havana-live-flagThe U.S. State Department says it came up with a “workable solution” to the banking dilemma that prompted Cuba to suspend its consular services in the United States but Cuba decided not to pursue it.
But it’s hard to say whether the solution was truly workable. Neither the State Department nor Cuba will disclose what it was. The U.S. government has been working with the Cuban Interests Section and the Cuban mission to the United Nations since July to try to find a bank or banks that would provide services after their former bank, Buffalo-based M&T, informed them it was getting out of the business of handling accounts for foreign missions.
Last Friday was the deadline that M&T gave the Cuban missions for accepting deposits of fees for visas, processing passports for Cuban citizens, authenticating documents and other consular services. That meant, said the Cuban Interests Section, that it was forced to suspend consular services, except for humanitarian cases, until it found a replacement for M&T.
“We are disappointed in this action, given that we had helped the mission identify a workable solution to its consular fee processing needs with ample time for its implementation,’’ said a State Department spokesperson. “That the Cuban Interests Section has not effectively pursued this option will result in hardship to Cuban and U.S. citizen travelers alike.” Asked for details on the solution, a State Department employee responded, “Since these were confidential communications, this is a question best asked of the Cuban missions.”
But the Cuban Interests Section didn’t respond to an email or phone call seeking comment. M&T has informed the Cuban missions that their accounts will be closed on March 1. The State Department said while the primary responsibility to find a new bank lies with the Cuban missions, in an effort to help, it has been in touch with more than 50 financial institutions since last summer and that M&T also had tried to help the Cuban missions identify a new bank or banks.
“We encourage the Cuban government to consider all available options, including potential solutions we have repeatedly discussed with them, to address their missions’ needs and to restore full consular services,” said a State Department employee.
The Cuban Interests Section also shut down its consular services on Nov. 26 after reaching a previous M&T deadline without finding a replacement bank, but less than two weeks later the consular section was back in service after M&T offered an extension.

(Miami Herald) 

havana-live-hemingway1Cuba has released to US researchers copies of more than 2,000 documents related to Ernest Hemingway, media reported Tuesday in Havana, the American literary giant’s home during the 1940s and 1950s. “More than 2,000 documents held at the Finca Vigia Museum in Havana are now available for the first time for researchers in the United States after having been digitized and sent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum,” the Cuba Contemporanea magazine wrote on its website. Now a museum, Finca Vigia, which means “lookout house” is located in the town of San Francisco de Paula just outside Havana. It was Hemingway’s home during much of his more than two-decade-long residence in Cuba. Among the treasures now accessible to US scholars at the Kennedy Library in Boston is the 1954 telegram from the Nobel Prize Committee in Sweden informing Hemingway that he had just been awarded its prestigious literature prize.
A statement from the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts said that the trove of documents, which had never seen outside of Cuba, includes letters, passports, telegrams, household accounts, bar bills and recipes.
“We are pleased to make available to researchers copies of these materials that provide a unique glimpse into the everyday life of Ernest Hemingway,” said Tom Putnam, Director of the Kennedy Library. “For a literary figure who is often portrayed as larger than life, this trove of personal ephemera serves to humanize the man and to understand the writer.” Officials said it is the second large document release from the Finca Vigia. A first huge tranche of 3,000 digitized images was donated to the Kennedy Library in 2008. Hemingway, who took his own life in 1961 at the age of 61 after returning to the United States, wrote some of his most famous works in Cuba, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “The Old Man and the Sea.”
He was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his mastery of the art of narrative… and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.”

see also: https://www.havana-live.com/html/enghemingwaycubasadoptedson.html

havana-live-capriIn its heyday, Havana’s Capri hotel and casino was the playground of men known as The Blade and The Fat Butcher.
It was also a pleasure garden for headline stars who portrayed Mafiosi on the silver screen: George Raft, known for hoodlum roles such as Guino Rinaldo in 1932’s “Scarface,” was the casino’s celebrity “greeter” and made his home in the 19th-floor penthouse. Havana’s hedonistic mob-and-movie-star days came to an end with Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, and the hotel drifted into a long, slow decline. But now the Capri is back in business after being closed more than a decade ago. Its rebirth is part of Cuba’s latest bid to trade on its colorful pre-Communist past and attract tourist dollars to fund its socialist present.
“It’s a feeling of that era (at the Capri). I think in Cuba you feel that in general,” said Roberto Escalante, a 62-year-old Mexican university professor who was staying in the hotel this month during an academic conference. “It’s very comfortable. It’s missing some services still, but yes, you feel like you’re back in those times – which were good!”
Indeed, details such as the Capri’s polished, art-deco granite floors with their flowery bronze inlays fit right into a city that still teems with finned Chevrolet and Cadillac classics. So do the graceful copper-colored lobby chandeliers, which like the floors are restored originals. The newly refurbished Capri reopened around New Year’s as a partnership between state-run tourism company Grupo Caribe, which owns the hotel, and Spanish hotel chain NH Hoteles SA, which is responsible for administration.
History, Heritage and a Bit of Drama.
Built in late 1957, the Capri enjoyed a brief but madcap run as one of the flashiest mob joints of the time. Charles Tourine (The Blade,) managed the nightclub, while Nicholas di Costanzo (The Fat Butcher) ran the casino. The two were lesser-known henchmen associated with more notorious bosses like Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante. Gangsters rubbed elbows with some of Hollywood’s leading lights here. Swashbuckling actor and renowned playboy Errol Flynn frequented the Salon Rojo club where scantily clad cabaret dancers shimmied for tourists.
The handsome public face of it all was Raft, who grew up around gangsters and maintained personal ties to a number of capos. T.J. English’s “Havana Nocturne,” a history of the mob in Havana, recounts Raft’s memories of the night when Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista fled the country ahead of the inexorable advance of Castro’s bearded rebels. New Year’s Eve merrymaking was coming to an end and Raft had just retired to the penthouse, where a young woman recently crowned Miss Cuba was waiting. “There she was, asleep in my bed, but I noticed how she opened one eye when I came in the room. Now she’s half awake and amorous. ’Feliz ano nuevo,’ I said as I got between my silk sheets, alongside this fantastic girl,” Raft later said, according to “Havana Nocturne.” ’’In the middle of this beautiful scene – suddenly – machine-gun fire!” Hurrying downstairs, Raft pleaded for calm with revolutionary-minded Cubans who were ransacking the hotel, English writes. Finally a young woman recognized the movie star and persuaded the others to listen. They ended up doing a little “lightweight looting,” then left.
“So while the shooting and all that continued in the streets, the Capri was saved, at least for the moment,” said Raft, who died in 1980. It wasn’t long before the mob’s hotels all passed into the hands of the revolutionary government. Castro himself set up shop for a time in the nearby Havana Hilton, later redubbed the Habana Libre.
Most of the mafia bosses fled Cuba – out millions of dollars in lost revenue and investments. The Capri operated as a state-run hotel for decades and at times hosted a different sort of celebrity guest, people such as Cuban crooner Omara Portuondo and left-wing Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti. In 1997, militant anti-Castro exiles set off a bomb in the lobby that caused severe damage but no fatalities. The Capri survived, but like many buildings it became run-down from lack of maintenance, and closed in the early 2000s. After apparently sitting idle for years, restoration began about four years ago according to hotel officials. Workers are still refurbishing some rooms and laying carpeting on some floors. During a recent visit, finishing touches were being put on the rooftop pool, which boasts stunning views of the Florida Straits. Much has been kept faithful to history, down to the Capri’s swooping deco logo. Low-slung, 1950s-modern sofas grace the lobby, and old Havana cityscape photos hang in the rooms. Hotel operators are talking about putting historic pictures in the lobby like the nearby Nacional, another hotel where the mob once ran a lucrative casino. Nods to modernity include building-wide Wi-Fi, though it’s not included in the price of a room. What once was Raft’s penthouse is now a high-end restaurant with white tablecloths and plush, lavender-paisley chairs. The Salon Rojo is a popular disco with a $10 cover – no gambling allowed.
“It’s just friendly, modern. We like being here,” said Elke Feusi, a 49-year-old banker from Winterthur, Switzerland. Ciro Bianchi Ross, a Cuban journalist who has researched and written about the Capri, disagreed with the notion the hotel represents a lost, glamorous past. He noted that the cabaret parties and casino riches were for the elite, while many Cubans struggled with poverty, disease and illiteracy – a social equation that the 1959 revolution was specifically intended to upend.
Still, he called the Capri one of the three most architecturally important hotels of its era in Havana and said there’s nothing wrong with using Cuba’s mafia past to create income and jobs for the country. “It’s benefiting from history, and I think that’s valid. We can’t renounce a heritage like this or the Hotel Nacional,” Bianchi said. “Buildings are not to blame for their history.”

by Peter Orsi (Associated Press) 

havana-live-cigar-festival-2014Havana will open its doors once again from February 24th to 28th, 2014 for the 16th annual Habanos Festival offering the largest international meeting for the cigar enthusiasts. This year the event will be paying tribute to four of the most prestigious Habanos brands we know and love: Hoyo de Monterrey, Partagás, Trinidad and H.Upmann. The 2013 Habanos Festival was attended by more than 1,200 delegates from almost 80 countries – that’s a lot of matches used! The Commercial Fair will again be celebrated during the week of the Festival. In 2013, the Fair was attended by 72 exhibitors from 8 countries – Germany, Canada, China, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Panama and Cuba – and received over 2,000 visitors from the world of cigar, luxury products and business. During this 16th Edition of the Habanos Festival, those attending will have the pleasure of tasting in exclusive the new vitolas that will be launched to the market in 2014 as well as discover the roots and the secrets of a century-old tradition of Cuban cigar culture. The program of the Habanos Festival maintains has been released and it looks like it’s shaping up to be a big one:

What to Expect

Visits to the best tobacco plantations in Vuelta Abajo, Pinar del Río
Visits to Cigar factories
A Commercial fair
Tastings and Marriages with the best gastronomy and drinks
Habanosommelier International Contest
Master class on the Cigar Hand Rolling Technique
The longest ash contest

The opening of the event will take place on Monday, February 24th, 2014 with the inauguration of the Commercial Fair at the International Convention Center Palacio de Convenciones . The Fair will be a perfect opportunity to mingle and network with fellow BOTLs, businessmen, producers and suppliers of the cigar world.
havana-live-cigar1The day will end with the Welcome Evening at Club Habana, which includes an exclusive concert from some of the best Cuban artists. The Nominations for the Habanos Award of the Year will also be announced; all wrapped up with a welcome Cocktail dedicated to the Partagás and Hoyo de Monterrey brands. We are already drawling at the mouth. On Wednesday, February 26, there will be a special and emotive Dinner in tribute to the Trinidad brand, with participation of prestigious chef Ron Blaauw from The Netherlands, awarded with two Michelin stars, and of sommelier Cuno Van’t Hoff in the selection of the menu and marriages.
Dust off the tux as the closing of the Festival will take place on the evening of Friday, February 28, with a Gala Dinner in tribute to H.Upmann and the Traditional Humidor Auction for the benefit of the Cuban Public Health System.
The opening of the event will take place on Monday, February 24th, 2014 with the inauguration of the Commercial Fair at the International Convention Center Palacio de Convenciones . The Fair will be a perfect opportunity to mingle and network with fellow BOTLs, businessmen, producers and suppliers of the cigar world.

havana-live-poulettyIn a rare Europe-based Cuban R&D partnership, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) partnered with a new company formed by French equity investment firm Truffle Capital, licensing a therapeutic vaccine for chronic hepatitis B for sale in markets in Europe and Asia, for starters. Under the agreement, CIGB will manufacture the hepatitis B vaccine in Cuba, for sale in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, once it is approved there.
“As long as CIGB can scale up and meet quality requirements, Cuba wil continue to exclusively manufacture and supply the vaccine,” Truffle co-founder and ABIVAX Chairman Philippe Pouletty told Cuba Standard. He declined to specify which markets are covered by the licensing agreement. Truffle said in a press release it merged three French life sciences companies to form ABIVAX, which the investors would like to become “a global leader” in therapeutic vaccines and antivirals. Founded in December, Paris-based ABIVAX has two therapeutic vaccines under development and is in negotiations over more acquisitions. Poulletty said he hoped CIGB will contribute more products to ABIVAX’ pipeline, but he declined to specify them.
“At Truffle Capital, we are proud to have founded ABIVAX after two years of discussion with Cuba, which is known for its excellent physicians and high-quality vaccines,” Pouletty said in the press release. “This is an international project that is intended to place France and Cuba at the forefront of progress in the field of therapeutic vaccines.”
CIGB, the largest subsidiary of state holding BioCubaFarma, has partnered with companies in China, India, Canada and Brazil, but this is its first such cooperation in European markets. When signing the licensing agreement with ABIVAX executives in Havana this week, Norkis Arteaga Morales, business development director of BioCubaFarma, told Prensa Latina that CIGB will contribute the hepatitis B vaccine, which it already sells in various markets around the globe, and its production capacities, while Truffle will contribute the capital to complete clinical studies in Europe and Asia, as well as its marketing resources.
CIGB products are sold in ALBA member nations Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, as well as in Brazil, China, Vietnam and Angola, among others.
“Our complementary skills in both R&D and production will enable us to take several vaccines into international markets in the years to come”, Arteaga said, according to Prensa Latina. Pouletty told Cuba Standard that BioCubaFarma did not want to form a joint venture this time, but added that ABIVAX has a “very open spirit to future collaboration.” Truffle Capital is a 13-year old independent venture capital firm with €550 million ($754 million) under management and advisory, specializing in energy, information technology and life sciences companies. The firm is led by a team of four general partners, Philippe Pouletty, Jean-François Fourt, Henri Moulard, and Bernard-Louis Roques. Pouletty’s track record includes founding and developing life science companies such as Deinove (Alternext: ALDEI), Carbios, Carmat (Alternext: ALCAR), Neovacs (Alternext: ALNEV), Splicos, Pharnext, Plasmaprime, Vexim, and Wittycell. He holds 29 patents, including the second highest revenue generating life science patent for Stanford University, and was inducted in the Stanford University Hall of Fame of Inventors in 2012. He has an MD from the University of Paris VI, and is a former chairman of France Biotech, the French biotech industry association.
havana-live-hepatitisThe three French biotech companies Truffle put together to form ABIVAX are Wittycell, Splicos and Zophis. CIGB, which specializes in the discovery, development and production of vaccines and antivirals, has already been working with Wittycell on getting the hepatitis B vaccine to market. The vaccine is in Phase IIb clinical trial in patients with chronic hepatitis B, which leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Pouletty made his first contact with CIGB in South Africa four years ago, and he said he was impressed by Cuba’s biotechnology progress.Two years ago, his company began negotiations with CIGB. “It took some time to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” he said. “It’s a process that can be relatively complex.” Other ABIVAX products under development include an anti-viral drug for AIDS from Splicos, an anti-HPV therapeutic vaccine to treat uterine cervix dysplasia and prevent the emergence of cancer from Wittycell, and an adjuvant to boost NKT and B cell response from Wittycell.


havana-live-Visa1Cuba has suspended consular services for the second time in less than three months after being unable to find a new bank in the U.S. for its diplomatic accounts, officials announced Friday.
M&T Bank decided to sever its relationship with Cuba last year, but agreed to continue processing its banking through March 1 and accepting deposits through Feb. 17. Cuban Interests Section officials in Washington said that “in spite of huge efforts made” they had been unable to find a replacement bank and that as a result it was being forced to suspend consular services, effective Friday.
“The Section regrets any inconvenience this situation may cause,” the statement said. The Cuban diplomats blamed Washington’s embargo against the Communist-run island for the inability to get a new bank, though it has been in place for more than five decades. It’s unclear why now no bank is agreeing to service the financial accounts. The State Department had been working with Cuban officials since last July to identify a new bank for the Cuban Interests Section and Cuba’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, said spokesman Noel Clay.
“We are disappointed in this action, given that we had helped the Mission identify a workable solution to its consular fee-processing needs with ample time for its implementation,” spokesman Noel Clay said. “That the Cuban Interests Section has not effectively pursued this option will result in hardship to Cuban and U.S. citizen travelers alike.” The State Department had reached out to more than 50 banks, and that several “may be exploring whether to provide the mission with banking services,” said deputy spokesman Marie Harf. The department would continue help the Cuban Interests Section find a long-term solution, she said. The U.S. and Cuba maintain limited diplomatic relations. Since 1997, both countries have operated Interests Sections under the legal protection of the Swiss embassies. The Interests Sections allow Cubans and Americans to request travel documents such as visas and passports, among other services. Travel operators had been preparing for the Feb. 17 deadline, which falls on a bank holiday, and advised those who plan to travel to the Caribbean island to get their documents beforehand.
Armando Garcia, the owner of Marazul, one of the largest Cuba charter flight operators, said most U.S. and Cuban-American travelers planning visits to the island for the spring had gotten their documents in beforehand.
“Two, three weeks from now, people who don’t have their documents up to date obviously would not be able to arrange anything unless the Cuban Interests Section resolves the problem with the bank,” Garcia said.
An estimated 557,000 U.S. travelers are expected to visit Cuba in 2014, according to one estimate by the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group. Analyst Emilio Morales has projected that they will bring with them some $2 billion. Most of the travelers are Cuban Americans; a small amount is Americans taking part in licensed cultural exchange programs. Morales said Friday he estimated 40,000 U.S. travelers would visit in March and again in April. On average, they spend about $3,100 per person — a collective $124 million each month. “The impact is going to be much less than if it had occurred in December,” Morales said, referring to the temporary suspension last year before the height of holiday travel. “People had time to get their passports in order.”
Cubans living in the U.S. who still have a valid Cuban passport would still be able to travel to the island, but those who need to request a visa or have their passport renewed would be impacted. The U.S. State Department said in November that the U.S. bank that had handled Cuba’s accounts had severed the relationship due to a “business decision.” A State Department said the bank had apparently decided to discontinue banking diplomatic missions several years ago.
Travel operators in Miami said they had been advised by licensed consular agents to submit all their paperwork for visas, passports and other documents needed to travel to the island by last Monday, Feb. 10. Other affairs that could be affected include requests for copies of marriage licenses and birth certificates, as well as requests from those who want to extend the amount of time they are visiting the United States or who want to return to Cuba permanently. November through March is the high season for U.S. travelers participating in “people-to-people” travel to the island. Garcia said most of those applications were submitted far in advance. The upcoming March spring break and summer is when more Cuban-Americans tend to travel to visit family. Pedro Vega, a branch manager at Cubamar, an agency that helps process travel documents near Miami’s Little Havana, said he received about double the usual number of paperwork requests in January and February as clients rushed to submit before the banking deadline.
“I am worried for those who have family there that they need to visit and who have to leave with their transactions processed,” Vega said. Noemi Hernandez, co-owner of MIA-Habana Express, Inc., said she was advising clients who weren’t able to get their requests in by Monday to hold off on submitting any more documents. “We’re afraid if we send something it’s going to be stuck in limbo,” she said.

(AP Jessica Gresko) 

havana-live-Equestrian-SportsCoaches and presenters of the Royal Dutch horse jumpers that will be auctioned this weekend in this capital have extensive competition and training experience. The trainer of the Cuban National Riding Team, Carlos Alberto González, explained that many of his students will take the reins of the animals at the auction.
The Flora and Fauna Protection Agency has announced that 33 jumpers of the Dutch variety will be auctioned at the National Equestrian Center in Havana (Lenin Park) on February 15. These animals will be shown at auction tonight by experienced trainers and jockeys, many of them young members of the national equestrian team. Gonzalez has experience as an athlete and trainer since 1979, when he joined the national team riding for the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) at major competitions, including the Pan American-1991 and Central American Ponce-1993.
Furthermore, Gonzalez competed in the Espartaquiadas 1985 and 1989, and in Poland, and was a trainer for the Pentathlon team, among other activities. He said that the Cuban Riding Team is composed now of 12 jockeys around the age of 20, many with three-months of training in Holland and experience in Latin American events. Of those 12 jockeys, two are women.

(Prensa Latina)

havana-live-flagA strong majority of Americans – and an even greater percentage of Floridians – support normalizing relations with Cuba, according to a poll released on Tuesday by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. In an apparent boost to efforts to end the half-century-old economic embargo against Cuba, the poll found that 56 percent of respondents nationally favoured changing U.S. Cuba policy, a number that rose to 63 percent when just counting Florida residents.
Supporters of the embargo said the poll was politically biased, questioned its methodology and said it was unlikely to have any impact in Washington.
The poll comes on the back of a series of surprise political announcements in recent days that could challenge longstanding U.S. policy towards the communist-run islandOn Friday, Florida’s former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who is running for the office again in November – this time as a Democrat – said in a TV interview that he supports lifting the embargo. Also last week, Alfonso Fanjul, a wealthy Cuban American sugar baron in Florida and a major political donor, spoke publicly for the first time about trips he has made to the island in an interview with the Washington Post, and his interest one day in investing there. The poll, conducted by a Republican and a Democratic pollster, found that only 35 percent of Americans, and 30 percent of Floridians, opposed improving ties with Cuba. “Given the results of the survey, it is clearly time to take another look at U.S.-Cuba policy. There has been a surge in thinking about whether it’s working,” said Jason Marczak, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. The results in Florida show conventional wisdom about U.S. policy towards Cuba may need to be reconsidered.
Political commentators often note that U.S. presidential candidates support a hard line on Cuba out of fear of losing the swing state of Florida. “We may have crossed the Rubicon with this poll,” said U.S. Senator, Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona and longtime opponent of the embargo.
“This tells us that Floridians by a greater percentage than the rest of the country want to see changes to the policy, so there’s really no reason not to move ahead now politically,” he added.


Supporters of the embargo accused the Atlantic Council of having a political agenda, as well as poor methodology.
“The entire release is biased and agenda-driven,” Mauricio Claver-Carone, head of the largest Cuban exile lobby group in Washington, said in reference to the Atlantic Council’s announcement of the survey. “They didn’t ask if they were voters. In other words, it’s not a poll of ‘likely voters’ or ‘registered voters’.” Claver-Carone, director of the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, said proponents of ending the embargo lacked the votes in Congress, or the financial backing to effectively lobby to change the law.
“The fact remains every single Cuban-American elected official, in any position, in Miami-Dade County supports the embargo. So the facts speak for themselves,” he added. Officials from both countries have told Reuters that U.S.-Cuban relations have taken on a more pragmatic tone in recent months, with cooperation on drug interdiction, oil-spill mitigation and immigration.
President Barack Obama told a Miami fundraiser in November “we have to continue to update our policies” on Cuba, but he has withheld using his executive power since last easing rules on travel to Cuba and the flow of remittances in 2011.

Obama cannot lift the economic embargo without the support of Congress, where there is serious opposition from both parties.
The poll showed some ambivalence among those surveyed when they were reminded of the state of human rights in Cuba, where dissent and freedom of speech are inhibited. When told that changing U.S. policy would send a message to Iran or North Korea that they can act against American interests, 51 percent found it very or somewhat convincing. The poll – conducted over the phone in English and Spanish from January 7 to January 22 – surveyed 1,024 randomly selected U.S. adults age 18 and older, with disproportionate numbers of Florida residents and Latinos, the council said. It had a nationwide margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent, the council said. In Florida the margin of error was plus or minus 4.0 percent.
The Atlantic Council bills itself as a non-partisan research institution that promotes “constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs.” Chief Executive Frederick Kempe is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor, and the council’s honorary directors include recent secretaries of state and national security advisers. Its findings provided a timely boost to Crist, who said in an TV interview on Friday that he doesn’t think the embargo has worked.
“If we want to bring democracy to Cuba, we need to encourage American values and investment there,” he said later in a statement. Crist, who currently leads in early polling, is the first candidate for governor from either major party to endorse lifting the embargo, a position that has long been considered politically risky in Florida due to Miami’s large Cuban American population.
His Cuba comments were pounced upon by Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott who insisted on that Floridians still support the embargo, saying it “stands for the Cuban people’s right to be free.”

Reuters, By David Adams

havana-live-china-artist-groupThe China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe stated his tour in Cuba to present its show “My Dream” at Havana’s National Theater over the weekend. “Some people were denied some gifts, but it is still possible to choose one’s attitude toward life, look on the positive side, and face it with a joyful and grateful heart,” said Tai Lihua, director of the troupe.
The troupe consists of two teams, which allow it to perform in different countries at the same time. So far, it has performed in more than 30 countries in Asia, Europe, America and Oceania.
Its repertoire includes about 150 shows, characterized by its artistic elegance and spiritual depth.
The troupe’s members have won world recognition. The World Association of Persons with Disabilities named them “Ambassadors of the disabled” and “Torchbearers of special art,” while the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) hailed them as “Artists for Peace.”

(Source: China Daily)

havana-live-griffeyGriffey (izquierda) y Larkin, dos ases de un tiro. Foto: Raúl Pupo

La muchedumbre de la Peña del Parque Central habanero no se lo podía creer, y algunos incluso llegaron a enjugarse los ojos, como en las películas: inesperadamente, delante de ellos se aparecieron Ken Griffey Jr. y Barry Larkin, dos monstruos sagrados de la historia reciente de las Grandes Ligas estadounidenses.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe it” (Dios mío, no puedo creerlo), decía repetidamente uno de los habituales de la Peña en aceptable inglés. “Nosotros no te vimos jugar en tus tiempos, Ken, pero te reconocemos y siempre hemos sabido de tu grandeza”, terminó, casi con los ojos llorosos.havana-live-griffey1Todos desesperaban por darle la mano al pelotero que mereció calificativos como El Natural, entre sorprendidos, felices y admirados. El espontáneo líder del grupo, que se multiplicó enseguida como los hormigueros, dedicó entonces unas palabras a Larkin, y casi apenado, le confesó: “Pero Griffey era mi ídolo”. Sonriente, Larkin le contestó: “And mine too” (Y el mío también).
Al poco rato, la comitiva visitante prosiguió su camino Prado abajo, mientras la fanaticada buscaba papeles (“cualquier cosa”, decían) para pedirle autógrafos a las estrellas.havana-live-griffey2Ken Griffey Jr. se retiró en 2010 luego de pegar 630 jonrones, sexto en la lista de todos los tiempos en Ligas Mayores. Fue un auténtico fenómeno que combinó la capacidad para batear consistentemente con la velocidad de piernas, la potencia del brazo y la habilidad para fildear en la pradera ancha.
Mientras, Larkin jugó 18 temporadas sucesivas para los Rojos de Cincinnati, con un rendimiento clave en el triunfo final de 1990. Nueve veces ganó el Bate de Plata, en tres ocasiones el Guante de Oro, y fue exaltado en 2012 al exigente Hall de la Fama de Cooperstown.

havana-live--wrestler1More than 50 US wrestlers are expected to take part in the Cuban tournament Cerro Pelado-Granma, to be held at Havana”s Sport City on Feb. 12 – 15, announced Julio Mendieta the host team head coach. In remarks to Cuban News Agency (AIN), Mendieta revealed an expected large presence by US athletes, many of them of high quality, to guarantee more rivalry in the competition.
He added that Canada and Germany will bring more than 10 wrestlers each, expected to be tough rivals to the Cubans due to their frequent participation in international competitions.
Regarding the Cuban team fitness, he said they have trained well and will go for the highest number of medals possible. Some 20 Cuban wrestlers will compete in the free style in this traditional tournament.
Mendieta referred to main figures in every division, including Alednier Hernandez (57 kg), whom he described as a young, talented, very promising wrestler. He also cited Yowlys Bonne (61 kg), Geandri Garzon (70), Reineris Salas (86) and Javier Cortina (97).
He said the 74 kg category may be not so strong. It includes Reinier Perez and Esteban Quintana, who will try to make up for injured Livan Lopez.
After the Cerro Pelado-Granma tournament, Cuba will form the team that will travel to Puerto Rico on Apr. 3 – 7 to try grab six places for the Central American and Caribbean Games to be held in Veracruz, Mexico, on Nov. 14 – 30.


havana-live-modern-dance1Dancers from nine European and Latin American countries will participate in the 22nd edition of the International Workshop of modern dance, Workuba 2014, to be held from February 13 to 15.
Marta Bercy, founder, artistic and general director of the event told the press today that professional or amateur dancers, from Argentina, Chile, Spain, United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Cuba will participate in the experience. For the fifth consecutive time, the event will take place at America theatre, in this capital, where specialists and artists will offer lectures and master classes on different rhythms. Rumba, Bachata, Milonga, Cha Cha Cha, Casino, Salsa and Afro-Cuban folklore are some of the dances that will be available to participants. Bercy standed out the workshop of chamamé given by Argentinean Ana María Trainini, Director of Ballet of Goya, in Corrientes province.The events closure ceremony includes the Habana Musical performance along with the Ballet group of Laura Alonso, the one of the America Theatre and the youth ballet of Lizt Alfonso. The attendees will also enjoy the presentation of violinist Cinthia Salomón and percussionist Manuel Jiménez, among other artists.
Workuba is celebrated since 2003 every September in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and in February Cuba assumes the headquarters.havana-live-modern-dance

havana-live-earthquake1An earthquake hit in waters off Cuba Tuesday night — the second time in less than a month. The 4.3 magnitude quake, measured by the U.S. Geological Survey, was reported at 10:19 p.m. off the northern coast, some 100 miles east of Havana, near the town of Martí. It’s unclear if the minor quake was felt in Cuba or if it caused any damage. After Tuesday night’s quake, the National Weather Service in Miami-Dade said there was no threat of a tsunami . On Jan. 9, a 5.1-magnitude quake hit in a similar area off the island coast. That quake was felt in the Florida Keys and as far north as Naples. The earthquake east of Havana puzzled scientists, who said it came during a two-week spate of tremors in the region.The source of the frequent tremors in the region is the slow movement of the Caribbean plate, which moves about one inch each year along a boundary against the North American plate. It’s when the two plates catch along fault lines, build up pressure and then release that quakes happen, in a process sometimes called “stick-slip.” Occasionally the quakes are more significant, such as the 6.4 magnitude tremors recorded off Puerto Rico on Jan. 13. Earthquakes that size may happen off Puerto Rico once every few years, Bellini said.
“I won’t say every year but they do happen,” he said. When it comes to the islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, two east-west fault lines cause much of the seismic activity, including the recent quakes.
The Septentrional fault line, which runs across the northern parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and stretches out into the Caribbean Sea, was the cause of the 6.4 magnitude quake off Puerto Rico. The quake, with an epicenter about 35 miles north of the island, was the strongest in the region in the last few weeks. No injuries were reported, but dozens of small aftershocks have followed.


havana-live-Havana-World-Music1On February 7 and 8, 2014, Havana will become the capital of the World Music, in order to “make known the musical diversity of Cuba to the Cubans themselves as well as outsiders,” the general coordinator Havana World Music festival (HWM) , Ismael Sayyad, told OnCuba.
HWM takes hold of the concept known as world music, to create a space in which converge local bands and musical expressions, little played on the island, and groups from other parts of the planet. As world music people identify traditional or folk music, and ethnic and genres characteristic of cultures around the world. Meanwhile, debates between specialists that place it as a huge genre or market category label.
“The use of this term is somewhat opportunistic. We’re going to take advantage of it because it contains a lot of things, “the artistic director of the event, the Cuban singer Eme Alfonso confessed.
For the production of the HWM, Raquel Avila, the idea is “that musicians work with a base identity, which then merged with music such as rock, funk, jazz … But we have the assurance that is not a thing made in a studio or in a music distributor.”
From Cuba is confirmed the presence of Cossiá, a group founded in 1982 in the eastern province of Guantanamo, which recreates Haitian songs and dances, as well as La Cinta, which, in the town of Baraguá (Ciego de Avila), rescues the calypso, a dance accompanied by weaving colored ribbons on a pole and clustering of bagpipes of the Galician Art Society, with Spanish roots.
Cuban culture has seen their budgets cut from the start of the economic crisis of the 90′s that had a negative impact on the national and international dissemination of cultural expressions outside Havana, according to experts.
In this sense, organizers admitted that the origin of HWM is Para Mestizar , an audiovisual project of Alfonso that records living cultural expressions that make Cuba’s cultural diversity, among which are the two expressions involved in the festival in attractive and simple communication products.
Groups like Los Van Van and Sintesis also confirmed their attendance and while these may not be considered World Music, “Why not? At a festival in Denmark they are “Alfonso questioned, who dreams to carry the event to other Cuban provinces.
About the invited foreign musicians and groups, Alfonso said they are talking with artists from Norway, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Venezuela, Netherlands, Senegal, Netherlands and the UK, and seeing the forms of finance.
“Cuba represents a lot of interest for everyone, all the famous and not famous people we contacted said yes. What we are seeing ways to fund it, “the artistic director of HWM said.
Avila confirmed that “from Norway Thea Hjelmeland will be present to show the results of a project with Cuban musicians that must be recorded soon.” Hjelmeland performed in Havana during the Peace and Love festival, 2013.
Although Alfonso wants to “make it as accurate as possible,” she warned they will have to “be open to people who can finance his trip, people who are willing to not charge for their performances, because organizations that are here are non-profit”.
This is the case of Fuel Fandango, Spanish duo closer to alternative music and pop. “They are a little out of the concept. But they have a lot of quality, their presence encourages the international interest in the Festival and the Cuban public want to have fun, have a good time, “the singer said.
Havana World Music intends to conduct a parallel theoretical event , so that ” the most interesting musicians who have something to contribute musically and visually on music , share it with us ,” Alfonso said.
According to the leader of HWM, “we talked with professionals who can catch up on the state of music in the world , new trends and how you can develop a band in the international market .”
Meanwhile, Avila stressed the idea of ​​becoming “reference space “that can “invite other festivals programmers to also be a window into the music made in Cuba“. The conference will take place in the capital’s baseball field at the José Antonio Echevarría resort (Calzada and 12, Vedado ), with support from the Cuban Music Institute and the Ministry of Culture of the island, involved from the beginning of the project Para mestizar .
Alfonso insisted in recognizing advances in “Cuban cultural institutions, they are leaving the prejudices and working with other non- Cuban embassies and agencies such as UNESCO and the Swiss Cooperation Fund”.

Marta María Ramírez

havana-live-crowleyWhen Cuba cut the ribbon on its nearly $1 billion mega-port at Mariel on Monday, the first ship at the dock came from South Florida’s Port Everglades Jacksonville-based Crowley arrived with some 50 shipping containers of mainly frozen chicken under a waiver to the five-decade-old U.S. embargo against the communist-run nation. It ships weekly to the island, underscoring opportunities for business when U.S.-Cuba ties are fully restored. Some analysts say the presence of the U.S. line at Mariel’s high-profile debut — when the presidents of Brazil, Venezuela and other Latin American nations were on hand for a regional conference — signals that Havana is not only open for business, but open for business with the United States.
“The long-term viability of Mariel depends on a change in U.S. policy,” said Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College in New York and president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. “Clearly, [Crowley’s presence] is a sign they’re willing to do business with the United States, even if we’re not willing to do business with Cuba now.” The largest infrastructure project in Cuba in decades, the modern Mariel port was financed mainly by a Brazilian loan and built by Brazil’s construction giant Odebrecht, which also is active in South Florida. The seaport aims to replace Havana as the island’s top cargo port, and once dredging is complete, will be able to host the world’s largest ships that soon will cross an expanded Panama Canal.
havana-live-crowley1But perhaps most intriguing, the port some 30 miles west of Havana features a “special development zone,” where businesses will receive tax breaks and other incentives to set up, partly for export. Companies from Asia and South America, including Chinese carmaker Geely, already have expressed interest in the zone, now a 180-square-mile field.
Mariel’s launch comes as some see a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations, including recent talks on migration and oil drilling. President Raul Castro has been opening Cuba’s state-controlled economy, allowing more self-employment, plus home and car sales, to spur growth.
Said Jay Brickman, vice president of Crowley Liner Services on his return from Mariel: “This could be a game-changer for the Cuban economy.”

(Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel) 

havana-live-BisbolCuba returns to the Caribbean Series of baseball for the first time in 54 years this weekend at a time of time of high interest in Cuban talent after some of its best players defected in recent years in search of multimillion-dollar contracts.
The Cuban team Villa Clara, reinforced with some of the best players from other teams in the Cuban league, will compete on the Venezuelan island of Margarita starting on Saturday against winter league champions from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Mexico in the annual tournament.
The Cuban Baseball Federation is eager to find venues to prove its players can compete on the world stage, especially since the Olympics dropped baseball as a sport after the 2008 Games. “Since their entire baseball enterprise is built around showcasing the quality of their game in the international arena, these tournaments mean a lot,” said Peter Bjarkman, a leading expert on Cuban baseball and author of several books on the topic.
In one of the many reforms instituted by Cuban President Raul Castro since he took over for his ailing older brother Fidel in 2008, Cuba this year starting allowing its athletes to play professional sports abroad, while also offering them slightly better pay incentives at home. Scouts for Major League Baseball teams will also get a look at some of Cuba’s best prospects with Cuban players very much in fashion. In October, the Chicago White Sox signed Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract. Pitcher Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins won National League Rookie of the year in 2013, and outfielder Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers finished second. In the American League, Oakland A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting in 2012. However, returning to the Caribbean Series does not represent any special risk of defections. Cuba frequently faces the possibility its players could be lured by agents at international events, such as the World Baseball Classic in the United States or tournaments in the Netherlands, Bjarkman said.
“Scouts merely evaluate players for their MLB clubs in case they become available. They do not approach players about defecting,” Bjarkman said. “It is the player agents and not the scouts that become a threat.”
Cuban teams won seven of the first 12 Caribbean Series from 1949 to 1960, when new revolutionary leader Fidel Castro removed his country from the tournament, preferring to emphasize amateur over professional sports.
Cuba became a powerhouse in amateur international baseball, winning three Olympic gold medals and two silvers in the five times it was an official Olympic sport from 1992 to 2008. Cuba is rejoining the Caribbean Series on a one-year trial, agreeing to forgo any prize money to avoid violating the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba. The Caribbean winter leagues have ties to Major League Baseball.
Although Cuba now allows its athletes to play abroad, several obstacles prevent them from joining teams in the United States. Cuba would collect taxes on their salaries, a violation of the embargo, and retain certain rights over the players that would clash with a Major League contract.

Daniel Trotta (Reuters)

havana-live-sloppy-joes1Located at the central corner of Zulueta and Animas Streets in the Old Havana, the famous and mythical Sloppy Joe´s Bar has reopened its doors after almost three decades of remodeling. Sloppy Joe´s Bar represents the perfect place to bring back memories of the thirties in Cuba. Times, when it became a very popular place, not only appreciated for its fine drinks and liquors but also for its special atmosphere of attractive appointments as well as for having the longest mahogany drinks cabinet of Cuba, and perhaps of the whole world. People who visited Havana during those decades of great splendor had to go to three different places when it had to do with food and enjoyment: “El Floridita”, “Sloppy Joe’s Bar”, and “La Bodeguita del Medio”, otherwise, they wouldn’t have stayed in Havana city.
Don’t be hesitant; only one block from the Prado havanero, on Havana’s heart, open from 12:00 pm to 3:00 am every day, you must give yourself the satisfaction of visiting Sloppy Joe´s Bar and becoming part of the history and the tradition of an unquestionable word-class bar. Therefore, for people who remember those days and for lovers of the best bars around the world, this opening has represented an extraordinary event.
havana-live-sloppy-joes2Sloopy Joe´s Bar symbolizes the good taste of Cuban and international cocktail bartending, having a catalogue with more than fifty different kinds of Cuban rums and also one of the best whisky’s collections of the country.In addition, it is providing one more time its chef’s specialties: the “Ropa vieja Sloppy Joe” (ground beef, tomato sauce,olives and spices) and the “Sloppy Joe´s Burger” (beef, pork leg jam, bacon and cheese); gorgeous offers to the lovers of Cuban traditional cuisine in the most pure Havana style.
A little bit of Sloppy Joe´s Bar History: Property of José Garcia, the bar received this name because the place at the beginning was a mess and the sandwich served there was made of “ropa vieja”. Jose Garcia arrived in Cuba coming from Spain in the year 1904. He began working as a barman in Havana. He stayed in Cuba for three years until he sailed away to the United States heading New Orleans. In 1919, Jose Garcia returned to Havana and he decided to open his own business and bought a grocery store along with a warehouse located in the corner of Zulueta and Animas Streets.This bar had a huge splendor in the 30’s and 40’s, and it was visited frequently by many Hollywood celebrities and international bohemian characters, such as Ramon Jacinto Herrera “Ray Tico” Spencer Tracy, Ernest Hemingwa,John Wayne, Clark Gable, Ignacio Jacinto Villa y Fernandez “Bola de Nieves”, Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”,JoseAntonio Mendez “The King”, and many other personalities of the time. With the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the business became in decline dueto the 90% of Sloppy Joe’s clientele was American. In the 60´s the revolutionary government closed the establishment, leaving the Sloppy Joe’s bar abandoned for more than three decades. Now, after almost a half century, the myth continues waiting for you, restored and better than before.havana-live-sloppy-joes

havana-live-cars-for-saleA new specialized website will allow Cubans residing in the country to announce the purchase and sale of vehicles, equipment and parts, transportation or other services that have emerged with the expansion of self-employment activitie.
With national coverage (visible only in Cuba), the website’s name is De Todo (dto2.transporte.cu) and whose sole purpose is to facilitate communication in a virtual market in an efficient, practical and free way, even for those who do not have access to the global Internet, but access the domestic version. According to Granma newspaper, among the website’s categories are of cars, trucks, motorcycles, jeeps, bicycles, wedges, minibus, drag, trucks, panels, buses, parts and accessories, car rentals, driving and Repair vehicles.
This system is programmed in free software and is based on very simple and intuitive icons, through which up to three photos that do not exceed 256 kilobytes can be inserted in each ad. The website, created by three computer engineers from the Business Information Services of the Ministry of Transport (SITRANS) was previously subjected to rigorous evaluation by CALISOFT, dependence of the Computer Sciences University who is responsible for the certification of quality, functionality and security of software products.
Jorge Miguel Garcia, director of information of SITRANS said that this is an official website.


havana-live-cuba-cruiseAfter four years of enthusiastic preparation, Cuba Cruise embarked from Havana last night for its premiere voyage circumnavigating the Caribbean island. International passengers excitedly watched from the deck as the ship sailed under the moonlit sky towards Holguin, the second port on the exclusive itinerary. Throughout the season, guests will visit six ports of call, relax on world-renowned beaches, enjoy the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and wander colonial towns where time stands still.
“Leaving the port for the first time was a magical experience,” says Cuba Cruise President Dugald Wells from the aboard the ship. “The energy is incredible and we’re all very excited for the journey and adventures that await.”
While at sea today, Cuba Cruise passengers are enjoying the ship’s many amenities, including three restaurants, four bars and lounges, refreshing pool, casino, onboard shops, children’s activity room, fitness centre, salon & spa and more. Tomorrow, guests will have a full day to explore Holguin, the first Cuban city discovered by Christopher Columbus, who declared it to be “the most beautiful land ever seen by human eyes.” Cuba Cruise offers five shore excursions in Holguin, including a tour of Fidel Castro’s childhood farm and even an offshore island safari.
Cuba Cruise has 15 sailings scheduled for the 2013/2014 inaugural season. Guests can join the 7-night cruise at either Havana or Montego Bay with a lead-in price of only $586 CAD. The experience offers the best qualities of cruising and all-inclusive getaways combined with a Cuba that few people see.

havana-live-museum-fine-art2Created in April 1913, the National Museum of Fine Arts in Cuba (NMFA) is today one of the most important cultural institutions in the island with more than 48,000 works distributed in collections and stages.
Three majestic buildings serve as headquarters to the museum which has a priceless heritage, witness of the historical evolution of Cuban and world art.
The Palace of Fine Arts, where lies the Cuban Art building, was inaugurated on June 18, 1954 with a design that boosts free large spaces, susceptible to modifications for accommodating different exhibitions. The former Palace of the Asturian Center, premises of the world art since 2001, is one of the most representative buildings of the Republican architecture in Cuba. In its time, it stood out by the construction techniques employed and the materials used in its finish.
havana-live-museum-fine-artThe third property which forms the headquarters of the NMFA is the former militia barracks that hosts the administrative area, just a few meters from the building of Cuban Art. The institution is distinguished by several collections: the Count of Lagunillas, considered one of the most important in the world for its variety and richness, with more than 600 unique pieces. There is also an outstanding compilation of Spanish painting, the most significant that exists outside Spain; the Latin American colonial painting; Japanese prints, and the foundation stones of Mesopotamia, classed among the oldest pieces. The European painting is the largest set of universal art, highlighting works of Italian and Flemish Renaissance, Spanish Baroque, and French and British painting of the 19th and 18th centuries, respectively. Likewise, stands out the building of Cuban Art as institution promoting the arts in the broadest sense. There can be seen an integrative view of the different art forms, from the colonial times between the 16th and 19th centuries to the present. In addition to the spaces dedicated to the exhibition of art, its inner courtyard, portals and theater serve as scene for concerts, workshops, fashion shows and community projects, among other activities.
havana-live-museum-of-fine-art3These are some of the values treasured by the emblematic cultural building that held its century over 2013 with dissimilar activities that will extend the celebration until next year. The centenary of the NMFA was included among the most important anniversaries of year to Unesco, distinction that, according to the director of this institution, Moraima Clavijo, is a great recognition for Cuba and all the museum workers.She recalled that the celebration of 100 years of Fine Arts began with the exhibition The Origins of the Collection, which brought back many of the original works in an attempt to rescue the institutional memory, she said. Clavijo remarked that this show was followed by others which, throughout the year, bring people closer to the museum thesaurus, confirming it as a source of amusement and endless culture.

By Marnie Fiallo* 

havana-live-buenavistaAdios Tour is the title of the world tour that the mythical Cuban Group Buena Vista Social Club will begin at the end of June of several European countries, with which they will put an end to an important work cycle.
Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos, director of the group, announced in a press conference that the tour will end in November, 2015, that it will take them to several countries in Europe, Latin America, and Africa and also to the United States, and that it will conclude in Havana with two concerts at the Karl Marx Theater. The tour will pay tribute to brilliant musicians that were part of Buena Vista and are no longer with it, like late greats Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo, among others.
Ramos added that the group will record a series of albums with songs that made them popular and others not included in any of the albums recorded so far by Buena Vista.

havana-live-castro-kirchner1Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, left, talks with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, right, and Fidel’s wife Dalia Soto del Valle during a private meeting, on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 in Havana.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez met with a frail-looking Fidel Castro on Sunday while in Cuba for a regional summit, posting pictures of the two smiling together on her Twitter account. Castro, who has rarely been seen in public since he handed power to his brother Raul in 2006, was wearing one of his customary tracksuits in the photos. In one shot, Castro appears to be signing photos of himself for Fernandez.havana-live-castro-kirchner2
Fernandez wrote on Twitter that Castro had invited her to lunch along with his daughter, Florencia. She said she was “enchanted” by the meeting and, offering a glimpse of the meal conversation, said the two leaders shared “infinite nostalgia” for the late Hugo Chavez.
Fernandez is in Havana to attend the second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Castro is holding private meetings with some of the heads of state in town for the meeting in an unofficial capacity. NBC’s Mary Murray contributed to this report from Havana.havana-live-castro-kirchner3

By Carlo Dellaverson, Digital Producer, NBC News
Photo Argentina’s Press Office via AP

havana-live-taxi-cubaA SOUTHGATE cabbie with a passion for the achievements of the Cuban revolution is donating his London taxi to a museum in the Caribbean island’s capital Havana.
Tony Caccavone, 70, of Conway Road, is sending his Cuban-themed cab to the Havana Motor Museum in the heart of Old Havana after 16 years of service in which the Hackney carriage has clocked up just under 400,000 miles. Mr Caccavone has driven the black cab,which carries an advertisement for Cuban holidays and has the island’s flag painted on the bonnet and roof, around the capital in an attempt to “tell the other story” about the island. He became interested in the nation when he picked up a Canadian tourist in 1995, who told him it was a popular destination for his countrymen and women.
A year later, the cabbie and his late wife Christina flew on holiday to the island, which has been subject to a commercial, economic, and financial embargo by the United States since 1960 after the US-backed Batista regime was deposed by the revolution led by Fidel Castro. “When I got there, I got very angry about the poverty and lack of products in shops because of the embargo,” he told the Advertiser. “But look at what the country has achieved despite it – more doctors per capita than any other country in the world, very low infant mortality rates, most of its lawyers and politicians are women and there is no racism.”
Mr Caccavone said that when he returned from that holiday he went to the Cuban embassy in London, where he learned about the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and decided to paint the nation’s colours on the cab. He added: “I wanted to tell the other side of the story. I have taken politicians, lawyers and diplomats around London and told them about the Cuban revolution. I used to especially love driving around the American embassy.
“The museum will be the cab’s final resting place, its spiritual home. My gift is a homage to the resilience of the Cuban people.”
In 1997, Mr Caccavone shipped his cab to New York, where he led a convoy of more than 50 vehicles across the border with Canada in protest against the US embargo.
The group flew to Cuba afterwards and Mr Caccavone met Castro, who thanked the taxi driver for his efforts.
The taxi will be shipped to Havana next month.
Mr Caccavone, who has no plans to retire, is now driving a regular rented black cab.

By Koos Couvée North London Press

havana-live-Real-Estate--modifiedCuban citizens may now turn to real estate agencies (both state and approved private) to rent buildings as dwellings or offices, commercial establishments and storage sites, the daily Juventud Rebelde reported on Wednesday.
Until now, the state-run agencies could rent spaces only to foreign and state-run companies and to foreigners living in Cuba, not to ordinary citizens. Resolution No. 551-2013 by the Ministry of Finance and Prices has established minimum monthly rental fees in convertible pesos (CUC) per square meter of living space, Juventud Rebelde says. There are restrictions. Buildings may not be rented for use as diplomatic sites (embassies or consulates), international schools, news agencies or nongovernmental organizations, the newspaper says.
But the rented buildings may be used as private dwellings, offices, commercial establishments and storage sites. The buildings may have been originally designed as private homes or not. According to Juventud Rebelde, the new measure “provides new impetus and support for self-employed entrepreneurship and other forms of non-state management.” “Cuban entrepreneurs now can ‘base’ their economic initiatives […] in sites and buildings to which they had no previous access, and thus enter new segments of the market.”
Minimum rental fee for a dwelling will be 5 CUC per square meter; for commercial use, 7 CUC. One CUC is the equivalent of one U.S. dollar. But that rate is applicable only if the building was originally designed as a private home. If the building was erected as a commercial structure, the fee will be 10 CUC per square yard per month. Rental fees above the minimum will be agreed upon by the contracting parties, depending on location, comfort, accessibility and other market considerations. Among those considerations: whether the building has a swimming pool, parking space or areas for public access. Also if the building has “patrimonial” or historic value. The rental fees do not include water, electricity, telephone, gas, sewage and Internet facilities, all of which must be contracted with each provider. The new resolution also permits foreigners living in Cuba to rent out their property to Cuban citizens by availing themselves of the state-run real estate agencies. For this service, the agencies may charge a minimum commission of 5 percent over the rental fee.

(Havana Times) 

havana-live-capiteaux-etrangereCuba plans to open its economy to greater foreign investment under a new law to be taken up soon by its legislature, a report in state-run media said Saturday.
Outside investment no longer would be merely a “complement” to Cuba’s state-run economy but “would occupy a major role” under the proposed law, said Pedro San Jorge, a top official at Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment.
The national assembly is take up the bill in March as part of an ongoing overhaul of Cuba’s Soviet-style economy under President Raul Castro. San Jorge, who heads the ministry’s economic policy office, said it envisions among other things a role for foreign investment in agriculture, which he said was unusual.
His remarks were published in Cuba’s Opciones weekly newspaper. A 1995 law mandates that foreign capital should play only a complementary role in Cuba’s economy, including providing funds and technological know-how to enterprises run by the Cuban state. San Jorge said that the planned changes reflect the “current circumstances” faced by Cuba, which has been struggling to get out from under an inefficient, top heavy, state-run industrial apparatus.
Castro last month called an extraordinary session of the assembly in March to approve the bill. He said that the measure opening up the economy to outside investment seeks to attract greater foreign capital, generate new jobs and bolster domestic industry. Castro said he also wants to increase Cuba’s exports and reduce its dependence on goods purchased from overseas. “You have to strengthen the country’s capacity to generate many of the products that we currently import,” the Cuban leader said.
The island of some 11.1 million people has seen some significant changes since 2011.
The reforms have covered everything from the currency system to the kinds of jobs Cubans are permitted to take on as self-employed workers. Castro also has created hundreds of cooperatives from former state enterprises, in a bid to reduce the legions of state workers who get a government paycheck.

andree_moore_1In one of Andrew Moore’s photographs of Cuba, on display through Feb. 15 at Couturier Gallery in Los Angeles, a half-dozen men and women are hanging out at an aging ferry terminal. Their postures are casual and unself-conscious, yet they form a quasi-theatrical tableau. One couple appears absorbed in intimate conversation. A single man rests his head on his hands. Through the modest structure’s three arched openings, the verdant tropical landscape can be glimpsed.
The image is titled “La Espera,” a Spanish word that can mean both “wait” and “hope.” No further commentary is needed to evoke the bittersweet mood that pervades the prints on display as well as in Moore’s just-published oversize book, “Cuba.”
Moore is something of a connoisseur of time’s melancholy, corrosive effects on buildings, cities, human beings. His haunting book of images, “Detroit Disassembled,” captures the Motor City in all the tattered grandeur of its postindustrial decline. Mainly devoid of any human presence, his Detroit pictures allow abandoned railway terminals and ruined movie houses to speak for themselves. “It’s the way architecture represents history and the way buildings tell the story of our times, and the way they are kind of a witness to our times,” says Moore, who makes his home in New York. “Whether that’s a reliable witness or not, they definitely bear witness.”
By contrast, his new book of Cuba photos conjures the hardships but also the teeming humanity of the Caribbean island nation. In one portrait, two handsome, intense-looking young men, posing with their crude, hand-made boogie boards beside the gray surf, suggest a pair of scarred warrior-knights nobly bearing their shields into battle.
Another image depicts the decrepit interior of one of Cuba’s countless colonial-era edifices, reborn during the Castro era as a barbershop. A painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus bears watch over the barber and his customer, while in a baroque touch worthy of Diego Velázquez, a side mirror reveals another man hovering somewhere outside the camera frame. “I really like kind of being a detective,” Moore says. “I like to follow leads and getting into places and talking to folks. havana-live-Andrew_mooreThat’s why Cuba was so fun, because pretty much any door you knocked on, somebody would welcome you into their house.”
Yet another image of a living room, though it contains no people, summons their presence through its composition: the humble mismatched furniture, the non-working Russian-made television, the salvaged odds and ends that pass for decor. “There wasn’t any scrap of material that wasn’t repurposed, reused, reconfigured in some sort of way,” Moore observes. In Cuba, he says, there’s always “this mixture of high and low, of the elegant and the improvised.”Decades before Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army toppled the Batista dictatorship, Cuba was an enticing subject for foreign photographers, most notably Walker Evans, who went to Havana on assignment in the 1930s. But whereas Evans, ever the photographer-flâneur, kept a certain detachment from his Cuban subjects, Moore’s images manifest a palpable empathy.

By Reed Johnson

havana-live-startup1Former Treasury minister Philip Oppenheim has signed a deal with Cuba, which will allow his start-up business, The Cuba Mountain Coffee Company, to purchase high-quality coffee and invest into the Cuban agriculture industry. Before the revolution, Cuba was one of the biggest coffee producers in the world but the industry has shrunk by more than 90pc over the past 50 years. Under the terms of the deal, the company, which trades as Alma de Cuba, will invest $4m (£2.4m) into the coffee farming community in the south east of the country over the next five years.
havana-live-handbeans“By investing into nursery, root stocks, and the processes that strip the cherries from the beans, we will improve the quality and the quantity of the coffee produced,” said Mr Oppenheim. “We get these very rare coffee beans and the Cuban farmers get what they need to grow more.” Before the revolution, Cuba was one of the biggest coffee producers in the world but the industry has shrunk by more than 90pc over the past 50 years. Cuba now produces just 500,000 tonnes of coffee a year.
“Only a small percentage of that is high quality,“ said Mr Oppenheim, who has a long history of working with Cuba. He owns Cubana, a Cuban-themed bar near Waterloo in London. “I buy rum and raw sugar from Cuba for the bar,” he said. “It’s a small country, so you get to know people.”Mr Oppenheim first started exploring other business opportunities in Cuba 10 years ago. Mr Oppenheim first started exploring other business opportunities in Cuba 10 years ago. havana-live-mapcrystal-mountain-coffee“The rum business was owned by Pernod Ricard and Imperial Tobacco dominated in cigars,” he said. “Cuba has the perfect climate for growing coffee and, with its illustrious coffee-making past, that was the most exciting opportunity.”
This deal marks a new chapter in the liberalisation of Cuba. “It was hard to get a foot in the door,” Mr Oppenheim said. “The Cubans are suspicious of foreigners. They remember the Americans coming in and buying up all the sugar plantations and don’t want that to happen again. But this deal proves that Cuba is becoming an exciting emerging market for entrepreneurs.” Alma de Cuba roasts and packages the Cuban coffee beans in the UK.
“The price point is about 20p-30p a cup,” said Mr Oppenheim. “That’s much cheaper than Starbucks and much better quality.”

Rebecca Burn

havana-live-art--beautiful-florida-keysLess than one month after the departure of the first commercial flight from Key West to Havana in more than 50 years, another kind of U.S.-Cuba exchange will begin: the first cross-cultural gallery exchange in just as many decades.
In Havana, at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the project (dubbed One Race, the Human Race) will kick off with an exhibition of work by the late Mario Sanchez — a selection of which can be seen below. Sanchez, a Key West folk artist, was a second-generation American descended from Cuban immigrants. Then, in February, Key West will host several of Cuba’s most prominent artists for residencies and exhibitions.Nance Frank, who curated the Sanchez show, says she knows that many Americans have an idea of Cuba that doesn’t include a booming arts scene, but that she hopes this exchange helps bring attention to a society that venerates artists in a way she hasn’t seen in the States, and allows them privileges not every Cuban has (for example, she says, they can accept foreign currency when selling their work). Her hopes are particularly high because it was so hard to pull off, especially when it came to insurance and getting permission from the U.S. government to bring Cuban artists to Florida. “Until I got off the plane in Havana with the [Sanchez] artwork, about a month ago,” she recalls, “I was holding my breath.”havana-live-art-la-comparsa-de-al-bolsahavana-live-art-strawberry-grouperhavana-live-art-lucky-fish-rhumbahavana-live-art-famous-key-west-landmarkjpghavana-live-art-el-galano

By Lily Rothman

havana-live-wilsonCuban and British entrepreneurs started a Business Forum in the Cuban capital Tuesday, with the objective to stimulate the economic and commercial relations between Cuba and the Great Britain. On the first day, Omar Fernandez, general secretary of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the importance of the presentations of this event on sectors of the Cuban national economy, such as tourism, renewable energy, biotechnology and agricultural industry.Fernandez highlighted the potential for developing beneficial projects for both countries, to give continuity to businesses already started by enterprises from Cuba and UK, or those which can propitiate new exchanges.
He also talked about the work deployed in the last years by Iniciativa Cuba, an entity formed by British managers and officials that constitutes an important alternative for the promotion of the economic links, since other bilateral mechanisms do not exist.
For his part, the UK business ambassador, Brian Wilson, said that the bilateral economic links have had a progress in the last years since the UK established its presence in the Caribbean island at the time that Cuban managers are interested in establishing new joint ventures with the European nation.
Wilson highlighted the existence of renovated interests to empower this relation between Cuba and the UK and considered that the project of the Mariel Special Development Area is a favorable opportunity to promote them. The Forum of Business among the two countries will have this Wednesday another intense day of of work with the realization of a workshop on agricultural energy.

havana-live-cathedralAn exhibit of bible-related millenary relics was opened in Havana, which also displayed a series of funerary face packs of ancient Egypt, papyruses and other archeological pieces. The sample, named: The Bible, the path of God on the path of Man, is being exhibited at Havana´s Cathedral till February 2 and it is made up of 72 objects related to the history of sacred writings belonging to the Christian and Jewish religions. At the inauguration of the exhibit, Havana´s historian Eusebio Leal stressed the significance of the arrival of the pieces for Cuban culture, since they are testimonies of universal history.Meanwhile, Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega thanked the efforts of local authorities and individuals to make the exhibition a reality.
havana-live-SpenglerThe opening of the exhibition was attended by first vice-president Miguel Diaz Canel and by presidential advisor Abel Prieto, as well as special guests such as French Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, who is in charge of the famous secret archives and the library of the Vatican.