X Castrol cup HAVANA, 25 August  (Autor: Raúl Pupo)  What was I missing for the last nine years ! Actually, I was able to see it this Sunday, when i was eyewitness of the X Rally Castrol Cup 2014, in which drivers competed in 75 classic cars and 15 motorcycles, represented in six Cuban teams.

These “rolling jewelery ‘stunned me, and with me, much of the Havana’s population, in company of family and friends. The beautiful multicolored caravan past the five municipalities of Havana : Playa, Plaza, Centro Habana, Marianao and La Lisa.   X Castrol cup   X Castrol cup
Famous brands like Chevrolet, Cadillac, Dodge, and Ford,satisfyed the expectations of both the Havana and foreigners visitores Havana this summer.
The road book,a rough layout of 61 kilometers, was given to the teams only five minutes before the start. In fact these classic cars showed their beauty and excellent technical condition, thanks to the constant care of their owners.
In the end, the winner was the duo composed of pilot and copilot Gelasius Ramos and Erick Estrada, who participate in a FIAT 600, 1958 and took over the Castrol Cup.  X Castrol cup  X Castrol cup   X Castrol cup   X Castrol cup  X Castrol cup

 havana-live-old-car-rallyHavana, August 23. (RHC) The Antique Car Club “A lo Cubano” will have this Sunday 24, the tenth edition of the regularity Rally “Castrol Cup 2014” in Havana.

In the event will participate 75 vintage cars and 15 motorcycles, which circulate in the regular traffic and tour various Havana neighborhoods with a total of 61 Km.
The road map is secret and will be given to competitors minutes before departure. The starting and finish will be located at 3rd Street A, between 0 and 2, Miramar, in the Havana municipality of Playa.
On that site, distractions for children and adults will be offered, as the contestants perform their maneuvers. The event is part of the end of the summer and is supported by the Department of Provincial Sports. The sponsoring companies like Castrol, Miracuba, Ciego Montero “Los Portales, among others.

havana-live-Silvio-RodriguezHavana, August 23   (EFE)  Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez complained that his Abdala recording studio, which he founded in Havana in 1998, is “dying” as a result of all the bureaucratic red tape and useless government officials, while directly blaming the island’s Culture Ministry.

“Abdala, which was a project approved and supervised by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, is being destroyed by the complacency of the many government officials aware of the situation but who do nothing,” Rodriguez wrote in the latest entry on his personal blog, Segunda Cita.
The founder of Cuba’s “Nueva Trova” musical movement said that some of those culture officials “never forgave the existence of Abdala,” a project carried out with financing by the Cuban government and by Rodriguez himself, and which became the leading studio on the island from the time it was inaugurated 16 years ago.
“Instead of seeing the studio as a cultural gem, they felt it was showing up their incompetence. People who think like that aren’t musicians, and if someone was a musician, he would quit thinking like that,” he said.
The studio – managed in recent years by the state-run Cimex corporation – is currently without electricity for not paying the bill, but it can’t pay its bills “because for the past eight months it’s been in the process of being transferred to the Culture Ministry, a process that never gets done for some unknown reason,” Rodriguez said.
“Several days ago a deputy culture minister said that he can’t pay Abdala’s electricity debt because companies must pay off their own debts,” he said. The musician said the studio had to suspend its work despite having signed contracts “that could bring our country quite a few thousands.” “Abdala won’t be able to start that work because of this situation.
Nor can it pay its debts and, naturally, it will continue deteriorating as a company,” he said. “It looks like ‘a plan of the enemy’ but it’s not the CIA,” he said. Rodriguez noted that the Abdala matter “has gone through the hands of three Culture Ministries” and believes “there’s no willingness to do anything.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time knocking on doors that don’t open and talking to ears that don’t listen. Don’t think I don’t feel ashamed to confess this in public. But it will make me even more ashamed when I see the studio in ruins,” he said. EFE

 havana-live-russian-restaurant HAVANA, 23 August  (By PETER ORSI Associated Press) There’s no rice, beans or fried plantains at Havana’s newest private restaurant. You can order a minty mojito, but it’ll come mixed with vodka instead of the traditional white rum.

The waiters speak Russian, and patrons are expected to order in that language if they want to get served. But don’t worry, the menus at this retro-Soviet restaurant come with translations and pronunciation guides for the non-initiated.
Nazdarovie, which is named for the popular Russian toast and opened Friday, is all about Slavic fare like bowls of blood-red borscht and stuffed Ukrainian varenyky dumplings, hand-rolled in the back by “babushkas” who were born in the former Soviet Union but have long called Cuba home.
It’s a nod to nostalgia for the island’s Soviet ties during the Cold War, a time when Moscow was Havana’s main source of trade and aid and hundreds of thousands of Cubans traveled to the Soviet bloc as diplomats, artists and students. “For most of them it was the first time they ever left this island.
They have nostalgia about their time there, about the flavors they experienced for the first time,” said Gregory Biniowsky, a 45-year-old Canadian of Ukrainian descent who dreamed up Nazdarovie and launched it with three Cuban partners.
“The idea with Nazdarovie is really to celebrate a unique social and cultural link that existed and to a certain degree still exists today between Cuba of 2014 and what was once the Soviet Union,” said Biniowsky, a lawyer and consultant who has lived in Havana for two decades. The collapse of the Soviet bloc largely ended the Havana-Moscow connection and sent Cuba into an economic tailspin.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has talked recently of renewing the relationship. He made a state visit last month, Russian navy ships periodically dock in Havana’s harbor and Cuba has backed Russia in its dispute over Ukraine. Occupying the third story of a historic building on the seafront Malecon boulevard, Nazdarovie is an homage to the old country.     havana-live-russian-restaurant3
Behind the bar, Russian nesting dolls and a bust of Lenin perch next to bottles of high-end vodka. Reproductions of Soviet propaganda posters line one wall in an attempt to spark conversation among customers sitting at a long communal table. About the only sign of the tropics is the million-dollar terrace view of Havana’s skyline and the Straits of Florida.
At a pre-launch dress rehearsal this week, smartly dressed young waiters set steaming bowls of solyanka, a meaty Russian soup, before about 20 invited guests. The evening’s menu also included pelmeni, dumplings filled with meat, sour cream and dill; golubtsy, stuffed cabbage rolls slow-cooked in a tomato sauce; pork Stroganoff (beef is often scarce in Cuba); and for dessert, savory-sweet blintzes, called “blinchiki” in Russian.
Biniowsky said most of the ingredients can be found on the island, with some exceptions such as flour for black bread, and caviar, for which they’ll rely on tins imported in the personal luggage of friends and family. It will go for about $15 an ounce, with fancier and pricier varieties available for special occasions. In the air-conditioned kitchen, Irina Butorina stirred gobs of mayonnaise with potatoes, eggs, ham and peas to create an olivier salad, a popular dish in former Soviet states that, according to legend, was invented by a Belgian- or French-Russian chef named Lucien Olivier.
Butorina, 56, fell in love with a Cuban student she met at university in her native Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic, now Kyrgyzstan, and moved here in 1984. She said the taste of her mother’s recipes faded as she adapted to Cuba. “At first I used to cook a lot of Russian food here, but then a lot of things disappeared from the market — cabbage, for example. … so then I make Cuban food,” she said. “But these people here have started this restaurant. It was their dream … and our dream as well.”   havana-live-russian-restaurant1
Experts say Butorina’s story is typical of the Soviet diaspora here: Of the estimated 3,000-4,000 islanders who were born in the Soviet Union or descended from them, most are cases of Soviet women who married Cuban university students and moved to the Caribbean nation. Some were divorced or widowed but remain in Cuba decades later with little or no tie to their homelands.
“I think for many it was a truly traumatic experience because there are many of our women who have not traveled, who have not returned to visit their countries after the Soviet Union disintegrated,” said Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov, an anthropologist who studies the Soviet diaspora in Cuba. At Nazdarovie, one poster in particular stands out amid the current crisis between Moscow and Kiev.
Created under Nikita Khrushchev to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Russia and Ukraine, it shows two runners representing the Soviet republics simultaneously breaking the tape at a finish line. “To the indestructible friendship and to new successes in sports,” the slogan reads.
“That poster could seem like a joke, almost black humor,” said Prieto-Samsonov, who was born to a Russian mother and a Cuban father and spent his first 13 years in Russia. “I wish (the conflict) weren’t happening between our countries,” he added. “We have great desires for peace.” Biniowsky said Nazdarovie seeks to transcend politics and build community:    havana-live-russian-restaurant2People of Russian and Ukrainian descent and others working, cooking and eating side by side, united by the shared memory of a vanished nation-state rather than divided by current animosities. “Not in the kind of naive utopian sense, but sometimes breaking bread and getting drunk on vodka is key to peace.” (Ramon Espinosa – AP Photo)
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/23/5123296/havana-retro-soviet-restaurant.html#.U_iRb8V5OSo#storylink=cpy

 havana-live-panoramaHAVANA, 21 August  It wasn’t too long ago that travel to Cuba was near impossible but, slowly, opportunities are opening up for Americans.

Group IST has been granted a license by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets allowing the travel agency to offer an exclusive eight day People to People exchange program of Cuba throughout 2015.
The Havana to Cienfuegos tour will be based on the mega-yacht S/C Panorama from which travelers will explore the western part of the country. Cuban experts and interpreters will help Americans explore the country and meet the locals.
The program includes excursions to the UNESCO–designated Biosphere Reserve region and the eco-community of Las Terrazas, walking tours of Old Havana, a visit to the Sea Turtle Breeding Center and Endangered Species Protection program on Cayo Largo with coral reef and conservation experts, a tour of Cienfuegos, and more.
Havana to Cienfuegos starts at $4490, including seven nights on the S/C Panorama, all meals, a Cuban visa, mandatory Cuban medical insurance, and transportation. To learn more, visit groupist.com.

 havana-live-beyonceHAVANA, 21 August Good news for Beyoncé and Jay Z, in the midst of fending off toxic rumors: Their fifth wedding anniversary visit to Cuba last year was legal, despite questions raised by some Republicans in Congress.

According to widespread but unconfirmed reports, America’s most powerful entertainment couple might not make it to their next wedding anniversary. But at least they’re not in trouble with the feds.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report today saying Bey and Jay did not violate longtime U.S. sanctions against Cuba, which forbid U.S. citizens from visiting the island and spending any money there as tourists except under special license.
The couple did have such a license to visit under the “people-to-people” educational exchange program, and they did not abuse it, the report concluded. When Shawn Carter and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (their real names) were mobbed by fans during their four-day visit to Cuba in April 2013, two Miami-area Cuban-American lawmakers demanded an investigation.
Most Americans aren’t allowed to visit Cuba, not even superstars.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/08/20/beyonce-and-jay-z-trip-to-cuba-was-legal-say-feds/14359477/

havana-live-20convertiblesbHAVANA, 20 August  (BY JUAN O. TAMAYO)   The Central Bank of Cuba will add new anti-counterfeiting measures to the 20, 50 and 100-peso bills in apparent preparation to upgrade the value of the Cuban peso, now worth about four U.S. cents.

Cuba’s government announced in October that it would unify its two official currencies: the peso, or CUP, and the convertible peso, known as a CUC and equal to 25 CUPs. It has given no date or further details for the change.
Counterfeit CUCs have been turning up in Cuba regularly almost since their introduction in 1994. Havana residents say that fake CUPs are less common, apparently because of their lower value. A 100 CUP-bill, now worth $4, would be worth $10 if the currency is revalued to 10 to the CUC, as predicted by an island economist in a recent report. Cuba is also expected to introduce higher denomination bills after the currency unification.
The bank’s announcement Tuesday made no mention of the unification plans, but the introduction of new anti-fraud measures in the higher denomination CUP bills will make them more difficult to counterfeit. “The Central Bank of Cuba informs the population about the coming emission of bills in the national currency (CUP) with new security measures,” said the bank statement, which went on to detail the changes.
A new watermark with each bill’s denomination will be added to the 20, 50 and100 CUP bills, the announcement said, and the current watermark will incorporate an image of the historical figure on the face of the bill. All bills in circulation will remain valid, the bank added. Cuba’s largest denomination bills are the 100 CUP and CUC bills.
The country also has had CUP bills in denominations of one, three, five and 10. The dual currency system in place since 1994 created distortions in the economy that ruler Raúl Castro now wants to eliminate. Most salaries are paid in CUPs, but imported goods and many locally made items in short supply are usually priced in CUCs.
The currency unification, which analysts expect to be completed in 2015 or 2016 with the elimination of the CUC, would affect consumers as well as state enterprises that use imported supplies and export goods at widely varying currency exchange rates. Economist Pavel Vidal has predicted the government will unify the currencies at a rate of 10 CUPs per CUC — the same rate set by law for employees of the foreign firms that will operate out of a special economic development zone in the port of Mariel.
Some Cubans already have been trading their CUCs for CUPs or U.S. dollars in hopes of avoiding any losses when the currencies are unified. Authorities have vowed that no individuals will suffer as a result of the change. Former ruler Fidel Castro started printing CUCs to soak up foreign currencies after he opened the doors to mass foreign tourism in the early 1990’s.
He also legalized holding U.S. dollars, previously punishable with several years in prison. The black market exchange rate spiked to more than 140 CUPs to the CUC as Cuba tried to recover from the loss of the Soviet Union’s massive subsidies in the mid-1990s. But the government-set rate of 25-to-1 held relatively steady in recent years.
Foreign visitors who want to exchange $100 U.S. — now again not accepted in legal trade — receive 87 CUCs at the state-run CADECA currency exchange shops because the government imposes a 13 percent fee on transactions on dollars and no other foreign currency. But they can easily get 100 CUCs on the black market.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/19/4298400/cuba-to-add-security-measures.html

havana-live-Lissachatina-fulicaHAVANA, August 19 (acn) A Cuban scientist said that Cuba must take fast actions to prevent the spread of the Giant African Snail, a species introduced on the island about two years ago, which is considered to be dangerous for humans.

We have the chance to control it if we take fast action, since the snail has a high reproduction rate, said scientist Antonio Alejandro Vazquez, who heads a lab in the sector at the Havana-based Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute.
The African snail, known as Lisachatina fulica bowdich, was introduced in Cuba two years ago, according to studies at the Institute, and it has been located at the Havana southern municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, however the expert said that he has no doubts that it may spread to other areas because of the favorable Cuban climate for it reproduction.
The snail can act as intermediary to transmit diseases considered as dangerous to humans, including meningo-encefallitis.

havana-live-tabacHavana, August 19 (acn) Workers from the Internacional Cubana de Tabacos SA  maintained a high productive efficiency in the first seven months of the year, which allowed them to break the historical rolled and packaged figures.

The special high-tech machines used to elaborate the famous Cuban “cigarillos”, made with high-quality raw materials from Pinar del Rio province, and produced 105.7 million units, 17 of which corresponded to the months of June and July, also record for a month.
From May to July, they averaged 16.3 million packaged units monthly, for a 34 percent growth over last year, Vladimir Rodríguez González, ICT president, told ACN.
Rodríguez González said that each activity is under a rigorous check of quality standards established by the entity, belonging to Tabacuba Business Group of the Agriculture Ministry. He added that the sales, exports, profits and contributions to the country maintain a favorable performance for the stage.
The cigarillos elaborated on that company are marketed in Spain, France, Germany, England , Switzerland, Greece, Canada, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and some regions of Africa and the Middle East.

Colorful-cocktail-WallpaperHAVANA, 18 August (RHC-AIN) Cuba participates in the Mexican city of Guanajuato, the XVIII Panamerican Congress of Educational Bartenders and Bar Show, where representative national cocktail’s will be presented as Mojito, Daiquiri and President .

The chairman of the Association of Bartenders Cuba, ACC, José Rafa Malem, told reporters that seven Cuban bartenders will participate in the meeting which will be held until Thursday, including champions in national events.
Organized by the International the International Bartenders Association, the event is part of its strategy to raise the profile and qualification of professionals in the world in this activity, the spokesperson said. 
Malem specified that are also part of the Cuban delegation company executives Havana Club International SA who will present very Caribbean themes as coffee, snuff and rum. 
According to experts,10 jewels of Cuban cantina include the Mojito, the Daiquiri, the President, the Mulata, Special Havana, Cuba Libre, the Cubanito, Mary Pickford, Isle of Pines and Ron Collins. 

Cradle of one of the best light rums in the world, Cuba stands out for the quality of their spirits, among these, the Havana Club, the Cubay and Santiago, fruits of the richest folk traditions of the island.

havana-live-Water-Puppets-Show-of-VietnamHAVANA, Aug 16  (acn) The Thanglong Water Puppet Theater of Hanoi will perform in Havana for the second time, on August 16-19.

On this occasion it brings the new show called Estampas vietnamitas. The company’s director, Nguyeng Hoang Tuan, expressed his joy for making presentations for the second time in Cuba, where he felt the great interest of the public for his country’s history and culture.
 Marionette artist Lo Quoc Toan said he felt at home and pointed out that Cuba was his second homeland, while his compatriot Nguyeng Xuan Long asserted he was very happy to express his great love for the Cuban people.
This art is exclusive to Vietnam and a world cultural heritage. It’s the only company of its kind in Asia and has been continuously working every day over the last 19 years, explained the company’s director.
He pointed out that water puppets appeared in the year 1010, during the Li Reign, that women were not allowed to practice it then and that later presentations were interrupted due to wars. It revived in the 20th century.
Shows will take place at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the Trompocoloco Big Top, in Havana

havana-live-empty-beer HAVANA, 18 August   (AFP) Cuba has been hit by a severe beer shortage during one of its hottest summers on record, sparking hoarding and driving thirsty drinkers to pay greatly inflated prices.

A sharp fall in production at the island’s main brewery, Bucanero, at the beginning of the year has trickled its way down the supply chain at the worst possible time: the third-hottest summer since 1951. Bucanero makes four brands of beer: Bucanero, Cristal, Cacique and Mayabe.
The company has a virtual monopoly in Cuba, though some imported beers are also available, albeit at a large mark-up. “It was an odyssey to find beers for a going-away party Tuesday,” one Chilean expatriate said.
“I covered half of Havana going to supermarkets, gas stations and liquor stores before I finally had to buy them at a restaurant” — where he had to pay 15 percent higher prices,” he said.
Cuban media said the problem was caused by delayed imports of malted barley in the first four months of the year. That hit production at Bucanero, a joint venture between the Cuban state and brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, and reached consumers just as summer set in.
“Now in the summer more than ever, you go to look for a cold beer at this moment when you needed it the most, and you can’t find any,” said an agonizing islander interviewed on local TV.
Cuba has registered average temperatures of 28 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit) this summer, according to the national meteorological institute.
Media reports said the beer problem had been exacerbated by hoarding by consumers and the “paladares” that have flourished since the introduction of economic reforms by President Raul Castro, who took over from his 88-year-old brother Fidel, the father of the Cuban Revolution, eight years ago.

havana-live-smokeHAVANA, August 16   24 percent of Cubans over 15 years actively smoke and more than 50 percent of the population is today exposed to tobacco smokes, revealed a medical source to the National News Agency.

These data are the results of the third survey of risk factors that included more than nine million people of Cuba, noted Patricia Varona, coordinator of the Special Working Group on Lung Cancer, of the Public Health Ministry.
The survey, noted Varona, showed that 16 percent of Cuban women actively smoke, that is, two out of 10 females over 15 years, while 31 percent of men (three in 10) has this harmful habit.
He noted that the largest number of addicted to tobacco is between 40 and 50 years, while university students are less addicted to cigarette or cigar and the average age to start smoking is 17 years.
Tobacco consumption is responsible for the death of 1,500 Cubans a year from lung cancer, 80 percent of the annual deaths in Cuba for that ailment or ischemic heart disease, Varona pointed out.
This harmful habit also causes cancer of the pharynx, larynx, esophagus, bladder, urinary and biliary tract, pancreas, kidney, stomach, liver and cervix, just to mention some, added the specialist at the National Institute of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology.(Prensa Latina)

havana-live-RetiredHavana,  August 15    In an effort to improve and maintain higher education quality with full professors of experience, the Cuban Council of Ministers agreed that retired professors may returned to their classrooms with the same salaries they had as active workers plus their current pension.
The director of the Human Resources Department at the Cuban Higher Education Ministry Ana Karell said that the initiative is part of strategies adopted by the Cuban government to guarantee the preparation of future graduates. Karell said that Cuba’s 67 higher education centers count on 35 thousand professors and researchers, out of whom nine thousand are either full or associate professors and another four thousands hold PhD titles with an average age of 50 years.
The new measure is expected to encourage those highly skilled professors to return to their classrooms, since in other educational levels it worked appropriately, while it will have specific impact on those courses that need skilled professors, such as accounting, economics, natural sciences, agronomy and engineering.(ACN)

havana-live-pedro-luis-ferrerHAVANA, 15 August   The theater company El Ciervo Encantado organizes a series of concerts this summer at its headquarters in Havana.

The first event this Saturday, August 16, will be led by songwriter Pedro Luis Ferrer. August 23  Jazz group  Tú Sabes  will be on stage, and on Saturday 30  it’s the turn to ancient music ensemble Ars Longa.
Also invited to dialogue with artists El Ciervo Encantado host a talk show every night. El Ciervo Encantado theater group was founded in Havana in 1996, from the educational experience developed by the actress and director Nelda Castillo at the Instituto Superior de Arte.
Since then the group has carried out an intense artistic work which includes “explorations in the conceptual universe of the mise en scene and the use of literary, historical, artistic, musical and dance sources” as well as the exploration of languages such as performance and public interventions.
The concerts will be at 8:30 pm at the group’s headquarters, on Calle 18 between Line and 11, in Havana’s Vedado district.

havana-live-shakespeare-y-sus-mascaras_2HAVANA, August 14   “For Shakespeare, Dance,” is the slogan of the 24th edition of Havana’s International Ballet Festival, to be held in this capital from October 28 to November 7 under the general direction of prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso.

As a tribute to the 450th anniversary of the birth of the English poet and playwright, the official program will include the revival of the piece Shakespeare and his Masks, a stage version of the literary drama Romeo and Juliet.
Giselle Mazorra, a specialist with the Paradiso Cultural Tourist Agency, which coordinates the Festival along with Cuba’s National Ballet Company (BNC), told ACN that, as usual, the public will be able to also enjoy great pieces of the traditional classical repertoire, like Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle and the Nutcracker. Ballet Nacional de Cuba
On the occasion of the bicentennial of the birth of writer Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, the Cuban company will revive the choreographic piece Tula, a ballet in two acts by Alicia Alonso, which recreates the intense life of this woman of letters and her passion for stage art, asserted Mazorra.
Within the framework of the meeting, in addition to presentations scheduled, the Festival will include a special course of ballet technique for professionals, students of advanced levels and professors, as well as a film cycle.
http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/culture/1280-havana-s-intl-ballet-festival-to-be-dedicated-to-shakespeare

havana-live-wto-director-general-roberto-azevedo-bali-agreement-benefits-developing-countries-1296493-wto-1677579fHAVANA, Aug 13 (acn) The director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevedo, arrived in Havana on Tuesday afternoon as part of a tour that also includes Mexico and El Salvador.

Azevedo’s agenda in Cuba includes meetings with the Vice-president of the Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas, Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno.
He will also meet with officials of the Regulatory Office of the Special Development Zone of Mariel, an enclave located 50 kilometers west of Havana, which will become in the future the main area of activities of Cuban foreign trade.
The Special Development Zone, the first of its kind on the island, will include an industrial platform for import, production and sales to the domestic market or to other countries, as well as a modern megaport.

140812-havana-carnival-jms-1317_24cdef7418aaf9889a2eb6008f020e5f.nbcnews-ux-680-480Havana, 12 August  (Emmanuelle Saliba)  This is the capital’s carnaval, a century-old tradition which has been forced to adjust its scale due to a more modest budget brought about by the economic crisis.

It’s not known how much this event will cost the city – these figures are not released – but it’s a very modest celebration. Yet judging by the stream of people, the crowds are not paying attention to the carnival’s budget issues.
It’s an opportunity to have fun at a price reasonably accessible to a population for whom elaborate entertainment events are usually elusive; they are more available to those with foreign currency. “We came to enjoy,” said a couple from one of the stands in front of the passing floats and groups of dancers.
“This is what there is,” said a group of young people. Away from the stands, a crowd dances and sings along to musical groups taking part in the carnival’s so-called paseo or “walk” that extends to other parts of the city.
Havana’s carnival is not lavish, but there is variety and color in the different floats’ dresses and costumes and the choreographed pieces are full of rhythm. Most importantly, the infectious conga music makes everyone’s hips move.
Cuba’s carnavales are the most popular parties in the entire country, and Havana’s carnival can stand up to the one in Santiago de Cuba, whose fame transcends beyond the island’s borders. festival, which started August 8th and goes to August 17th, is a breather for the capital’s residents. It’s a time to leave behind any struggles with transportation, food, currencies and a struggling economy. It’s a joyful break. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/cuba-celebrates-its-carnival-tight-budget-n178776140812-havana-carnival-jms-1315_24cdef7418aaf9889a2eb6008f020e5f.nbcnews-fp-1360-600

havana-live-offshore-oil-gasHAVANA, 11 August  (Reuters) Cuba has shifted its focus away from offshore oil, concentrating on renewable energy and improving output from onshore wells due to a lack of interest by foreign companies for further deepwater exploration, sources close to the industry say.

With so much oil readily available around the world, oil companies including those from allies China and Russia see little incentive in drilling off the Caribbean island, delaying the Cuban dream of oil wealth that could inject vigor into its socialist revolution. With the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba further complicating drilling plans, the country is seeking investors in renewable energy such as biomass and wind while attempting to increase output from existing onshore and shallow water wells.
Russia’s state-run Rosneft and the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) separately agreed last month to help Communist-run Cuba extract more oil along the traditional northwest heavy oil belt, but did not sign on to deepwater exploration. The northwest heavy oil belt is a 200-mile (320-km) stretch of the northern coast from Havana to Villa Clara and reaching up to 3 miles (5 km) offshore.
It produces poor quality oil that meets 40 percent of the country’s needs. Rosneft and CNPC will also support the horizontal drilling of new wells from shore and join Canadian firm Sherritt International and another Russian state-run oil company, Zarubezhneft, which are already carrying out similar work.
Cuba had hoped Russia and China, whose presidents visited in July, would explore deepwater offshore fields that it says may hold 20 billion barrels of oil and end its dependence on socialist ally Venezuela. Venezuela sends 115,000 barrels of oil per day to Cuba under favorable terms.
“The Cubans have stopped talking about offshore oil exploration in the state-run media and in private appear more interested in new recovery methods for existing wells, biogas projects and windmill farms,” a European diplomat said. Three deepwater wells drilled in 2012 by Spanish, Norwegian, Indian, Malaysian, Russian and Venezuelan firms came up dry.
All but the Norwegian state firm Statoil ASA and Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA have pulled out, and those companies are inactive. Future drilling has been postponed for the foreseeable future.

A BIG GAMBLE
Difficult geology from hard rock encountered while sinking the wells, alternative prospects elsewhere and U.S. sanctions that require oil rigs to carry less than 10 percent U.S. technology are discouraging further drilling, according to Western diplomats. “Exploration is not a one-shot deal, but in Cuba due to many factors it is. Drilling is like playing once at a roulette wheel with $100 million chips,” said a diplomat whose country was involved in exploration.
http://www.todayonline.com/business/after-offshore-oil-failure-cuba-shifts-energy-focus?page=1

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havana-live-descemer-buenoHavana, August 9 (EFE)  Descemer Bueno, composer of the hit “Bailando,” which topped the charts in several countries this summer, announced his new projects with Colombian singer Juanes and the Spanish duo Estopa. Descember Bueno singer-songwriter and disc producer was referring to the number “La Maleta,” in which he accompanies Juanes, and the artistic project with Estopa, the rock/rumba duo with whom he recorded the song “Pastillas para Dormir,” the official Prensa Latina news agency reported.
Bueno also spoke about his plan to invite the famous rapper and reggaeton star of Jamaican origin, Sean Paul, to give concerts in Cuba this September. Nor could he fail to mention the tremendous international reception that the music video of “Bailando” has enjoyed in the version he did with Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias, members of the Cuban reggaeton group Gente de Zona, and dancers of the Lizt Alfonso troupe.
He also said that his next performances abroad will be in Panama and the Dominican Republic. Descemer Bueno, currently one of the most popular figures of Cuban music both on the island and internationally, recently gave his first concerts in Santiago de Cuba, where he took part in the 23rd anniversary of the Tropicana Santiago cabaret of that city, some 940 kilometers (584 miles) east of Havana.

havana-live-Teatro-MellaHAVANA, 8 August  (EFE)  Havana joined in the celebration of the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth with the first visit of the famed London theater group The Globe and its performance of “Hamlet.” The Globe twice presented “Hamlet” on Thursday at the downtown Mella Theater as part of the world tour that began last April in London to mark the 450 years since Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born.

Cuba is the first Spanish-speaking country chosen for a performance by the company, which in Thursday’s “Hamlet” helped the audience understand the actors with subtitles shown on a screen. “It’s quite an occasion that they’re here. Shakespeare is an author kept continually alive in Cuba. All our great directors have produced their own versions of his works,” Carlos Celdran, a leading figure of Cuban theater, told Efe.
Cuban playwright and critic Norge Espinosa noted that The Globe is Shakespeare’s ambassador to the world – it uses actors of all ages and ethnicities and shows how the English continue to “maintain a dialogue” with the author.
Cuban theater’s chief tribute to the English author will be staged at the 24th International Ballet Festival of Havana in October, which will present a dance version of “Romeo and Juliet” produced by one-time ballerina and current director of the company, Alicia Alonso.
Before arriving in Cuba from the Bahamas, the English company had appeared in Norway, Russia, Finland, Ukraine, Croatia and the United States. From Cuba it will continue on to the Yucatan in Mexico, followed by such Caribbean nations as Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, as well as countries of Central America.
The original Globe Theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed was built in 1599 on the banks of the River Thames. 

havana-live-Bronx-MuseumHAVANA, 7 August   Havana is in talks with the Bronx Museum to organise the first major exhibition by a US museum in the country, according to local reports.

The show would be part of the 12th edition of the Havana Biennial next year, and could be followed by an exhibition in New York in 2016 that would feature work by Cuban artists. The Bronx Museum was not available for comment. The director of the National Fine Arts Museum in Havana, Ana Cristina Perera, announced the cultural exchange during the 1 August opening of “African American Artists and Abstraction”, an exhibition in Cuba that includes work by nine American artists.
During her opening remarks, Perera emphasised the role of culture in “breaking barriers imposed by governments that have nothing to do with the will of the artists”, the EFE news agency reports. The long-standing US trade embargo against Cuba does not include art and it has become easier for American art professionals to visit the Caribbean country since 2009, when the Obama administration softened travel restrictions. Around 80 curators, artists and intellectuals from the US attended the opening for the exhibition in Havana last Friday.
The potential participation of an American museum in the Havana Biennial indicates a slow but steady shift in the exhibition’s identity. The first Bienal de la Habana opened in 1984 and only included artists from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The next editions expanded to include artists from Africa and Asia and the biennial became known for showcasing “non-Western” artists. But throughout the 1990s, it slowly began to include artists from Europe and North America.  By the 2012 edition, it included artists from 45 countries, however only one was from the US. The 12th edition of the Havana Biennial will take place from 22 May to 22 June 2015.
http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Cuba-in-talks-for-cultural-exchange-with-US-museum/33373

havana-live-circuba 2014HAVANA, August 7 (acn) The Russian Spirin duo won the Grand Prize of the 13th Summer Circus International Festival, Circuba 2014, after the presentation of its act Shadows, which was full of control, strength and balance.

Julian Gonzalez Toledo, Cuban Minister of Culture, granted them the most significant laurel of contest, which is to date considered one of the most important in the Americas. Similarly, one of the protagonists of this pair, the young Vyacheslav Spirin, belonging to Rosgoscirck Russian Circus, was recognized for his outstanding scenic performance.
The gold, silver and bronze stars went to several acts by Havana Company, group that highlighted by the freshness of its artists and the complexity of their performances with the scale, the Russian bar and the flying trapeze. Also the cheered act of Run or German wheel, only seen at the opening night starring Canadian Francis Perreault, finished second sharing the prize with the Cuban group, which was also the most popular of the event.
The also Russians Maxim Helmut with his risky domain of aerial rope and Sychev infant duet were included in the list of prizes obtained by the world’s largest circus, by winning the awards in image and revelation, respectively.
Similarly, in the closing ceremony of Circuba 2014, artists from Argentina, Mexico, Spain and Germany got special mentions and awards from various institutions and personalities of circus art. Finally, it was announced that Havana Company will represent Cuba in the 8th Albacete International Circus Festival, Spain, in 2015.

havana-live-rumbaHavana, August  6 (Prensa Latina)   Artists, dancers and researchers of Mexico, Italy and Cuba will attend the 6th International Rumba Event Timbalaye, from August 17 to 24th in four Cuban provinces, informed today the organizers.

This year we were not prepared to have greater foreign participation because we had the third edition of the International Rumba Forum in Rome, from May 8 to 11 said the presidejnt of Timbalaye, Ulises Mora, in a press conference. However, he added, thanks to the proposal made by Havana, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio and Cienfuegos provinces, we will celebrate this month our next event, dedicated to Benny More, on his 95th birthday.
‘Cuba is a country of dance, where all the children are born with dances, so this genre is part of their culture, the sould of Cubans, that is why we have to defend it, together with orality, said the also member of honor of the Hermanos Saiz Association. According to UNEAC Vicepresident Pedro de la Hoz, the rumba is connection to memory, tradition and also integration to audiovisual media, fine arts and research. Referring to the program, artistic director of Timbalaye, Irma Castillo, announced that among the groups to take part in the event, Afrocuba from Matanzas, the Kings of Drums, Columbia del Puerto and Yoruba Andabo.
Timbalaye 2014 is organized by the Uneac, the Hermanos Saiz Association, tbe National Heritage Council , the House of Africa and the Cultural Tourism Agency Paradiso.
Activities:
AUG 17. 4:30PM Pabellón,Havana Rumba concert
AUG 19. 4:00PM Havana The Longest Ruma
AUG 20. 9:00PM America Theater, Havana Timbalaye 2014 Gala

havana-live-alina-fernandezHAVANA, 6 August   Alina Fernandez, the rebellious daughter of Cuban former ruler Fidel Castro, has gone from Miami to Havana to be with her seriously ill mother.

It’s her first trip back since 1993, when she escaped the island using a false passport and wig. A woman who answered the phone Tuesday at the home of the 88-year-old mother, Natalia “Naty” Revuelta Clews, said Fernandez was out of the house but would be back in the evening. She later said the family was focusing on Revuelta and would not make a comment. Max Lesnik, a Miamian who has friends high in the Cuban government and regularly travels to Cuba, reported in his El Duende column Tuesday that Fernandez, 58 and a Miami radio personality, has been spotted in Havana.
The visit by Fernandez, a regular and strident critic of Castro and his government, could mark another advance in the long-hostile relations between the Cuban government and Cubans abroad who oppose the communist system. Her visit was presumed to have been approved by the Cuban government, whose security services control all who enter and leave the nation.
Among other recent visitors have been wealthy exile businessmen Paul Cejas, Carlos Saladrigas, and Alfie Fanjul. In her 1998 autobiography, Castro’s Daughter: An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba, Fernandez criticized her father as a distant dictator and wrote that she was closer to his brother, current Cuba ruler Raúl Castro, describing him as a good family man.
“He was the person to whom you could go to and ask for help every time you had a practical problem,” she added in a 2008 interview with Foreign Policy magazine. On personal issues, she added, “Fidel was totally unhelpful.” Just six weeks ago, Fernandez told the EFE news agency in Miami that it was not the right time for her to return to Cuba, even though it was “very sad” that she could not see her 88-year-old mother and described her father as cruel.
“I don’t want problems” in Cuba, Fernandez said in the interview. “It makes me very sad, because my mother is old” and “to see your mother and to want to do something for her is a law of nature, something visceral.” Friends of Fernandez say Revuelta fell and broke a leg recently and has been in declining health for several months.
Fernandez was born in 1956 after Revuelta, a Havana beauty then married to Orlando Fernandez, had an affair with Fidel Castro, then a young revolutionary and lawyer divorced from Mirta Diaz-Balart. She was raised by her mother but knew from the age of 10 that Castro was her father and worked variously as a model in a combination clothing shop-nightclub in Havana and as public-relations director for a clothing line. Long known for her harsh croticisms of Fidel Castro, she fled Cuba for Spain in 1993 using false documents and a disguise arranged by Elena Díaz-Verson Amos, a Cuban-born woman married to a wealthy American and living in Georgia.
Asked in the EFE interview if she hated her father, she said, “No. Hate him, no. Hate is too strong a word. … I see him as having a pretty elevated level of cruelty, but I never reached the point of hating him. Never.” Fernandez moved to Miami with her daughter, Alina “Mumín” Salgado. Fernandez wrote columns for el Nuevo Herald from 2009-2010, and for many years hosted a program on WQBA radio called Simplemente Alina (Simply Alina). She now has a short segment weekdays during the 3-5 pm slot on WWFE-670 AM.
Juanita Castro, sister of Fidel and Raúl, won a $45,000 judgment against Fernández in a Spanish court, arguing that the autobiography’s portrayal of the Castros’ parents, Angel Castro and Lina Ruz, libeled the family. Two years ago, Fernandez filed suit to recover $100,000 she paid toward the purchase of a $1.6 million house in Kendall. Several Miami men have been arrested and charged with a real-estate scam. Asked by EFE if she would ever like to meet with Fidel Castro again, she said,
“That’s not a realistic possibility. … I believe that there’s an absolute lack of interest on both sides. I have nothing to say to him.” As for how her father will be regarded years down the road, she said, “For Cubans, the legacy of Castro is a country ruined and with part of its people in exile, an experience very hard and very difficult to cure.”
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article1978582.html

havana-live-customHAVANA, August 5  Cuban authorities warned today about some risks of taking packages for third parties, which generally in exchange of payment or compensation some passengers carry when entering the country, even at the risk of being involved in drug trafficking.

About the issue, officials from the General Custom House of the Republic of Cuba informed that about 69 cases of travelers were detected from January to May 2014. They brought package for third parties from South and North America, 19 of them were identified as drug trafficking.
According to article 11 of the Resolution 24 of 2007, where regulations for clearance and customs passengers’ control are established, individuals, as travelers, are not authorized to carry packages for other individuals or legal entities. If they do not comply with this regulation, the individual should assume the corresponding administrative or legal responsibility.
According to Granma newspaper, the main inspector of the Department of Analysis and a drug expert of the Customs, Daniel Noa, in some detected cases, the packages were received from acquaintances or acquaintances of relatives. Those individuals were attracted for messages posted in public places, where a sum of money offered to bring a certain amount of kilograms of luggage to Cuba.
Those people sometimes ignore the real content of what they carry, they are very naive, and are later involved in a legal process, Noa said. According to experts, the joint work with the Ministry of Interior and some grass-roots organizations have allowed the phenomenon does not flourish.
http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2968391&Itemid=1

havana-live-AviancaHAVANA, 5 August   Colombia-based air carrier Avianca has expanded its service to Havana, the carrier announced. Avianca will be increasing the number of flights between Colombia’s capital, Bogota and Havana from four to five flights each week. The expansion means more than 200 new seats each week between Colombia and Cuba. Avianca now operates around 50 flights each week to the Caribbean, including direct flights to Aruba, Cancun, Curacao, Punta Cana, San Juan and Santo Domingo. Avianca will be operating the service on Airbus A318 planes, with capacity for 100 passengers. Avianca also operates direct flights five days per week between Lima, Peru and Havana and six-times weekly service between San Salvador and Havana. The new service launched late last month.

havana-live-cuba-pesosHavana, August 5   Advisor of the President of the Cuban Association of Economists, Joaquin Infante said in an interview published today by the newspaper Granma that to have one currency and one exchange rate in this country is pressing.

In October, 2013, the same newspaper published an official press release, in which the Government announced the implementation of measures aimed at unification of currencies and having one currency and one exchange rate. The newspaper insisted that they clarified in the most recent parliamentary sessions that the mentioned process has the intention of reestablishing the value of the Cuban peso, although that measure alone would not solve all problems of the Cuban economy.
He said the measure would allow having an exact dimension of the profitability and competitiveness of productions, as well as measuring with greater objectivity all the macroeconomic indicators. Infante said that although the phenomenon could be due to structural or circumstantial reasons, both coincide in Cuba.
Among the former reasons, he mentioned extreme dependence on foreign trade and little foreign-currency reserves in the country, and among the latter, the US economic and trade blockade of Cuba and fluctuation of the prices for imports and exports of products in the international market. He said it was a more complex situation, due to the appreciation of one CUP (Cuban peso) equivalent to one CUC (Cuban convertible currency) for the State’s economic-financial relations; and 25 CUP equivalent to one CUC for the population.
He said these factors do not contribute to have a clear vision of the cost of the productions, distort the information to carry out feasibility studies and economic assessment of investments, and among other consequences, make imports and exports to be underrated. Asked why this moment was chosen to implement having one currency and one exchange rate, the expert did not hesitate to say there was a pressing need for this process, which should have been enforced long time ago, he said.
The best strategy is eliminating the two exchange rates in the State operations. He also drew attention on the existence of a third currency in that sector, the so-called Liquidity Chart (CLC), which identify the value of CUC in foreign currency. According to him, that has happened due to the issuing of more CUCs (convertible pesos) that their value in foreign currencies.
Despite the so-complex panorama, the economist considered that the effects of having one currency and one exchange rate for the State operations will be seen soon. However, its impact on the population will be gradual.
He explained that elimination of the two currencies alone would not increase the people’s purchasing power. Appreciation of the Cuban peso is tightly related to increasing productions, work efficiency, competitiveness and profitability of productions.
http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2965871&Itemid=1

havana-live-copaHAVANA, 5 August  Panama-based Copa Airlines is adding a new flight to Cuba, the company announced. The company will be adding twice-weekly direct flight from Panama City to Cayo Santa Maria.

Cayo Santa Maria will be Copa’s second destination in Cuba, with service set to begin in December. Copa already offers service to Havana. “Through the years, Copa Airlines has demonstrated its dedication to world-class service, providing passengers the most efficient connectivity on travel to and from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean,” said Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa.hotel_melia_cayo_santa_maria_home1
The news comes after Copa added four new Boeing Next Generation 737-800 aircraft in the first half of 2014, bringing its total to 94 aircraft. Copa is one of the major hubs for South American travelers heading to the Caribbean.
By the end of 2014, the carrier will offer 69 flights to destinations in 30 countries in the region. http://www.caribjournal.com/2014/08/04/copa-airlines-adding-new-cuba-market/