

InterCaribbean Airways, the official airline of the Turks and Caicos Islands, announced its new route to Santiago de Cuba, with services to Havana, Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), Cuba, slated to start in early 2016.
These new flights expands the airline’s total list of destinations to 18 cities throughout the Caribbean, making interCaribbean the best choice for “connecting you and the Caribbean”.

With increased air services from USA and Canada and the recent addition of a second London frequency by British Airways to Providenciales, this service provides timely international connections to this new service and allowing additional island choices for the vacation traveler to combine several Islands. It is Ideal for People to People travelers ready to visit the culture of Cuba.

Great white shark with satellite research tag attached to base of dorsal fin. (Internet)

Great white shark with satellite research tag attached to base of dorsal fin. (Internet)

HAVANA, Nov. 24th  (PL) According to the online version of the local newspaper Invasor, Fernandez took the shark by the tail and in its belly he placed the device that emits signals when the animal surfaces, which is an unusual action that happened for the first time in the keys Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo.

The action occurred during an expedition led by Cuban and US specialists to study and control sharks that inhabit the northern and southern coasts of Cuba.

Organized by the Marlin S.A. Nautical and Marinas Business Group, the Research Centers on Coastal Ecosystems of Cayo Coco and Marinas of the University of Havana, the action surprised the crew for the courage of Fernandez.

Fernandez, who is also a cameraman at Mundo Latino Studios in Cuba, performed a similar action offshore Havana, said the newspaper.

To accomplish the two actions, Fernandez was supported by the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Florida, in the United States, which fostered the placement of satellite transmitters in sharks and the development of the first experiment to transplant corals in Cuban reefs.

havana-livemouth with fruitHavana, Nov 24 (PL) In order to review the matches of the Cuban cuisine with foreign influences, Gourmet festival named Sabores de Cuba y el mundo (Flavors of Cuba and the world) is being organized in Old Havana for this weekend.

The director of the initiative, Alicia Garcia, reported Monday that from November 26 to 28 there will be an inquiry of the Cuban cuisine from the audiovisual, visual arts, literature and tourism, located appointment in the House of Mexico in Havana.

The fourth edition of the festival, which will take place at the House of Mexico, is a meeting to see how the people feed from the angle of culture, especially film and literature.

The IV Festival Gourmet Flavors of Cuba and the world will go deep in the culinary arts and traditions in this island, spokesmen insisted.

The organizer of the meeting said that the festival is a cultural project that aims to deepen in the cuisine as an art.

She noted that the event, a mixture of several trends, is an added value to tourism in the archipelago and a special attraction for travelers from around the world.

The meeting includes debates and tastings.

This event is organized by the House of Mexico and the Office of the Historian of Havana (Eusebio Leal Spengler), with support from various food and drinks and tourist firms, and the presence of diplomatic missions of Latin American countries.

havana-live-Septeto SantiagueroHAVANA, 24 Nov. (ACN) — The album Tributo a Los Compadres. No quiero llanto, by Cuban band Septeto Santiaguero and Dominican singer José Alberto ‘El Canario’, last week won the 2015 Latin Grammy Award in Best Traditional Tropical Album.

The award was given by the Latin Recording Academy in a ceremony in Las Vegas.

The CD is a tribute to one of the most important duets in the history of Cuban popular music: Los Compadres.

“This award is the end of many months of work and we are very happy,” said Fernando Dewar, director of the Santiaguero Septet.

“I must thank José Alberto ‘El Canario’, a humble man, for his love for Cuban music roots and his talent and for everything he contributed to this project. At the same time, I thank the musicians of the group and all the persons in Santiago de Cuba who cooperated with this project,” he added.

The leader of this traditional music group dedicated the award to his native city in the year of its 500th anniversary and to the great maestros who agreed to participate in the album.

“Cuban traditional music has won, and now that the Buena Vista Social Club is no longer in the international arena, replacement is guaranteed,” he concluded.

Cuban-Canadian Alex Cuba won in the category of Best Singer-Songwriter Album, with the CD Healer, while Calle 13 and Silvio Rodriguez walked away with the Latin Grammy Award for the audiovisual Ojos color sol, in Best Music Video, short version.

Other artistes mentioned at the official gala were Juan Luis Guerra, Natalia Lafourcade, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Alejandro Sanz, Ruben Blades and Maná.

HAVANA, Nov. 23th  (XINHUA)  Etecsa announced Friday that it will open 20 more public Wi-Fi areas throughout the country.

Half of the areas will be in Havana, said Darline Perez, an official from Etecsa.

In July, Etecsa opened 35 public Wi-Fi spots and, despite being a step forward for connectivity, locals have criticized the spots for bad conditions and the lack of top-up coupons.

Currently there are 118 places with fixed dial-up connections on the Caribbean island. But a total of 300 places are planned to be up and running by the end of the year, according to official projections.

With the opening of Wi-Fi areas, the tariff for Internet use has almost halved to around 1 U.S. dollar per hour.

“It is obvious that there is now better access to the Internet but the ideal situation would be to have access from home,” Yasmani Hernandez, a student looking for online coursebooks via her cellphone, told Xinhua.

Hernandez complained about the conditions in the Wi-Fi spots, which are almost always outside in avenues and parks.

Rebeca Mendez, an actress, agreed. “It would be great to connect to the Internet from home, in comfort and without having to go out onto the street and put up with the heat,” she said while using Wi-Fi to communicate with her family members in the United States.

In 2013, only 3.4 percent of Cuban homes had Internet connections, one of the lowest figures in the world, according to the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union.

havana-live-hotel-nacionalHAVANA, Nov 22 (PL)  A wide program will be carried out in December this year in order to commemorate the 85 years of the National Hotel of Cuba, the most emblematic hotel in this archipelago, a symbol of Cuban tourism, as told by its general director Antonio Martinez here in this capital Friday.

There will be a meeting of young painters, an exhibit with unique bottles of rum and perfumes, a new version on a book about the history of the National Hotel, a photo contest and editions of postcards, among other activities.

The National Hotel, opened on December 30, 1930 with a very great party at the Ball Room (Parisien Cabaret), has now meetings, concerts and exchanges scheduled for the anniversary.

“Even a system of trenches brought to the hotel when the October Crisis was produced in the 60’s, is highly visited by travellers from all over the world,” said Martinez.

The National Hotel’s Hall of Fame, its gardens and the beautiful view constitue a privilege, which gives this hotel the first place among the best hotels in the country.

Martinez added that the company CubaRon will present for the occasion a spirit, dubbed Ron 1930, referring to the opening year, and also a perfume will be one of the surprises.

While the meeting itself will occur on December 30, several weeks before, they have planned activities and exchanges, in addition to inform foreign tourists on the date.

The book Revelaciones de Una Leyenda (Reliefs of a Legend), by authors Luis Baez (now deceased) and Pedro de la Hoz, will be the introduction of its new version, and a Commemorative Plate will be given to 85 personalities and institutions of the tourism system, for the anniversary.

Also, they are working for the redesign of the evening show of Cabaret Parisien, a simultaneous visual arts exhibit and a photo contest, with the distinction of admitting works by professionals and amateur photographers of any age, from anywhere in the world, and both from the present and the past.

Listed as a National Monument of Cuba, has a wonderful view of much of the capital, symbol of Cuban inns, five stars, the National Hotel is operated by Gran Caribe hotel group.

It has been drafted in the drawings of architects McKim Mead and the White New York Architects, and its construction was carried by Purdy Henderson Company, which guaranteed the opening ceremony.

Its lineage is ratified by those who were its guests, including Johnny Weissmuller, Ava Gardner, Buster Keaton, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, politicians and celebrities of all kinds (a long list).

With its 426 rooms, most with ocean view, now has a rescue plan that will take 90 names of the celebrities who stayed in it.

&MaxW=640&imageVersion=default&AR-151129859Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani is going to hold ‘official talks’ with Cuban President Raul Castro

HAVANA, Nov. 21th  (AFP) Qatar’s ruler will meet Cuban President Raul Castro on a visit Cuba starting on Sunday, state-run media said.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani will hold “official talks” with Castro and “carry out other activities,” the Granma newspaper said Saturday, November 21, offering few concrete details.

Cuba and Qatar established diplomatic ties in 1989 and maintain relations in a number of fields, notably health care and tourism.

A hospital run by Cuban doctors and other medical professionals has been operating in Qatar since 2012.

Doha has shown an interest in expanding cooperation in health care with Cuba and is exploring investment opportunities on the island, media said.

It was unclear how long the Qatari emir would be in Cuba.

havana-live-havana-club-unionHAVANA, Nov. 21th One of the latest products of Havana Club, rum “Union”, won in the past FIHAV 2015 Visual Communication Design Award for being the first Cuban rum designed to pair with cigars, another icon of the island.

Havana Club Union was born from collaboration between rum masters of that company and sommeliers of Habanos SA, another prestigious Cuban company.
The rum is created using bases of rum naturally aged in barrels and specifically selected to pair with Cohiba cigars.

‘Havana Club Unión and Cohiba Cigars represent distinguished expressions from the same soil and authentic tradition; their shared origins and rich heritage make them natural partners. It was an honour to collaborate with Cigar Sommelier Fernando Fernandez to create this prestige rum, which presents notes of sweet vanilla, chocolate and dried fruit flavours’.

The novelty of the drink, worthy of the prize for best design for its packaging, sobriety and elegance lies in the presence of sweet notes of vanilla, chocolate and nuts.


UNESCO-LOGOHAVANA, Nov 21  (PL) Cuba was elected today as a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which analyzes the state of preservation of the sites in the list of World Heritage.

With a total of 128 votes in favor, the island was the country that reached the largest number of votes for the freely-contested posts.

Cuba will occupy, until 2019, one of the 21 seats of that committee, which is in charge of deciding to register or not new sites and the registration of the threatened assets in the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Together with Peru and Jamaica, members elected in 2013, Cuba will represent Latin America and the Caribbean.

With nine sites declared World Heritage, Cuba is the country that has more registrations in the Caribbean region and the fifth in Latin America.

The voting was held in the context of the 20th Assembly of Member States of the UNESCO World Heritage Conference, which will be on until November 20.

havana-live-ivan-giroudHAVANA, Noiv. 20th Ivan Giroud is a part of that Festival world and actually is now its most important part (aside from the films and filmmakers that is). Starting from zero, he is now considered one of the most qualified specialists in Latin American Cinema

I have been visiting Cuba since 2000 when I went there to perfect my Spanish. My Spanish is still far from perfect but I have grown to love Cuba. Since I went there to learn and happened upon the Havana Film Festival which is held this year December 3rd to 13th, I have returned to the Festival every year and have found a world of great talent which increasingly is raring to get out into the world.

Ivan Giroud is a part of that Festival world and actually is now its most important part (aside from the films and filmmakers that is). Starting from zero, he is now considered one of the most qualified specialists in Latin American Cinema.

Read on to see who he is and how he sees Cuban and Latin American Cinema.

How did you get into film?

I was born in Havana in 1957.

I have loved cinema since I was very young. However I did not study film as there was no cinema school in Cuba until 1986.

I had a general education and graduated in Civil

Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Havana in 1981.

I am self-taught in film – what’s that called?

You are an autodidact.

Yes, an autodidact.

In the 70s, Cuba had the best cinema in the world and the best posters as well. These posters remained the finest posters in the world throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Yes, they are silk-screened and on display and for sale. I myself treasure the poster of one o my favorite fims, “Suite Habana” by Fernando Pérez .

“Suite Habana”
“Suite Habana”

In my last year working as a civil engineer I contacted ICAIC seeking employment. In 1981 friends in film, like Daisy Granados, the star of “Cecilia” gave me work on her film. I met her husband, Pastor Vega, a filmmaker who was also the first Director of the Festival from 1979 to 1990, a post he took after finishing “Portrait of Teresa” Pastor said ‘Come work with me’ and so in 1988 I entered the industry at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), as a senior specialist and organizer of Cuban and Latin American cinema destined for Europe and North America. The job was like a programming job.

The International Festival of the New Latin American Film in Havana (akaHavana Film Festival) had sections for auteurs, socialist countries, American films and docs. It had the best films, was the preeminent film festival for Latin American cinema and was the only market where all of Latin America gathered to consider the films. It still remains a gathering place for the cineastes throughout Latin America and includes a well-respected coterie of the pioneers of Latin American cinema who created the films that best defined Latin America Cinema in the 60s and then were silenced by the dictatorships which prevailed until the 90s….like Raúl Ruiz, Aldo Francia, Patricio Guzmán and Miguel Littin from Chile, Glauber Rocha, Nelson Pereira dos Santos from Brazil Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino from Argentina.

At the time of the Soviet collapse in 1991 (known in Cuba as “The Special Period”), I entered the Directorate of the Festival and Vega left and returned to filmmaking. There were other Directors, and in 1994 I became the Director. Alfredo Guevera, the public face of the festival for many years came back to Cuba and became President; we worked together from 1994 to 2010, my first term as the Festival Director.

The Special Period was very, very difficult, the worst of times for everyone and for all Latin American cinema. Brazilian cinema nearly disappeared. The state film organization Embrafilme had been producing 800 films a year and that disappeared for a long time.

Argentina declined in the 90s. Mexico remained active but also declined in the quality of its films. When I began as Director, Cuba was very poor, both economically and creatively. But there was also a generational change and I learned that every decline gives birth to a new generation and new creativity, and so it was.

Schools of films began training new talent. EICTV, the International Film School, funded by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Nobel Prize money opened its doors in 1987. New schools opened in Argentina and Brazil as well. The Havana Film Festival stood as a testimony to this growing generation as it showed the first works and shorts of the likes of Trapero and others in whom you could see new Latam talent developing.

The Havana Film Festival catalogs are a history of cinema as it was the biggest programmer of films. It still gives the best view of Latam cinema today. It is still important as it gives a full picture of Latam cinema and the people in Latam cinema. EICTV is producing the most interesting film makers in the world.

For 37 years the Festival was the best, though today there are not many Latam fests. This one was different. You could get to know the whole cineaste community. It never lost a generation; the older members still make movies and the festival helps them to be seen and known.

In 2010 I went to Madrid where I spent five years. In 2002 I began working on a Dictionary of Iberoamerican Cinema. This 1,000 page book was finished in 2008. From 2008 to 2010 I was the director of the festival from Spain. I also ran an arthouse theater in Madrid, the Sala Berlanga, named after a very important Spanish director a little younger than Bunuel.

In 2012 I wanted to return to Cuba where I worked on the Cuban Dictionary of Film. In April Guevera died and ICAIC pulled me back to be President and Director.

Since May 2013 I have been Director of the Casa del Festival and President of the International Festival of New Cinema in Havana.

What about the filmmaker Pavel Giroud? Is he your brother?

No, he’s my nephew. He came into the business a different way, through design. He began producing music clips and then went to EICTV. From a painter he evolved into a moviemaker. He has made three films. His newest, “El Acompañante” (“The Companion”) won the best project award at San Sebastian’s 2nd Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum in 2013.

This is Giroud’s third solo film after “The Silly Age” and “Omerta”. The producers: Luis Pacheco’s Jaguar Films is Panama’s best-known production/services company. The Cuban producer is Lia Rodriguez who also runs the industry section of the Havana Film Festival.

It is also produced by the Cuba/ Panama-based Arete Audiovisual, Panama’s Jaguar Films, Venezuela’s Trampolin Impulso Creativo and France’s Tu Vas Voir (Edgard Tenembaum) who produced Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries”.

Set in 1988 Cuba, “The Companion” is about a friendship between a disgraced boxer forced to serve as a warden – in Cuban government jingo-speak, a “companion” – for an HIV victim.

“El Acompañante”
“El Acompañante”

What is different about the current state of your festival?

Now there are many Latin American Film Festivals, but ours was and still is different because it allows you to know the whole cineaste community. We never lost a generation. The older generation still is making movies and the younger generation is very present. The Festival helps make them known.

What about the new developments between USA and Cuba?

That is the most asked question today.

We have always had U.S. films and U.S. citizens have always visited in cultural exchanges. We’ve had Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon in the earliest years. We’ve invited Arthur Penn, Sean Penn, John Sayles, the Coen Brothers. Danny Glover and Benecio del Toro are frequent visitors. Annette Benning and Koch Hawk of the Academy were guests. We were always well connected to the U.S. independents so that is nothing new.

The change is that It will be easier for Americans to visit and to learn.

When I went to Cuba the first time, I was actually surprised to see so many Afro-Cubans. For some reason I assumed USA was the only nation with former slaves. I should have realized the Spanish also traded in slaves but only when I was in Cuba did I “get” it. Now I see the world so differently.

In Cuba black and white races mixed and the mixture (the mulatto) is what is a Cuban today. U.S. has segregation by and large. Latinos live together, Asian, African-Americans are all separated and that creates a totally different mentality.ellos-son-nosotros“Ellos son nosotros”

I am very interested in African Diaspora films and Cuba has a lot. I have always enjoyed the documentaries. You can’t see them anywhere else.

This year there is a great documentary, “They are We” (“Ellos son nosotros”). It is anthropological about the Cuban town Matanza. Matanza has some of the best music in Cuba. It investigates their African roots in Sierra Leone and identifies ancestors and where they were from. Determined to find the exact origin of songs coming from there, the Australian filmmaker – researcher spent two years showing images throughout the region in Sierra Leonie until he confirmed that the Cubans were singing songs similar to the language of an ethnic group made extinct because of the slave trade.


HAVANA, Nov. 20th The Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) announced in an official note Wednesday that it has had to “completely stop email services” in the country.

As is often the case in Cuba, the government hasn’t given an official reason for the shutdown. Service on the island has been spotty for more than a week, according to Jose Luis Martinez, communications director at the Miami-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, who is in regular communication with people on the island.
Earlier this week, ETECSA said that the “infrastructure that supports the accounts has had a technical failure that affects the sending and receiving of emails.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of things in Cuba are very obsolete and outdated and clunky”

While there’s no law that stops Cubans from using Gmail or any other email service provider, the shutdown of all official email accounts, which are called Nauta accounts, will have huge ramifications for how people communicate on the island.

There is very little wifi access in Cuba and no mobile internet service for Cubans whatsoever, but standard cell phone service is pretty widespread. The Cuban government allows its citizens to send and receive text-based emails on mobile phones using standard cell signal and Nauta accounts.

As a result, Nauta emails are how a lot of business gets done on the island, and it’s how a lot of people communicate with those overseas while they’re on the go.

The message that’s bouncing back if you try to email a Nauta email account.
“It’s the only email you’re allowed to have on your phone,” Martinez told me.

Martinez says he’s been trying to email people on the island and has had the emails bounced back to him with this message: “This message has not yet been delivered. It will will keep trying to be delivered.”

“There’s no way to understand what’s going on—if it’s a hack, if it’s a technical issue because ETECSA is a very opaque organization,” Martinez said. “Unfortunately, a lot of things in Cuba are very obsolete and outdated and clunky.”

It’s entirely possible the shutdown only lasts a couple days, but even if that’s the case, it underscores the country’s extremely shaky telecommunications infrastructure. Cuban leader Raul Castro says he wants to open the island up, but it has been very slow to get widespread internet service.

At the moment, the country relies on a handful of wireless hotspots that are expensive, slow, and surveilled. Companies such as Verizon have launched wireless data service for American travelers to the island, but there’s no indication from the government that the Cuban people are going to have better internet access anytime soon.

Banco Metropolitano, in Havana

Banco Metropolitano, in Havana

HAVANA, Nov. 19th The U.S. removed more people from its sanctions list, lifting measures from, among others, executives of banks serving Cuba and an Italian firm that provided goods to Iran’s petrochemical sector.

Among those no longer under U.S. sanctions, according to a notice posted on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s website, are Miguel Lopez and Jose Julio Rodriguez, both of whom were listed as chairmen of Havana International Bank.
Now known as Havin Bank Ltd., the London-based financial institution provides wholesale banking services for the Cuban market, according to its website. Several other Havana International Bank executive and managing directors also were removed Thursday from the U.S. blacklist.

All of the Cuba sanctions removals made Thursday came as part of an ongoing internal review by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control of older Cuban sanctions cases, a Treasury spokeswoman said while noting they had all been targeted prior to 1995.

“OFAC hopes to reduce the compliance burden on the public by removing out-of-date names from the [blacklist] where appropriate, which will in turn reduce the number of potential false name matches and expedite processing of lawful transactions at financial institutions,” she said.

The U.S. also lifted sanctions from Dettin SpA, an Italian firm targeted in August 2014by the U.S. Department of State for allegedly providing Iran’s petrochemical industrywith goods and services worth more than $250,000. A spokesman for the State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update: A State Department spokesman said the company applied for removal on the basis that it’s no longer engaging in the activity that led to its designation. “This is a routine step taken in response to a petition by the company,” he said.

havana-live-stonegate1 bank lnew cmg (1)HAVANA ,Nov. 19th (AP)  American travelers who’ve had to carry wads of cash while visiting Cuba will now have a debit card option.

Stonegate Bank of Pompano, Florida, announced Thursday it is offering a debit MasterCard that U.S. travelers will be able to use at many hotels, restaurants and other sites in Cuba.

The card will not work at any of the island’s ATMs, though the bank said it hopes to make that service available in 2016.

“This is the first step in relieving the burden of U.S. travelers carrying cash when traveling to Cuba and another step in normalizing commercial relations between the two countries,” Stonegate president and CEO Dave Seleski said.

MasterCard announced in January it would begin handling U.S. card transactions in Cuba, but most credit-card issuers still prohibited transactions on the island, making the move largely symbolic.

Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced plans to restore relations between the former Cold War foes nearly a year ago. The U.S. lifted a ban on U.S. banks and credit card companies from doing business in Cuba as part of the normalization.

The number of U.S. travelers to the island surged by more than 50 percent in the first six months of 2015, according to statistics compiled by the University of Havana. U.S. tourism to Cuba is still prohibited, though Americans can travel under one of 12 authorized categories including humanitarian, religious and professional purposes.

New charter flights are now offered to the island from cities including New York and New Orleans, though travel to Cuba is still filled with inconveniences, not least among them being unable to use credit cards.

Jeff Wilson, president of the Geo Central Division for MasterCard, called the new debit option through Stonegate a “milestone.”

team-2015 HAVANA, Nov. 19   A baseball field in Havana will become the stage for the next step in the warming relations between Cuba and the United States, and this time, the Americans will be wearing the blue and white.

The Penn State baseball team starts a four-game tour in Cuba on Sunday, with its first contest against the Industriales, a team many proclaim to be the New York Yankees of Cuba. But the trip is less about the wins and more about the cultural experience, coach Rob Cooper said.

“I’m excited about the baseball part, and that is the vehicle that is definitely taking us down there, but it’s honestly the last thing that is the most important in this trip,” he said.

Penn State’s first two games will be televised throughout Cuba on the country’s premier sports network, Telerebelde.

Last winter, Cooper met with fundraisers to brainstorm improvements and projects for the team. When conversations arose about an international journey, Kirk Diehl, director of the Varsity ‘S’ Club, suggested Cuba.

“At first, I thought he was kidding,” Cooper said.

The NCAA allows Penn State 10 additional practices in preparation for the trip. However, many of the players said they aren’t doing anything different to prepare. In addition to beginning practices last week, the Nittany Lions have been playing with wood bats as opposed to college standard aluminum.

Baltimore Orioles international scout and former major league pitcher Calvin Maduro said Cuban players are some of the most polished in the game. “The thing about Cuba is there is so much talent for such a small island,” Maduro said.

Penn State departs for Newark, N.J., early Saturday, then catches a flight to Miami and another to Havana.

The players take the field Sunday and will fill out a busy week with academic lectures and cultural activities. Penn State returns to the diamond Nov. 25 against Ciego de Avila, the defending champs of Cuba’s top league. The Nittany Lions then travel to Pinar Del Rio on Nov. 27 to play Mayabeque and finish the trip the next day against the Matanzas in Victoria de Girón Stadium.

“I want to compete, but I really want to have an exchange with a player,” junior catcher Alex Malinsky said. “It serves as a symbol between us and Cuba.”

havana-live-IL 96HAVANA, Nov. 19th (Sputnik)  Moscow is currently discussing with Havana the possibility of selling the country its Il-96 passenger aircraft, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Thursday.

“Cuba has been a regular purchaser of our aviation equipment, we are currently negotiating on large planes, I mean Il-96 assembled in Voronezh specifically for Cuba,” Rogozin told Rossiya-24 television.

He added that commercial cooperation with Cuba is being conducted using loans linked to the supply of equipment from Russia.

The Ilyushin Il-96 is a long-haul wide-body aircraft powered by four PS-90 two-shaft turbofan jet engines.

havana-live-HAVANA,Nov. 18th  (AP)  The United States and Cuba on Wednesday are set to reach their first accord on environmental protection since announcing plans to re-establish diplomatic relations, linking up marine sanctuaries in both countries to cooperate on preservation and research.

U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration chief Kathryn Sullivan arrived in Havana the previous day to sign the agreement and continue talks on a host of environmental issues common to the two countries, separated by just 90 miles (140 kilometers) of water.

Under the memorandum, scientists with the Florida Keys and the Texas Flower Garden Banks national sanctuaries will partner with counterparts at Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Park and the Banco de San Antonio, located on the island’s westernmost region.

The four sanctuaries share a similar spectrum of fish and coral species, and officials hope the partnership will allow researchers to collaborate on how best to preserve their fragile ecosystems as tourism and oil exploration continue to expand.

“This opens the door to collaborating on many, many fronts so the so-called invisible lines of the Gulf (of Mexico) disappear,” said Daniel Whittle, the U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund’s senior director for Cuba. “In my mind this is long overdue.”

Washington and Havana announced last December that they would resume diplomatic ties, and formally did so in July.

Environmental cooperation has been one of the most visible areas of progress in the relationship as the United States and Cuba negotiate and discuss a number of issues. They include much thornier matters on which the two countries remain far apart, such as the U.S. embargo and naval base at Guantanamo, as well as Cuba’s record on rights and democracy.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in October that the countries were working on a marine-preservation accord. Also that month, Cuba and the EDF unveiled an initiative designed to protect shark populations, record fishing vessel catches and develop a long-term conservation plan. And in April, NOAA and Cuban scientists circled the island on a research cruise to study the larvae of Bluefin tuna, a highly threatened and commercially valuable species.

Cuba’s marine ecosystem is considered one of the best preserved in the region, with large reserves of relatively untouched coral and large populations of fish, sharks and sea turtles. But such ecosystems could come under new threats as Cuba continues to search for offshore oil and tourism booms.

Billy Causey, a regional director with NOAA who helped broker the accord, said the pairings were determined in part by the challenges that the sanctuaries share.

Guanahacabibes National Park is one of Cuba’s largest and most isolated reserves. Scientists there will be paired with researchers at the Florida Keys sanctuary, an area that receives more than 3 million visitors each year.

Researchers at Banco de San Antonio and Flower Garden Banks will study their similar deep-water ecosystems and share lessons on a range of issues including protection against oil and gas development.

“We have a lot that our scientists and managers can share back and forth,” Causey said.

U.S. and Cuban scientists have long recognized the need for collaboration, as sharks and other species migrate through the waters off both countries.

Scientists from the U.S. and across the world are gathering this week in Havana for the 10th Ocean Sciences Conference to discuss climate change and conservation.


havana-live-cuba-tvHAVANA, Nov. 18th  (By Charlie Gasparino) A group of influential Wall Street dealmakers are betting that Americans have such an appetite for Cuban television – everything from sports, to music to even some government propaganda—that they’re planning to distribute the island’s TV programming to viewers in the U.S., the FOX Business Network has learned.

The investors, led by former Perella Weinberg restructuring star Michael Kramer, plan to air Cuban media content through a new channel, the CubaNetwork. It will distribute both Spanish and English broadcasting of Cuban “Television… documentaries, music and music programs, cultural content, live sports and sports related documentaries… movies and plays,” according to internal company documents.

Keith Bass, the network’s chief executive, described the new channel as “the first significant public to private partnership between Cuba and a U.S. Company.”

The distribution deal with Cuban government officials was signed in October, after about a year of negotiations. He declined to provide financial details, but said the investor group paid a significant sum of money, well into the millions of dollars, for the programming rights.

Bass added that he has met with officials from major cable and satellite operators to craft distribution deals, and if all goes according to plan, programming will be available by April 2016. Revenue from distribution deals will be split with the Cuban government and represent the majority of the network’s profits.

“We have exclusive rights to the bulk of the Cuban television and media programming,” Bass said, adding that while the network will be officially located in Hollywood, the plan is to open an office in Havana, Cuba’s capital.

Cuban media is relatively obscure; it consists of five separate television channels, and several radio stations such as Radio Havana, all of which are government controlled and largely unknown outside the country. The most popular programs include soap operas, known as “telenovelas” and various sports programming such as Cuban baseball. Bass said the CubaNetwork will air both current content and new original content; one plan is to have a morning show similar to those in America.

In July, President Obama announced that the U.S. government will reopen diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years— the first step toward ending an economic and trade embargo with the country that began after rebels led by dictator Fidel Castro overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista and sided with the Soviet Union during the cold war.

While many trade restrictions still exist, Bass said that telecommunications was one of the few areas of business that can take place between the two countries immediately.

“The new relationship allows us to actually pay television producers in Cuba to produce new content,” he added. “We didn’t need government approval.”

A state department spokesman had no immediate comment. Nor did a spokeswoman for the Cuban embassy in Washington.

The sanctions against Cuba are codified in six laws, and legal experts are divided as to whether the President can unilaterally circumvent these regulations through executive privilege, or whether he needs Congressional approval to end the embargo.

But Jodi Bond, vice president of the Americas for the International Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Obama, in re-establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries, issued a special “carve out” provision to allow telecommunications and information technology business between the two countries.

Bond said she has met with Cuban officials recently and that major businesses like Google (GOOGL) and Sprint (S) are either looking or in the case of Sprint, have already cut deals to do telecom business with the Cuban government.

She described the plans for the CubaNetwork as “rather significant” and a “big deal” since most of the media in the country has been closed to outsiders; the Cuban government has heavily censored media coming into the island as well. “There used to be a time when the government would actually block out the images of Cuban major league baseball players during broadcasts, but that’s changing,” Bond said.

Something like the CubaNetwork “just has never been done before…they have their own TV personalities that relatively few people in the U.S. know about,” she added.

One unknown is the appetite by an American audience for Cuban-specific programming. Spanish language television programming is dominated by two networks, Telemundo and Univision, which has tapped into the growth in the Hispanic population with its own programming such as soap operas and news broadcasts in Spanish.

But Bass said the CubaNetwork’s appeal is broader; he’s also looking to introduce the Cuban culture and society to an English speaking U.S. audience who may want to travel to Cuba either on business or for leisure, which is why some programming will be broadcast strictly in English, and Spanish with English subtitles.

The network is also likely to face some criticism from pro-democracy Cuban-American groups, who continue to oppose the Castro regime, now led by President Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, for its well-documented, record human rights abuses.

Presidential candidate and Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents fled Cuba after the revolution, recently told Fox News “You have two tyrannies – one in Iran, one in Cuba – both receiving significant concessions from this president [and] the most powerful and important country in the world,” referring to the nuclear arms deal between Iran and the U.S. that the president pushed without the full support of Congress, and Obama’s efforts to re-establish ties with Cuba.

Rubio has vowed to reverse Obama’s new Cuban efforts until democracy is restored to the country; a spokesman had no immediate comment.

“The hardliners will say any programming out of Cuba will be a bunch of propaganda,” Bond said. “But a lot of Cuban Americans also are coming to understand times are changing and they’re more open” to engagement.

Bass told FOX Business that he is cognizant of the ramifications of airing pro Castro news broadcasts in the U.S. and for that reason, most of the programming will focus on cultural issues, travel and sports.

“We’re looking at a lot of things other than the political side,” he added. He also plans on offering video content over the internet.

As reported by FOX Business Network, Kramer, one of Wall Street’s best known dealmakers in the field of corporate restructurings, was ousted from Perella Weinberg earlier this year amid a long-running management dispute with the boutique investment bank’s managing partners Joseph Perella and Peter Weinberg.

Both sides have filed lawsuits; Kramer contends that he was improperly denied tens of millions of dollars in compensation and the firm breached his employment agreement; Perella Weinberg said Kramer violated his non-compete clause when he sought to create his own firm.

Since then Kramer has continued to do restructuring work through his new firm, Ducera Partners. One of his most recent deals includes representing bond holders in the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s troubled finances.

His role in the CubaNetwork is separate from his restructuring practice, and involves what he described as a personal stake in Caribbean Broadcasting Network, which distributes English and Spanish language programming in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Bass described the CubaNetwork as an “affiliate” of Carribbean Broadcasting.

havana-live-Aftermaths of human activities and risk management, the impact of climate change on marine biological diversity, and the impact of biotechnologies of foodstuff security will be discussed

HAVANA, Nov. 17th  More than 400 delegates from fifteen countries are taking part in the 10th International Congress on Sea Sciences Marcuba’2015 that opened in Havana on Monday. Its main objective is to pool sciences involved in the management of maritime resources.

The program features the symposiums devoted to the aftermaths of human activities and risk management, the impact of climate change on marine biological diversity, and the impact of biotechnologies of foodstuff security.

On the day of opening of the forum, a group of Cuban scientists and activists related to the studies of marine biological systems received high-rank awards, including national prizes for achievements in marine sciences.

One of the five winners of this year’s prizes is Lyuba Shabalina, a native of the Soviet Union who moved to Cuba in the 1970’s and who has excelled as the chairman of Marcuba congresses board of researchers.

The program of the forum that will last through to November 20 includes an exhibition and a fair showing sea foods and services of various Cuban manufacturers.

Apart from the Cubans, the congress has brought together the delegates from the US, Mexico, Chili, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Italy, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Britain.

havana-live-velaHAVANA,Nov 16th  (acn) Havana, declared one of the seven World Wonder Cities, is marking its 496th birthday on Monday.

The city of Havana was founded November 16, 1519 in the shade of a leafy Ceiba tree, in site near the harbor, where citizens today come on the eve of every anniversary for a ceremony recalling the historic event.

Although Havana grew over the years to expand some 732 square kilometers, its old section boats its well preserved urban areas with Spanish colonial architecture thanks to the restoration program developed by the Historian´s office. A key point in this restoration is that the local population lives in the area and joined the culture of preservation of their city.

The magnificent buildings and the history they treasure has become major attractions for tourists from around the world.

Havana was declared Heritage of Humankind in 1982 by the UN Education, Science and Culture Organization, UNESCO.

The city, with 15 municipalities, has a population of over 2 million inhabitants, add to this the large amount of visitors from other provinces and countries.

In December 2014, Havana was chosen as one of the Seven Wonder Cities of the world, as part the New 7Wonder initiative. WZVN News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral
HAVANA, Nov. 15th. Less than two weeks since the first flight to Cuba from Southwest Florida International Airport, Choice Aire has temporarily discontinued the service.

The decision has cost local travel agencies thousands. A lot of them say their phones have been ringing off the hook with customers demanding refunds.

After President Obama relaxed relations with Cuba in January, Choice Aire CEO Danny Looney started working on plans to offer commercial flights to the country.

Some businesses in Southwest Florida latched on to the idea.

“We started booking. We started doing a lot of advertising,” said Jesse Reyes with Jema Travel Agency.

But Reyes fears it may all have been too soon after she was informed that Choice Aire was discontinuing flights to Cuba from RSW.

Local travel agencies like Jema spent thousands to advertise vacation packages to Cuba, and they said it worked. Even this weekend they were getting calls, but it was business they had to turn away.

They also don’t know why and Choice Aire isn’t exactly giving a straight answer. An email to NBC2 from the airline cited an unforeseeable technicality with the airport. NBC2 reached out Choice on Sunday for further explanation, but has yet to hear back.

“We decided to refund our customers from our money, because our idea is they’re suffering enough to know that they know they’re not going. They’re demanding answers, they’re demanding their money back,” Reyes said.

She said Choice owes her more than $10,000 in ticket refunds.

havana-live-una-noche-en-latinoamrica-la-gran-fiesta-en-simultneo-en-ms-de-20-ciudades-con-transmisin-va-streamingHAVANA, Nov 15 (PL) With an alternative musical proposal, the Cuban capital will join the project “Una Noche en Latinoamerica” (One Night in Latin America), the first of several joint actions to be carried out in the continent, organizers confirmed.

Under the umbrella os the Latin American mUsical Managers Association (MMF Latam), the inisiative promotes concerts and other simultaneous activities in several countries in the area, prior to the unison programme scheduled for December 5.

On November 20, the platforms America Por su Musica (AM-PM), Havana World Music Festival and Zona Jazz will group from this island to contribute to show to the world the quality and diversity of musicians, stages, parties, dances, concerts and artistic meetings in the region.

All this can happen any day in Latin America, said local coordinators in a press release. To celebrate the Latin American night, Fabrica de Arte Cubano, in Havana, will be the venue, for the first time, for performances by Jazz pianist Harold Lopez Nussa, singer Eme Alfonso and the group Yissy y Bandancha.

The triple concert constitutes a Cuban contribution to this collective work that will be watched by the whole world on December 5 through streaming (high quality unloading of video and audio) and on the MMF Latam website.

The audience will also be able to follow the entire event in the area on social networks Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram under the tags #EstamosJuntos, #Latinoamericaunidaporsumusica y #esmusicaampm.

The Latin American Assoc Music Business Association is a professional network grouping over 50 representatives and producers from 15 countries aimed at reinforcing the musical industry in the area, constructing and defending a Latin American identity and protecting the musicians’ rights and finding better career opportunities.