cbf-logo-transparant-orangeHavana, Apr 16 (Prensa Latina) Cuba and the United States will have another space for dialogue during the Conference of the Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects to gather in Havana next week, informed its organizers.

To the event scheduled from April 18 to 23, will attend 165 U.S. professionals interested in the progress achieved by the island in that field, told journalists Geo Darder, president of the Copperbridge U.S. Foundation.

According to Darder, the U.S. delegation includes renowned professionals as one of the one responsible for the iconic skyscraper Lipstick of New York and a professor of the University of Miami who published a book on the diaspora of Cuban architecture.

The event will start on Monday in the San Geronimo College of Havana, with a cycle of conferences of Cuban specialists to promote work done to date on studies, conservation and rescue of architectural patrimony of the city.

Visitors will also be able to appreciate that reality firsthand, when they tour places of interest such as the Grand Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso which reopened its doors this year, or the Capitol, whose remodeling work is in execution.

They will also share experiences with Cuban students linked to architecture and design in the cultural center Fabrica de Arte in the capital.

The event closes next weekend in the western province of Matanzas, where the U.S. participants will know the main landmarks of architecture of this city known as the Athens of Cuba, as well as the buildings of the Varadero resort.

This will be the biggest meeting on architecture held in the island since the 12th World Art Deco Cogress in 2013, which for a few days turned Havana in the capital of that peculiar design style, with the participation of over 200 professionals of 15 countries.

cubaHAVANA, April 16th (REUTERS)  Cuba’s Communist Party meets on today under pressure for the slow pace of promised market reforms as it prepares for a future without the octogenarian leaders who guided the country from a 1959 revolution to a cautious embrace of the United States.

The meeting is the Communist Party’s first congress in five years and the first since President Raul Castro and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama announced they were to end decades of enmity and seek normal relations.

The party has been secretive about the agenda of the meeting, even by Cuba’s opaque standards, triggering grumbling among younger members who have grown accustomed to a freer flow of information and contact with the world.

As well as the lack of discussion, party foot soldiers said they were worried that the country had not implemented quickly enough the sweeping market reforms adopted at the last party congress in 2011 to avoid economic collapse.

“The economic plan is still getting on track but it needs to accelerate,” said Wilson Batista, who has been a party member for twenty years.

“The world’s policies, the world’s economy changes daily and we need to adjust ourselves exactly. We need to get on the world economic train.”

Cuba has improved its financial credibility over the last five years, running trade and current account surpluses and restructuring US$50 billion in mainly old debt, although harsh U.S. sanctions remain in place.

A nascent middle-class has emerged, making money from small businesses such as construction and hospitality. But in what one Cuban blogger called “paralysis at the cliff edge,” the party has not relinquished control of trade or larger businesses.

The party has implemented about a fifth of the measures it adopted in 2011, and Cubans are eager for more, especially a unification of the country’s two currencies and an end to the government’s monopoly on imports and exports.

Many Cubans are tired of waiting, especially young professionals who are rarely allowed to set up private practices. With news from the outside world closer thanks to more Internet access and booming tourism, ever greater numbers are taking advantage of new freedoms to travel and emigrate.

The congress takes place three weeks after Obama made history as the first U.S. president to visit the island in 88 years and eloquently called for more political freedom and democracy in the one-party state.

His words are unlikely to be heeded, because the party sees itself as the greatest defence against Washington’s past attempts to dominate Cuba.

Cuba’s top leaders started their careers as young guerrilla fighters who overthrew a U.S. backed government in 1959, and a few years later repelled the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion – which the party congress is timed to commemorate.

Now, party chief Raul Castro is 84 and his top lieutenant in the party, José Ramón Machado Ventura is 85.

Castro is due to retire as president in 2018 and by the end of the four-day congress it will be clear whether he remains as party leader until 2021, or whether somebody younger takes over the leadership.

Founded in 1965, the Communist Party is seen as more powerful in Cuba than the government. It was formally led by Fidel Castro until 2011, although his younger brother had effectively taken command several years earlier.

havana-live-tennisHAVANA, abril 15 th  A US company is getting ready to make history itself all for what it’s doing in Cuba.
Hinding of HINDING TENNIS is heading to Cuba with his crew to rebuild tennis courts at the National Tennis Center in Havana.

The project is the brainchild of Burlington tennis pro Jake Agna, who started the non-profit, “Kids on the Ball” in 2001. After years of helping at-risk youth through the organization in the states, it was Agna’s vision for every Cuban child to have an opportunity to play tennis.

Hinding says the project got approval from the U.S. government and the Cuban government, “It is a tremendous opportunity for us and we feel humbled and honored to just be a part of it. I mean it’s been 53 years since a U.S. company has done a brick and mortar project in Cuba.”Hinding%20Caribbean%20Logo_full

In 1991 the Cubans held the Pan American Games there, but now the courts are crumbling and the nets are held up by chairs. “Kids with wooden racquets, broken strings and balls with no felt on them and no nets just a wire line across, but these kids were out there engaging in tennis matches,” said Hinding.

Hinding says without decent equipment kids were still determined to play tennis. “The Cuban kids in terms of their desire to want to play this sport we noticed from the moment we showed up at this facility.” Hinding Tennis will rebuild 10 courts. The renovations to the courts will cost nearly $600,000 but when it’s finished it will be a world class facility.

But most of all, Hinding said it will bring kids together, “Just seeing the whole thing transform to where they are going to have a facility where they are going to be proud of everyday.”

The materials to construct the project will be sent to Cuba in April and the project will start in May. It will take about two weeks to restore the courts.

77195326HAVANA, Apr 14 (PL) The 7th Iberoamerican Congress on Nuclear Cardiology, which begins today, is an opportunity for young specialists to learn about the latest technology and also exchange experiences, the president of the organizing committee, Amalia Peix said at the opening ceremony.

During the ceremony, the also president of nuclear cardiology section of the Cuban Society of Cardiology, stressed the importance of the event, in which more than 200 Latin American, European and US specialists participate, including the president of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC), Dr. Brian Abbot, MD.

Peix also told Prensa Latina that from the Cuba prepares for a technological and professional development to progress in nuclear cardiology to contribute to the use of imaging techniques in cardiovascular diagnoses to effectively predict risks and select the treatment of each patient.

In the morning, the head of the department of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging at Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston gave a masterly lecture on the current role of nuclear cardiology against emerging methods. Throughout the day, other conferences and workshops were held focused on the contribution of nuclear cardiology in the heart failure treatment.

This 7th Iberoamerican Congress on Nuclear Cardiology is sponsored by the ASNC, the Cuban Public Health Ministry, the American College of Cardiology; among other institutions, and will be held until April 16 in Havana.

HAVANA, april 13th The story of America and Cuba — their decades of hostility, why it lasted so long, why it’s now finally ending — is often misunderstood in the US as a story about the Cold War. But in truth, it’s a story a full century older about slavery, clashing empires, and a long-running struggle within America to decide what kind of country we were going to be. When you see that, what’s happening today between Cuba and the US starts to make a lot more sense:

Americans don’t talk about this chapter in our history much today, but around the turn of the 19th century the country’s politics were divided over a question of national identity: Would the United States become an explicitly imperial power, joining the great powers of Europe in dividing up the world? Or would it champion its founding ideals of democracy by supporting independence movements around the globe?

This debate played out in the US just as the once-great Spanish Empire was crumbling. Cuba was a Spanish colony then; independence activists there rose up in 1895, and in 1898 the US declared war on Spain to help them.

But as the war progressed, American politicians argued: Should the US seize Cuba as its own colony, or should it stick to its word and support Cuban independence?

The Spanish-American War wasn’t just about Cuba. It was also over the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean; the island of Guam in the Pacific; and, largest of all, the Philippines, a series of large islands in Southeast Asia.

But debate in the US focused especially on Cuba. Partly this was because Cuba, so near to the US, inspired especially strong feelings in many Americans. And partly it was because there had been an earlier debate, in the 1850s, over whether to seize Cuba as a new US slave state.

By the time the war ended, both sides of the American debate had passed legislation in Congress meant to codify their preferred outcome. As a result, the US ended up with an odd quasi-imperial policy toward Cuba: The US would not seize it outright as a colony (something it did with Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines) but would take over Guantanamo Bay, control Cuba’s external affairs, and reserve the right to intervene on the island.

America’s imperial era in Cuba lasted only about 30 years. Franklin D. Roosevelt came into office in 1933 wanting to end America’s experiment with imperialism, and began unwinding US control over Cuba and the Philippines.

But within 20 years, the US would get involved in Cuba again, this time backing a military dictator who had seized power and was fighting a war with communist rebels.

Americans — who have never had much of a historical memory — saw this as just one of many proxy conflicts against communism’s global spread. But many Cubans saw it as a repeat of American imperialism. So when the US tried over and over to topple or even kill Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro, this felt, to many Cubans, like America trying to reassert its old colonial control over the island.

That’s far from the only reason the US-Cuba conflict lasted so long. As you’ll see in the video above, it’s also, as just one example, about the political conflict between Castro and Cuban dissidents that just happened to play out through American politics. But when you see that imperial legacy, and the way it’s been experienced by Cubans, the history starts to make a lot more sense. And this new era of normal relations looks even more historic.


havana-live-chef-trainingHAVANA, Apr 13 (PL) Cuban tourism authorities are immerse in plans of formation of young chefs in order to guarantee the next generation of this specialty, so necessary in the recreation industry.

That strategy seems today supported in several meetings, as one organized in Old Havana starting today to 16 April in hotel facilities, organized by Habaguanex company, with business in this zone.

The idea announced by spokespersons of that firm, pretends the gourmet development through cuisine specialists to give a big boost to the Fourth Scientific Student event under the slogan Entrepreneuring with Flavor.

That event, they officially said, has a theoretical part located in the Hotel Ambos Mundos, facility intimately related to the presence in Cuba of U.S. Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway.

In that meeting will participate sommeliers, barmen, enologists, chefs and specialists in food security.

The coordinator of the Program of Formation of Entrepreneurial Youths, Angel Aguilera (organizer of the event), stressed that the meeting will also have scenarios in the Natural History Museum, Library Ruben Martinez Villena and the private restaurant La Moneda Cubana (Cuban Coin).

Lectures on rescue of Havana cuisine, international and national cocktail history, good table habits, sustainable cooking and gastronomical services.

Those events will be attended by Chef Charo Val of Spain, who recently obtained the Quality Award in Beijing, China and will present the paper Sustainable Cooking, vanguard, tradition and product.

Organized by the Program of Young Entrepreneurs Training, the meeting is sponsored by several state entities, the Office of the City Historian, Habaguanex, Federation of Culinary Associations of Cuba, Havana Club International S.A. and the Barmen Association of Cuba.

HAVANA, april 13th (Reuters) Cuba announced on Tuesday that some cooperatives offering food and other services will be able to buy supplies directly from government producers and wholesale outlets for the first time, part of a wider but so far cautiously implemented market reform program.

The new rules mean some former state-run companies turned into cooperatives on the Communist-led island will no longer have to buy from more expensive retail outlets.

Odalys Escandell, first vice minister of domestic trade, said on the government’s evening news broadcast the move was “transcendental”, but Tuesday’s measures do not fulfill an earlier promise to let private restaurants do the same, leaving in place a key constraint on their business viability.

The steps, which go into effect on May 2, come just four days before a Communist Party Congress which is expected review market-oriented reforms begun five years ago.

The news report said wholesale outlets will be gradually established for the cooperatives. Over time, a series of products will be made available to them at lower prices, along with a tax cut, in exchange for setting price controls on the retail offer.

“Why are we establishing maximum prices? Because it is a system to protect the consumer,” Escandell said.

Cuba recently reversed an experiment to end state control of distribution of farm produce, after food prices rocketed above their previously subsidized levels.

Cuba has turned over to employees thousands of small state-run establishments, from coffee, snack and barber shops to locksmiths and shoeshine kiosks. The workers rent the premises and compete with private businesses on the open market.

The government has also ordered some 500 larger state-run establishments, from beauty salons to restaurants, to become cooperatives as a pilot project before thousands more follow suit.

Economy minister Marino Murillo made clear upon announcing plans to turn state-run businesses into cooperatives two years ago, that they would be favored over private businesses.

“They are a more social form of production,” he said at the time.

havana-live-IMTC LogoHAVANA, april 12th (PRNewswire)  IMTC, the premier events of the International Money Transfer & Payments Industry, has announced today that after several meetings with Cuban authorities, the IMTC CUBA 2016 Conference has been given a green light.

IMTC hosts the world’s largest Money Transfer Conferences and Trade Fairs. With remittances continuing to rise, the industry is seeing significant changes to the traditional business models with new developments from the Fintech sector and a strong development of digital channels.

The main objective of this one-of-a-kind event is to explore the remittance and financial service sector in Cuba, looking at the past to understand the present and analyze what the future will bring, starting from the very small number of financial services firms that exist today to the opportunities that lay ahead.

Remittances are a very important source of capital for the island but estimates of remittances sent to Cuban families vary widely. Remittance expert Manuel Orozco, from the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington estimates that about 550,000 people send an average $1,250 a year to the island, or about $770 millionannually.

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America estimated that $1.8 billion made it to the island in 2015. But when non cash contributions of merchandise, airtime minutes and other sources are added up, the total value could be 2 or 3 times higher.

havana-live-Carnival SplendorHAVANA, april 12th (EFE) The Cuban American community in Florida will stage a protest on Tuesday before the offices of Carnival Cruise Line because Cuban authorities will not allow them to travel to the communist island on board cruise ships that will sail there regularly starting on May 1.

The Democracy Movement convened the demonstration to call attention to the “discrimination” the prohibition by Havana represents, the group’s leader, Ramon Saul Sanchez, told EFE on Monday.

The controversy erupted on the weekend after a reporter with the daily El Nuevo Herald tried to buy a ticket on the first of the cruise liners scheduled to sail to Cuba and was told by the firm that they would not accept her as a passenger because Cuban law prohibits her from traveling to the island.

The journalist wrote an article denouncing the situation and since then the complaints have multiplied.

Sanchez told EFE that on Sunday he met with a top Carnival official to express his outrage over the fact that the company is agreeing to the discriminatory practice.

According to the exile group’s leader, the official said that the firm does not agree with the prohibition either and has lobbied the island’s authorities not to apply the law to cruise lines, so far without results.

Under the slogan “Carnival Stop Nationality Apartheid,” the Democracy Movement is not only preparing the Tuesday demonstration but has also organized a flotilla to protest the matter by sea on May 1, when the Carnival vessel Adonia sets sail for Cuba.

2CCC50D9-55C3-44BF-A124-1FA868C81BC3_w640_r1_s_cx0_cy1_cw0HAVANA, Apr 11th (ACN)  With a new season of Swan Lake, the National Ballet of Cuba returns to its usual scenarios at Alicia Alonso Havana Grand Theatre, presenting a renewed cast.

From next April 22 to 29, fans of this genre can enjoy the much desired return, which includes four young dancers who make their debut in this new face of the company.

One of them is Patricio Revé, who in his short career has already been honored with important accomplishments in the International Academies Encounter for the teaching of ballet in Cuba, and this time he plays the role of Prince Siegfried.

There is also the multi-awarded Rafael Quenedit, who has won prizes like the Gold Medal of the International Ballet Competition in South Africa and the highest award for Masters Technique in the Academies International Contest for Teaching Ballet.

This cast is completed by already recognized figures in the Cuban dancing stage as the prima ballerinas Viengsay Valdes, Estheysis Menendez, Grettel Morejon, Sadaise Arencibia and Anette Delgado, along with leading dancer Dani Hernández, all accompanied by soloists and corps de ballet of the company.

Tickets for the expected revival will be on sale from April 19 in the usual schedules at the box office of the Alicia Alonso Havana Grand Theatre, located in 458th of Prado St., between San Jose and San Rafael, in Old Havana.

havana-live-cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169HAVANA, april 11th.(CNN) Most of the images we see out of Cuba are similar — classic cars here, vibrantly colored buildings there. But Joan Alvado shows us something different. His photo series, “Cuban Muslims,” focuses on the lives of those who have converted to Islam.

 “When I learned there was Islam and a Muslim community, I really liked it because I never heard of it,” Alvado said. “It was breaking all the preconceived ideas that we have about Cuban society.”
An estimated 85% of Cubans are Catholic. But only 0.1% of the population — just a few thousand people — are Muslim, according to a 2009 study by the Pew Research Center (PDF). Alvado says almost all of them are converts.

“That applies to absolutely everybody in (my photo) series,” he said. “Many of them were Christians before or some other religion, or a few of them were atheists as well.”
He says the reasons for conversion vary. While some people view Islam as “a little bit more true or pure religion than others,” there are those who turn to Islam for more personal and specific reasons. He provided the example of how Islam might be positive for those who have problems with alcohol, as Islam is a way for them to avoid alcohol.havana-live-cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169 -cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169

The Quran forbids the consumption of intoxicants and alcoholic beverages. There are challenges, though, that come with practicing Islam in a country where it’s such a drastic minority. One of the main ones is finding a place to worship. “The communities are being organized in very, very small groups, and someone in each group will offer their home on Fridays (to pray) or something like that,” he said.

Alvado says Cuban Muslims are constantly learning about their new religion and evolving together. “Everyone is doing a little bit of their own interpretation on how to read (Islamic) rules and be with them, more or less, and that’s interesting,” he said. One of his photos, No. 11 in the gallery above, shows a woman struggling to put on an Islamic scarf.

“This woman had been Christian all her life, really a devoted Christian for many, many years of her life,” he said. “That’s why, for me, (the photo series) is really speaking about identity and confusion.” Alvado adds that this project was just as much of a learning experience for him. “I have learned more things about Islam and Islamic beliefs and their ideas in Havana than working in Turkey,” the Spanish photographer said.
havana-live-cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169 -09-cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169Cuba is a spiritual and passionate city, he said, especially when it comes to religion. In the beginning, he wasn’t sure how people would react to him wanting to photograph their lives. Working to develop a mutual respect and being open about his intents from the outset — such as by making sure his subjects knew he is atheist — was a significant part of his work.

Alvado says he will visit Cuba again later this year. When he told some of the people he photographed that he hopes to publish these images in a book one day, he says they reacted with excitement at the idea that other people would be able to see their experiences as Muslims in Cuba.
havana-live-cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169 -cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169“I felt that they are wanting their story to be told, and it didn’t happen before,” Alvado said. “To see that they have these expectations about what can come out of it, it made me have a reflection about myself. You also have some sort of responsibility towards them about what you are going to do with this.”160407160925-03-cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169havana-live-cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169cnnphotos-cuban-muslims-restricted-super-169

Joan Alvado is a documentary photographer based in Barcelona, Spain. You can find him on Facebookand Visura.

1459653446_photo_181323HAVANA, april 10 (Progress weely)  Kazakhstan and Cuba have signed an agreement whereby the Central Asian republic offers to sell the island crude oil and help in the onshore and offshore search for the valuable hydrocarbon.

The agreement was reached on April 2, just after the arrival in Havana of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his first ever visit to Cuba. It was signed by Energy ministers Kanat Bozumbayev and Alfredo López Valdés, noted the Astana Times.

“Today with Mr. Valdés we have signed a memorandum on joint actions in the spheres of the oil and gas industry, the exploration of oil deposits in the coastal zone of Cuba, and the possible supply of Kazakh oil to a Cuban refinery,” Bozumbayev told The Times.

“Like other Latin American countries, Cuba is seriously engaged in scientific developments in order to compensate for the energy deficit. In some Latin American countries, the share of renewable energy reaches 90 percent. Today, we discussed this topic during the meeting. Cuba conducts major scientific research to increase the use of renewable energy sources,” said the president of Astana EXPO 2017, Akhmetzhan Yessimov, a member of the delegation.

In Kazakhstan this week, the deputy director of the Oil and Gas Institute, Akbar Tukayev, admitted to “a certain skepticism.” He questioned the need for the offer, pointing out that Cuba “consumes only 8 million tons of oil a year and has stable relations with Venezuela.”

Venezuela accounts for 80 percent of Cuba’s oil supply, which it furnishes at subsidized prices, Tukayev said. The rest comes from Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and other countries.

The Venezuelan oil, purchased under highly favorable undisclosed terms, depends on the continuing of Nicolas Maduro in the presidency as the opposition has promised to either cut the deliveries to the island or demand a renegotiation more favorable to Venezuelan national interests.

In his opinion, Cuba’s interest in oil cooperation with Kazakhstan can be explained by Havana’s desire to diversify its circle of suppliers, and also to procure new types of oil products, besides those obtained from Venezuelan crude.

“Thus, the potential volume of supply from Kazakhstan will be no more than 5,000 barrels per day, which is achieved with just a few oil tankers per year,” the expert said.

Kazakhstan produced 79.5 million tons of oil in 2015. Production estimates for 2016 were recently revised down from 77 million tons to 74 million.

“The main risks that Kazakhstan may face in exporting [crude to Cuba] are the distance between the two countries and Cuba’s solvency,” Tukayev told the Centrasia News Agency. “However, Havana’s interest in Kazakh oil will reduce the risks for our country,” he added.

Kazakhstan’s other competitors include Russiaís Rosneft and the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), which signed agreements in 2014 that would expand production along Cuba’s northern coast. Companies that have pursued exploration activities in Cuba in the past include Brazil’s Petrobras, Spain’s Repsol, Malaysia’s Petronas, Russia’s Zarubezhneft, and Venezuela’s Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA).

havana-live-cuban beerHAVANA, april 9th (EFE) Beer production in Cuba is far from meeting the country’s growing demand in stores, inns and hotels, due to the large increase in tourism, a demand that can only be met by building a new brewery, the island’s producers said.

The current demand for beer is beyond the capacity of Cuba’s existing breweries, which have signed contracts for more than 33 million cases at the Business Fair being held this week in Havana, considerably more than their current production capability will allow, local media said Friday.

This year’s production plan for the mixed company Bucanero, which produces four local beer brands, is to turn out 19 million cases, while importing 3 million cases of the Dominican brew Presidente, according to marketing specialist Mayle Gonzalez of the Cuban state news agency ACN.

The boom in cafes and restaurants, mainly in the island’s growing private sector, and the increasing influx of tourists have sent requests for this product through the roof, which is why “we have to build a new brewery to cover these requirement of the economy,” Gonzalez said.

The mixed company Cerveceria Bucanero S.A., partly owned by the Ministry of the Food Industry, has had production problems due to delays in shipments to the country of the principal raw material, brewing malt from the Czech Republic, a factor, together with the increased demand, that has led to shortages on the market.

The Bucanero company produces four brands of Cuban beer – Cacique, Mayabe, Cristal, and, of course, Bucanero.

Cristal is the best-selling beer on the island, since it represents 47 percent of total production and, according to market surveys, is the brew Cubans prefer.

havana-live-carnivalHAVANA, april 9th Starting next month, Cubans who are no longer citizens of the country will not be allowed to travel to the island via cruise ship with Carnival Corporation, according to a report from CBS Miami.

The cruise line is following the request of the Cuban government to discriminate against Cuban-born people beginning May 1st.

The company released a statement defending the action, while simultaneously saying they will apply pressure for reconsideration:

“Cuba has a longstanding regulation that no Cuban-born individuals are allowed to travel to or from Cuba by ship. This regulation applies to all cruise lines, ferries and any form of shipping planning to travel to Cuba.”

Last month, the Cuban government gave Carnival the okay to begin sailing to the island, using their new Fathom Travel line.

While the company said they “obey the regulations and laws of the countries” they sail to, they are, however, requesting Cuban leaders reconsider the discriminatory rule.

“It is our hope and intention that we will be able to travel with everyone,” the statement concluded.

Itinerary from the company’s website promotes seven-day cruises that include off-shore excursions in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.


1020221860HAVANA, april 8th (REUTERS) Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, 89, made a rare appearance outside his home on Thursday, visiting a school to mark the birthday of a late revolutionary heroine days after penning a scornful critique of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent visit.

State television broadcast images of the gray-bearded Castro sitting at a desk and conversing with students and teachers at the school, named after Vilma Espin, who was his sister-in-law and died in 2007 at age 77.

“I’m sure that on a day like today, Vilma would be happy,” said the leader of Cuba’s 1959 revolution. Espin left a comfortable life to fight alongside Castro against the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista and later married his brother Raul, the current Cuban president.

“Everybody who dies fighting for the revolution leaves their energy on the way, they leave their effort and struggle,” said a slightly hoarse Castro, dressed in a white sports jacket. His 90th birthday is in August.

Castro handed over power to his younger brother in 2008 after a serious illness. His appearance came a week after he penned a scathing editorial about Obama’s recent historic visit to Cuba.

Castro did not meet Obama, although he often appears in photographs meeting foreign dignitaries at his home. State television last showed him in public visiting Defense Ministry workers in July.

Next week, the Cuban Communist Party that Castro founded and led until eight years ago is scheduled to hold a congress organized no more than every five years to define the country’s economic path and shore up the political power of its leaders.

Cubans are eager to find out if the congress will give clues to who will lead the country’s only political party after Raul Castro retires from the presidency, something he has said will happen in 2018.

1024x1024HAVANA, april 8th  Victor Rodriguez imagines a future Cuban economy that will let him import large quantities of thread, export the women’s clothing he designs and keep him from worrying about obtuse regulations such as where he can place items on his small retail stand.

“Maybe then I could think about opening a full store,” he said.

One month after President Barack Obama’s visit, islanders are now looking to Cuba’s upcoming Communist Party congress for the clearest picture yet of how far their leaders will open the economy to deeper free-market reforms — if at all.

The congress being held April 16-19 comes at a critical juncture in Cuba’s history, with diplomatic relations with the U.S. generating enthusiasm but bringing limited improvements to the island’s ailing economy. It’s also likely to be the last Communist Party congress with any Castro in power as President Raul Castro has said he intends to retire in 2018 when he will be 85, turning 86 that June. His older brother Fidel stepped aside at age 79 in 2006 in what he said was a temporary move after suffering a serious illness and retired for good two years later.

“This is basically setting the future of Cuba,” said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

The congress has already generated much attention with party members complaining about a lack of the advance debate on economic and social reforms seen in the past. The party’s official newspaper, Granma, published a lengthy article explaining that instead of inviting new public discussion of reforms, this year’s congress will focus on the continued implementation of market-oriented changes enacted in 2011 in Cuba’s most significant economic overhaul to date.

“Everybody’s wondered since 2011, what’s the end game?” said William LeoGrande, an American University expert on U.S.-Cuba relations. “What are they anticipating Cuba will look like when the restructuring is done? Will it look like Vietnam? China? Something else?”

Based on the Marxist-Leninist model, the Communist Party of Cuba is the only legal political party on the island. It holds its congress roughly every five years to map the island’s political, social and economic future — except for a 14-year stretch from 1997-2011.

The latest congress will bring together 1,000 party members from throughout the island to discuss Cuba’s plan going forward. Among the things members will consider this year is a description of the island’s economic development model through 2030.

So far, Cuban leaders have indicated the government intends to maintain strong control of the island’s centrally planned economy. Less clear are the roles the state and private market will play, and how much the non-state sector will be permitted to expand.

Since assuming power in 2006, Castro has instituted scattered free-market reforms to alleviate the island’s deep fiscal woes while preserving the communist system ushered in by the 1959 revolution. In 2010, he announced plans to permit more small businesses and reduce state employment. The 2011 Communist Party congress passed 313 resolutions that included legalizing car sales, encouraging the development of mid-size cooperatives with dozens of employees and eliminating an exit permit all Cubans once needed to travel outside the country.

Cubans were also permitted to buy and sell homes for the first time since the early years of the revolution.

Emilio Morales, an economic analyst who heads the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, said the reforms to date have encouraged the growth of a small business sector that includes retail enterprises like Rodriguez’s clothing stand, stylish new restaurants and polished 1960 Cadillacs and other old cars serving as taxis. About 500,000 Cubans now run their own businesses, yet total private-sector employment represents just a fraction of the economy — an estimated 23 percent of all employment in 2014, compared to 18 percent in 2011.

There are signs the number of self-employed workers could be leveling off: According to Cuban state figures, there were 496,400 in January, down from 504,600 in May 2015.

To increase that number, Morales said the government must lift restraints on access to wholesale markets and expand private enterprise to fields such as law and engineering, which currently aren’t among the 201 categories of small businesses allowed.

Many Cubans are anxious to see their economy grow; the vast majority struggle to meet daily needs, with state workers earning an average of $20 per month. Many say they want Cuba to preserve universal benefits such as free education and health care.

“We should never lose what we’ve gained,” said Graciela Hidalgo, 67, a retired Interior Ministry worker.

Six Communist Party members interviewed by The Associated Press said they believe the congress will move to expand private businesses but not embark on dramatic reforms. President Castro has cautioned he wants to move “slowly but surely” and that Cuba won’t administer “shock therapy.”

“I think we’ll keep moving in the same direction, enabling small private property, expanding some aspects of commercialization,” said Esteban Morales, one of the party members interviewed and a noted intellectual.

Analysts have viewed China and Vietnam as examples of how Cuba might preserve its socialist system while moving toward a market-driven economy. Yet Cuba scholars say the reforms to date have been relatively minor compared to the early stages of mixed socialist-free market economies in those countries.

“Cuba’s economic situation isn’t one for moving slowly and surely,” said Emilio Morales, the analyst in Miami.

Party watchers will also be waiting to see what the congress says about Cuba’s political future after Castro retires. Many in 2011 expected him to “rejuvenate” the party of 700,000 members by appointing young leaders to key positions. He ultimately named revolutionary figures Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, then 80, and Ramiro Valdes, then 78, as his principal deputies.

Three relatively young politicians were promoted to the 15-member party leadership council in lesser capacities.

Many believe Castro now has no choice but to appoint younger leaders.

“First we have to resolve the economic problem, that’s a priority,” said Carlos Alzugaray, a longtime Cuban diplomat and analyst. “But there is a particular juncture in Cuba right now, which I call a generational transition. And we need to create the institutions that will help that new generation to govern the country effectively.”

L-Austral_bandeau_fiche_navireHAVANA, april 8th Ponant, a French-flagged luxury cruise line, will open its Cuba sailings to cruisers from the United States starting in 2017. It is the second cruise line in the past month to get permission from the Cuban government to do so; Carnival Corp’s Fathom brand received permission March 21.

Ponant’s “People-to-People Cultural Exchange” cruises will run seven or eight nights on Le Ponant. The sailings will operate roundtrip out of Miami from early January 2017 through April 2017 (and again in 2018). Full itinerary details are forthcoming, but the ship will be making port calls in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

“Ponant has been introducing Europeans to Cuba in the past and we are now delighted to offer Americans this enriching opportunity,” said Navin Sawhney, CEO of the Americas for Ponant.

A third cruise line, Pearl Seas Cruises, is also selling cruises to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, but has not yet announced approval from the Cuban government and had to cancel its first two planned voyages. Americans can currently book voyages on Cuba Cruise, a Canadian company that sails from Havana and Montego Bay. International Expeditions, an American-owned company, also runs people-to-people cruises for Americans out of Havana.

MSC has had a ship homeported in Havana, and will add another one in late 2016. Those cruises are not open to Americans, however.


havana-live-fecons-2016HAVANA, Apr 7 (ACN) Cuba’s Foreign Trade and Investment Minister, Rodrigo Malmierca officially inaugurated the 11th International Construction Fair on Tuesday in Havana underway in Pabexpo Exhibition Halls until April 9th.

Before representatives and exhibitions from 199 companies of 29 countries, the event opened its doors with the presence of the Chilean Housing and Urban Minister Paulina Saball, guest of honor to the important commercial fair in addition to other Cuban government officials.

Others attending was Vietnam’s Construction Deputy Minister Le Quang Hung participating for the first time as well as representatives from the United States. Angel Vilaragut, First Deputy Construction Minister welcomed the delegates with Spain heading the list of representatives in addition to Italy, China and Panama.

The Cuban official called all those present to strengthen commercial and working ties in addition to attracting interests of foreign business executives to improve the sector in Cuba. The sector is looking to strengthen its investment process for the coming years oriented mainly towards the execution of tourism infrastructure and industry.

He added that this is the space for exchanges between business and exhibition representatives aimed at the promotion of new products and services for exports and substituting imports while improving knowledge on modern construction systems. FECONS, underway this year with the slogan Construction for a Sustainable Future will be held every two years in Cuba occupying an important space in the international trade fair as a specialized event.

In its previous editions important foreign companies have participated like the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA; MONTO, Spanish firm in paint production and Italian MAPEI, dedicated to the production of construction materials.

havana-live-bd-habanaHAVANA, April 6th  Designboom to inaugurate the first edition of the design biennial of Havana from may 14th to may 20th, 2016, the first international design biennial of Havana is presented in Cuba.

Through the creative initiatives and programs planned during BDHabana’16, the island intends to become an epicenter for design in the region — not only promoting the presence of creativity and innovation, but also highlighting the work of professionals and institutions with a design-focused perspective.

As a slogan for its first edition, the organization has adopted the mantra ‘design and prosperity’ — focusing on the opportunities offered by creative sectors as a catalyst for growth and development. The event has been organized by the national bureau of design (ONDi), in collaboration with the ministries of industry and culture, the institute of design, the cuban association of social communicators and the caguayo foundation.

BDHabana’16 features an extensive program of exhibitions, conferences, workshops, creative interventions, and more than 15 design awards, bringing together visitors and exhibitors from the capital, to cities in the provinces of Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba. the core of the biennial is presented in several districts of Havana, where events are scheduled at the palace of conventions raising issues around design and its relationship to public policy, product, society, and cultural and creative industries.

This first international design biennial in cuba intends to communicate the country’s rich identity to locations around the capital and across the globe — particularly havana’s design community . these areas of cultural significance are highlighted on daily tours through galleries, workshops, designer stores, creative spaces, bars, restaurants, and other active places of the city, distinguished by their design concepts, values and work.

8 years ago, the Cuban minister of culture invited designboom to attend the first design week in Cuba. We were introduced by Luis Ramirez — a Cuban creative who won an award in one of our design competitions with MACEF, the milanese household fair, back in 2006 (more than 5000 creative individuals and institutions from 93 countries have participated).  This visit was an eye-opening encounter — we’ve discovered so much hidden talent!

Now, we are particularly happy that designboom’s editor-in-chief birgit lohmann has also been invited to present at BDHabana’16, alongside an international roster of creative professions.

See the full list of invited speakers and guests below.


international-resource-center_700x300_HeaderHAVANA,April 06  FedEx wants to operate a B757 freighter to provide expedited and general airfreight services from Monday to Friday between Miami and Havana, Cuba with a return flight via Mérida, Mexico commencing September 01, 2016.

In a filing with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the company says it is making a “very modest request” in seeking to operate five out of the 140 weekly flights that are available to U.S. airlines.

If approved, FedEx says it will set up a trucking network linking three additional Cuban cities: Mariel (with its port and developing trade zone), Santiago de Cuba, and Varadero, a major tourist destination. As a result the company would link nearly 1,000 U.S./Cuba city pairs with a single flight.

According to David Cunningham, FedEx Corporation executive vice president and COO, the B757 operation from its Miami hub is primarily designed for U.S. and Cuban shippers while its backhaul routing via Mexico allows the company to replace existing Convair 500 capacity and make the overall operation economically viable.

Noting that combination airlines would be offering belly freight services limited by “significant passenger baggage volumes that typify many Cuba visitors’ luggage haul”, FedEx said a single B757 freighter would be the right thing to do for U.S. trade with the emerging economy.

“Cargo services, especially those which facilitate trade in high value goods, are not luxuries or frills in a scheduled air transportation market, but a necessity, offering greater economic value over carrying belly cargo on combination aircraft. FedEx’s services are also important to small businesses seeking to participate in the global market,” it argued.

With the expansion of the U.S. Export Administration Regulations to allow the export of high-value goods including computers, Cuba is a potential market for U.S. businesses that use airfreight according to the company.

In addition, FedEx says the U.S. Postal Service will need air cargo support for a renewed link with Cuba, as will the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense with its existing naval facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

“Offering the best services, connecting to the largest network, providing tools for regulatory compliance and possessing the financial security to maintain the service, a grant to FedEx in this proceeding is the best step that the Department can take to advance U.S.-Cuba trade,” the company concluded.


Amy Torralbas owns Otramanera, an ultramodern restaurant in Havana. She said Cubans are often shocked to find out they need a reservation. Credit Eliana Aponte Tobar for The New York Times

Amy Torralbas owns Otramanera, an ultramodern restaurant in Havana. She said Cubans are often shocked to find out they need a reservation. Credit Eliana Aponte Tobar for The New York Times

HAVANA, April 6th (NewYorkTimes) Cubans sometimes joke that of all the lessons living under three generations of communism has taught them, by far the most important is learning how to wait.

So it’s a little surprising that as capitalism creeps in — the introduction of private ownership has created a thriving restaurant scene — people here are discovering, to their dismay, that they need to book reservations to get into their favorite places for dinner.

It’s just one of many dislocations that restaurateurs and diners are facing as two economic worlds collide in the new, more American-friendly Cuba.

“Until six months ago, I was able to show up with two people and eat somewhere that’s considered one of the fancier restaurants in Havana with no problem,” said Imogene Tondre, 34, an American-born cultural coordinator who has lived in the city for six years and is married to a Cuban. “Now the ones that take the big tour groups are always booked. And even the restaurants that are geared more toward the Cuban population are often very full.”

La Cocina de Esteban in Havana serves Italian, Spanish and Cuban cuisine, but an owner said it can be difficult to obtain even staples like coffee. Credit Eliana Aponte Tobar for The New York Times

La Cocina de Esteban in Havana serves Italian, Spanish and Cuban cuisine, but an owner said it can be difficult to obtain even staples like coffee. Credit Eliana Aponte Tobar for The New York Times

Many Cubans are shocked. “They arrive and say: ‘What? I need a reservation from a day before? That’s ridiculous!’” said Amy Torralbas, 31, the owner of Otramanera, a gated ultramodern restaurant that serves a blend of Cuban and Mediterranean cooking.

At first glance, the problem wouldn’t seem to be a shortage of places to eat. Antonio Diaz, a University of Havana economics professor, estimated that several hundred viable restaurants have sprouted since 2011, when the government loosened crippling restrictions on privately owned restaurants, or paladares. With that has come a much wider variety of cuisines, from Spanish-style seafood to Japanese sushi, reflecting the desires of a public with an increasingly cosmopolitan palate.

But demand is also growing exponentially, thanks to a flood of international tourists — 3.52 million in 2015, among them 161,000 from the United States, or nearly double the number of Americans in 2014, according to Reuters. And though restaurateurs have freer rein than at any time since the 1950s, they still have to grapple with the byzantine, sometimes nonsensical rules that come with owning a private enterprise in a communist country. By law, for example, restaurants are limited to 50 seats or fewer.

The island’s economy runs on dual currencies: the Cuban convertible peso, or CUC, meant primarily for tourists, and the local peso, or CUP, which Cubans use for most day-to-day transactions. Restaurants must run on a mix of both, accepting payment mostly in CUCs but using CUPs for supplies and wages.

A restaurateur wishing to expand to a second location runs smack into restrictions on property ownership that limit an individual to one site in Havana and another elsewhere in Cuba. (Entrepreneurs with dreams of food empires get around those laws by exploiting loopholes and shuffling deeds among siblings, parents and children.)

Niuris Ysabel Higueras Martínez owns the restaurant Atelier in Havana. Credit Eliana Aponte Tobar for The New York Times

Niuris Ysabel Higueras Martínez owns the restaurant Atelier in Havana. Credit Eliana Aponte Tobar for The New York Times

Then there’s the constant struggle of running a food business in a country that lacks capitalist institutions as basic as a wholesale market, and where staples are often in short supply.

“If I want to buy a kilo of coffee, I need to go to two, three, six stores all around Cuba sometimes,” said Renan Cesar Alvarez, 74, an owner of La Cocina de Esteban, a brightly lit restaurant serving Italian, Spanish and Cuban cuisine a few blocks from the University of Havana. “It’s the same with sugar, rice, the drinks, everything.”

At the same time, restaurateurs strive to meet Western-level expectations. State-run cafeterias are still notorious for plodding service that consists mostly of glassy-eyed waiters informing diners what isn’t available on the menu. Modern paladares typically employ enthusiastic young servers, often college students or recent graduates attracted by the possibility of making a relative fortune in tips. (The average Cuban’s monthly earnings total about $25.)

“I prefer people with no experience,” said Niuris Ysabel Higueras Martínez, 41, an owner of Atelier, which sprawls through several art-filled rooms and the rooftop of a mansion in the Vedado neighborhood. “I prefer teaching my own service.”

At Otramanera, servers are educated about the menu, wines and the startling fact that some foreigners abstain from meat.

“In Cuba, there wasn’t a culinary culture, and so now we are learning about the first dish, the main course, about the wine that comes with the food,” Ms. Torralbas said. “For example, in Cuba, there weren’t many vegetarian people; we didn’t know anything about that. So now we’re learning how to be prepared for these types of people.”

Some North American and European dining habits are evidently rubbing off on Cuban diners as well: Cellphone-toting food fanatics can download apps like AlaMesaCuba that allow them to look up and rate Havana’s newest restaurants.

“It’s a complete shift in consumer culture,” Ms. Tondre said. “Some of these restaurants have been around for 25 years, and there’s never been a way to rate them before. And people are starting to recognize the power they have.”havana-live-ESENCIA 2-2

For average Cubans, the notion of rating or even reserving tables remains hypothetical, as the new CUC-based restaurants are simply unaffordable for nearly everyone.
For them, eating out means a visit to a CUP-based state cafeteria or a tiny takeout place — often someone’s kitchen window — where croquette sandwiches or doughy pizzas cost about 12 local pesos, or 48 cents.

And even those Cubans who can afford a restaurant meal are quickly learning that there’s no guarantee they can book a table days or even weeks in advance in several of the most popular restaurants.

“We’re a spontaneous country, but the people will just have to get used to it,” said Delia Coto, 48, a Havana theater director having lunch at Otramanera. “People will have to learn to plan ahead.”

AR-160409655HAVANA, april 5th (tbo.com) For years, Cuba’s state-run airports have charged U.S.-based flights landing fees that are considered high at best and discriminatory at worst.

But those fees are expected to fall in line with rates paid from other nations once U.S. commercial carriers land in Cuba later this year — as early as September — for the first time in more than five decades.

U.S. charter flights pay Cuba landing fees of $73 to $148 per passenger today, based on age and whether they are traveling as individuals or in a tour group.

Cuba’s international landing fee in Havana’s José Martí International Airport is $4.89 per metric ton of aircraft. Charter flights typically use a 162-seat Boeing 737-800 with a maximum take-off weight of 79 metric tons — for a landing fee of about $390. But the same sold-out aircraft could cost nearly $24,000 in landing fees at José Martí if operated by a U.S. charter flight company.

In February, the U.S. and Cuban governments signed a non-binding aviation arrangement that allows U.S.-based commercial flights to land and sets certain guidelines — including one prohibiting discriminatory fees.

The State Department confirmed to the Tribune that this new arrangement covers charter flights but would not comment on when landing fees might drop. Charter flights continue to pay the higher rates.

Nor would the State Department say if the current fees are considered discriminatory.

Two charter operators said Cuban aviation officials told them their landing fees would align with international rates once commercial service from the U.S. begins. The two are Michael Zuccato, general manager of Cuba Travel Services, which operates charter flights out of Tampa International Airport, and Bill Hauf, president of Island Travel & Tours which plans to operate flights from Tampa starting April 25.

As part of the aviation arrangement, up to 20 U.S. commercial flights a day can land in Havana and as many as 10 a day to each of the nine other Cuban cities with international airports.

Silver Airways CEO Sami Teittinen predicted all but the Havana routes will be allocated within the next six to eight weeks and believes the first U.S. commercial flights will land in Cuba around September.

Silver Airways applied for routes with the U.S. Department of Transpiration to all 10 Cuban destinations — including two weekly flights connecting Tampa to Havana. JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines also applied for two daily flights between Tampa and Havana.

Because more than a dozen airlines requested over 50 flights to Havana, deciding flight allocations there will take the transportation department longer, Teittinen said.

In a recent report, Miami-based Havana Consulting Group says commercial airlines could enter the Havana market with tickets running $150 to $250.

By comparison, Cuba Travel Services is selling charter tickets from Tampa to Havana for $459 while ABC Charters at Tampa International and Island Travel charge $439.

The charter companies contacted said they could not guarantee lower ticket prices once landing fees are reduced.

ABC’s president Tessie Aral could not be reached.

“We would need to assess the other cost associated with passenger and ground handling in the destinations,” said Zuccato with Cuba Travel.

Currently, a U.S. traveler may visit Cuba only for one or more of 12 reasons, such as education, research and athletic competition. Taking a trip strictly for tourism is still illegal under U.S. law.

A United Nations convention governing international aviation forbids discriminating against individual nations in the fees that are charged.

One reason Cuba has gotten away with it for so many years may be the absence of an aviation agreement with the U.S.

“Cuba has never viewed the charters as scheduled air service, therefore not subject to the U.N. convention,” said Robert Muse, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in legal issues arising from the Cuban embargo. “Once the commercial flights begin, the U.S. position will likely be that Cuba can no longer discriminate against the charters.”

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Others say Cuba has not overcharged U.S. charter flights.

Landing fees cover an airport’s cost for maintenance and operations and U.S. planes are restricted to Terminal 2 at José Martí airport — for security reasons, some analysts say, out of concern people will be sent there to instigate unrest.

U.S. planes are the only customers at Terminal 2 so they must bear the all maintenance and operation costs.

But concerns about unrest are easing with the normalization of relations between the two countries and commercial airlines predict they’ll also gain access to Terminal 3 where all other international flights land.

Still, Terminal 2 is far from a state-of-the art center requiring high maintenance costs. It has only two baggage carousels, for example.

American Airlines landed 625 of its 1,200 charter flights bound for Cuba in Havana last year, said spokesman Matt Miller. Based on the weight of a Boeing 737-800, the plane American uses there, its landing fees alone generated as much as $14 million in revenue for the Cuban government.

By comparison, Tampa International collected $15.2 million from all passenger planes in 2015.

The Cuba fees may also cover airplane parking and aviation navigation. But for a typical Boeing-737 paying Cuba’s international rates, those charges plus landing fees total an estimated $4,800, or around $23 per person on a sold out flight.

Zuccato with Cuba Charter Services said landing fees he pays also go toward outsourcing ground services such as ticketing and baggage to state state-run companies in Cuba.

The average Cuban’s salary is $20 to $25 per month, said Dan Zabludowski, an international business attorney in Miami with Hinshaw & Culbertson. The current fees, he said, are “not in line. This is a punitive charge. This is just profit going to the Cuban government.”

John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, estimated the Cuban government “keeps between 40 and 50 percent of the ticket price. What they do with it is immaterial. It is gross revenue.”

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This profit is not earmarked for the military, as some may fear, said Arturo Lopez Levy, a University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley lecturer and former Cuban government economic analyst.

Besides sustaining Cuba’s airports, he said, it is used to develop a tourism sector already burdened with a rising number of visitors.

Higher volumes of travel with the lower rates will keep money flowing to the island nation, said Antonio C Martinez II, chief operating officer of New York-based Cuban Strategic Partnerships Inc.

“Cuba will increase revenue even with lower landing fees because there will be more flights from the U.S. and it is easier to travel there for Americans than it has been in years,” Martinez said.

Under the arrangement, once U.S. commercial flights to Cuba begin, up to 7,300 could land in Havana over the course of a year.

If they are charged the standard $4,800 in total international fees based on the weight of a Boeing 737-800, the total would be about $35 million in revenue annually for the Cuban government from flights to Havana alone.

Misty Pinson, Silver Airways spokeswoman, told the Tribune that she believes Cuban aviation fees are standard at all its nine international airports.

“Yet until we get the scheduled operations going and contract negotiated we won’t know for sure,” she said.

It remains unclear how much revenue charter flights will bring to Cuba. Currently, there are 12 flights a day connecting the U.S. and Cuba.

Island Tour and Travel adds four weekly from Tampa International starting April 25, bringing Tampa’s weekly total to 11. But it is unclear if charter flights flying from other U.S. cities will increase, decrease or remain the same once commercial service to Cuba begins.

Still, commercial flights to the other Cuban destinations and the charter services will add to that $35 million total.

And commercial airlines will likely have to outsource ground handling services to Cuba’s state-run companies, as charters do now, said Colorado-based aviation analyst Michael Boyd, adding more money to Cuba’s economy.

Silver Airways confirmed to the Tribune it would use state-run companies for ground services.


The artist’s National Prize exhibition at the Wifredo Lam Center

havana-live-wilfried lam

The courtyard of the Wifredo Lam Center during the run of Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superestructura. Visible at lower left, the installation El progreso de una nacíon; the clothesline is also an installation. Courtesy Lázaro Saavedra

HAVANA, april 5th (cubanartnews) Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superstructure was presented at the Wifredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art in Havana, February 16-March 16, 2016. The exhibition was presented in recognition of Saavedra as the winner of the 2014 National Prize of Plastic Arts, awarded annually by the Cuban government.
Although National Art Award exhibitions are usually presented at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the two floors of the Wifredo Lam Center provided a literal structure for Saavedra’s exhibition, an inquiry into the nature of art, inspired by Marxist philosophy.

Here is a photo walk-through of the show, with Saavedra’s statement about the exhibition and comments about specific works, excerpted from the exhibition catalogue.

Unlike most exhibition texts by artists and curators, Saavedra’s comments may be understood as extensions of the artworks, counterpoints to them, and/or textual artworks in their own right.

Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superestructura was curated by Corina Matamoros and Lázaro Saavedra


Lázaro Saavedra, El progreso de una nación, 2016. Courtesy Lázaro Saavedra

Exhibition Statement
This exhibition aims to pay homage to visual thought as it manifests metaphorically, more or less, in the arts or sciences. In his Preface to the Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx applies two architectural (Basis / Überbau = Base / Superstructure) to the social sciences, employing them in the critical analysis of society. The exhibition Base / Superestructura is inspired, among other things, by these concepts of Marxist philosophy.


Lázaro Saavedra, ¿Por qué pienso cosas figurativas mientras dibujo abstracto?, 2015 Courtesy Lázaro Saavedra

A free interpretation of these ideas is further proposed—a symbolic representation, “materializing” them in an artistic form. This interpretation returns them to their original architectural assertion (without removing the philosophical references), by comparing two shows at different levels (lower/upper) in the Lam Center building. That willingness to find a meaning in the connection between the symbolic representations of base and superstructure is inspired—not without questioning—by one of the premises of Hermetic thought: “As above, so below; as below, so above.”
Arte contestatario, 2015
This work represents what it is: a canvas put through a wall. Have you ever wondered who will respond (contesta) to oppositional art (el arte contestatario)? Have you ever wondered who and what oppositional art asks to be responded to? Oppositional art arises precisely where the social action of anti-questioning art leaves off. Again, the author tells us of—catapults us, gives us a kick in the direction of—confrontation, and the direct and scathing criticism of the circles, squares, triangles (and polyhedrons, why not?) of power.
_MG_8491Arte insoportable, 2015
In several interviews with the artist, he was brilliantly unable to enlighten us about the title of this work and his relationship to it. But what is clear is the link between this installation and the phenomenon of aesthetic discordance in the process of artistic creation. The unbearable lightness of art that falls under its own weight, which is incapable of sustaining its own levitatation (see levitation art), redeems from the floor its own shadow as an extension of itself, a black ghost that ascends the institutional wall of culo blanco (white rear end)—no, cubo blanco (white cube)—in abstract geometric form, to the kingdom of heaven.
_MG_8488Arte insoportable, 2015
In several interviews with the artist, he was brilliantly unable to enlighten us about the title of this work and his relationship to it. But what is clear is the link between this installation and the phenomenon of aesthetic discordance in the process of artistic creation. The unbearable lightness of art that falls under its own weight, which is incapable of sustaining its own levitatation (see levitation art), redeems from the floor its own shadow as an extension of itself, a black ghost that ascends the institutional wall of culo blanco (white rear end)—no, cubo blanco (white cube)—in abstract geometric form, to the kingdom of heaven.
_MG_8511Arte oficial, 2015, with Arte Underground, 2015, in background at right
On Arte official: An exquisite work of stunning superficiality—as all good art is characterized and defined when it is worthy of representing surface art (superficial art), which is a counterpoint and eternal opponent of arte profundo (underground art). In this work the artist proposes, in a crazy way, to overlap the termspatriotic art and official art: The canvas, ergo art, as the flag of what? Does the official culture have a flag, the same as the nation?

Arte underground is a work that is inserted into the underground art movement, which evolved from the stagnant overground art. We must be redundant and emphasize that the difference between these two arts is that one moves, the other does not. This work overflows the literal, provoking a flood of self-referentiality that could drown the concept if it doesn’t know how to swim—or doesn’t know anything, not to speak or to write. This concept survived during the Special Period [after the collapse of the Soviet Union] as a lifeguard in an underground pool frequented by foreign concepts.
_MG_8499Arte politicarte, 2015
The Master said: “Driven by political maneuvering and content with punishments, the people become astute and lose shame. Led by virtue and moderated by rites, they develop a sense of shame and participation.” Entrepreneurship (el cuentapropismo) will evolve a way to sell, on the black market, boxes with “virtue” and “moderating rites” so that once they are sampled, it will be necessary to develop the sense of shame and participation. If the words I’m going to write are not more beautiful than a sheet of paper, then I will not write. A white sheet (blanco) is ugly (fea).

Articidio, 2015
This work, full of the optimistic conceit of bipolar disorders, moves through the swampy terrain between suicide and homicide, and brings us back to post-Satorian or Nirvanic experiences, as applicable. The author, during ritual practices related to the fine art of seppuku (harikiri, not to be confused with hareKrisna, the god of the Yoruba pantheon) has deconstructed the aesthetic category of suicide, to masterfully innovate the neologism “Articidio” (of the masculine gender, said of the union in concubinage between “art” and “suicide”). The delicate detail of the cut, in the manner of the stylist Lucio Fontana, cannot pass unnoticed, as in the best tradition of slashing wrists, heiress to a “friki” subculture,” and to the rhythm of chords by the solo diva of Evanescence or Emonescene.
_MG_8509Installation view of the exhibition, with, at left: When you’re down almost all step on you; rear wall,You’re a prisoner and you do not know; and what do I know?; and at right, Arte y sanía, 2015.

Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superestructura was presented at the Wifredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art February 16-March 16, 2016. 


Havana, april 4th  It’s more than a bit surreal to be in this city. Geographically, Cuba is one of the United States’ closest neighbors, only a short plane ride from Miami. It’s an island that is home to a culturally rich people. But until recently, it was all but forbidden for Americans.

Before I arrived I learned of a woman named Nelys Navas from our guide, Peter. He first met Nelys months prior on a previous trip, and he told me I had to meet her. He mentioned that she used to be a doctor in Cuba, working for the government for very little pay. After saving what she could, she restored her father’s Model A, quit her job, and started her own taxi business, driving tourists around Havana.

This was the story I came to Cuba for. The only problem was in the last few months Peter had lost contact with Nelys. But I desperately wanted to film her story, so we flew down to Havana to shoot for Autoblog, with only a name and a photo of her standing next to her Model A.

After five days of filming Soviet-era taxis, Frankensteined classic American cars, and the picturesque Cuban countryside, I had given up hope we would find Nelys. I would never hear her story. Then one night after dinner we were walking in Old Havana, and Peter spotted a familiar leaf-green Model A across the street.

Watch the video above to see Nelys tell her unbelievable story.


touristsHAVANA, April 4 (Carribean 360 ) Business is booming in the hospitality sector in Cuba, with March ending with an increase of 14 percent in tourist arrivals.

Cuba’s first deputy tourism minister Alexis Trujillo described the current period as a “good trend” for the tourism sector with an expected 175,200 foreign vacationers more than the previous year.

Trujillo added that tourism reached a record high last year, finishing with over 3,524,000 vacationers visiting the Spanish-speaking nation, a figure that officials are looking to surpass this year.

He also indicated that there were several initiatives underway aimed at enhancing the tourism product, starting with the construction of new hotels and improved services.

Havana’s economic plan this year includes a 1.3 million peso investment, mostly aimed at increasing room capacity, according to tourism representatives.

New hotels are expected to add over 3,790 rooms, while another 5,677 will be upgraded, mainly in the most popular tourism centres in the country: Havana, Varadero and the keys to the north of the island.

In a move to further increase room capacity, the state has linked up with over 14,000 private homes offering lodging and food services.

Existing recreational facilities in the communist Caribbean country include three cruise terminals, seven international marinas and 39 international diving centres. Work is currently underway to improve the marine sector.

Cuba is connected with 60 cities worldwide via 54 international airlines that serve the main resorts, including Cayo Santa Maria, Jardines del Rey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.

The number of visitors to the island has increased dramatically since the announcement of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in December 2014.

Officials estimate that 161,233 people from the US visited Cuba last year, an increase of 79 percent over the previous year.


havana-live-blue diamont cubaHAVANA, april 3 (ACN)  Six Cuban hotels stand out among the top 25 all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, according to the 2016 Travellers’ Choice Awards organized by the largest travel website TripAdvisor, from the opinions of thousands of users of different nationalities.

The five-star facility located in the Jardines del Rey area, the Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, ranked sixth, while it is also in position 19 worldwide.

Customers of this resort, operated by Canada’s Blue Diamond north of the province of Villa Clara, highlight in TripAdvisor the excellence of services, the careful attention of its staff and the beauty of the area where it is situated.

Also located in the same tourist destination, the Melia Buenavista appears at 18 in the regional ranking, while the Melia Cayo Coco, north of Ciego de Avila, ranks tenth.
In addition, the Paradisus Rio de Oro Resort and Spa, in Holguin is placed 14; the Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort and Spa Varadero at 21, and Iberostar Varadero at 24.

The Traveler’s Choice Awards acknowledge a total of 100 properties around the world and its winners are determined by the criteria assessed by millions of travelers in several categories, such as best hotels, destinations and beaches and favourite restaurants.

 HAVANA, Apr 2 (PL) Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta will give the main roles to members of his newly formed company on its world debut, and he will only dance the classical repertoire, informed today the organizers of the gala.

Havana’s Alicia Alonso Theater will be the stage for the exhibition of a contemporary program from April 8 to 13 except on the 11th. It will include works by choreographers from different nationalities and the director decided to leave the performances in charge of the members of the company to promote the talent of these young people.

This first show includes Carmen, an Acosta’s version of the novel by Prosper Merimee, with music by Georges Bizet. Such piece was premiered by the Royal Ballet in London in 2015.

The world premiere of De Punta a Cabo will also take place on April 8, 9 and 12 with choreography by Alexis Fernandez, the co-director of La Macana, a Spanish dance company based in Galicia, who takes to dancing his views on Cuba, a country of mixtures and contrasts.

Acosta Dance will also present Alrededor No Hay Nada (There is Nothing Around), choreographed by Spanish Goyo Montero. The first version of this ballet, Creation Day, won the International Choreography Competition 2006 CIC and was premiered in Havana by the National Ballet of Cuba on October 29 of that year.

havana-live-slow food cuba_HAVANA, april 2th The production processes and consumption of food of animal origin create a complex global situation, with the development of irresponsible, unethical and unsustainable practices, which have a negative impact on human health and that of the planet.

In Cuba, livestock farming and agro-industrial meat production are based on methods of farming, feeding and animal welfare that are intended to improve the quality of the product for human consumption, while avoiding damaging the environment.

Pig farming, in particular, is the biggest activity for domestic consumption. This is primarily because of the preservation of farming practices that are deeply rooted in the traditional agricultural system, as well as a result of the food preference of Cubans, who favor pork. Poultry farming is also important for egg and meat production; similarly, rabbit farming is growing and consumption of rabbit meat is gradually on the rise in the country.


Pork is industrially processed on a large scale, and asados have a special place in Cuban cuisine. Pig farming is extensive and, considering the predominance of this meat for domestic consumption, it’s now necessary more than ever to step up and implement awareness of animal welfare, since environmental conditions are not always ideal for farming. One of the most pressing problems requiring attention is pig slaughter at the local level, where compassionate methods should be used.

As for cattle, traditionally one of the most suitable areas for livestock farming is in the province of Camagüey, which is the island’s flattest region. Beef and veal consumption is relatively low in the country, but there has been an improvement in production because animal feed is improving thanks to the introduction of more nutritious fodder.

Cattle are generally fed using local resources produced on the farm. For example, to improve the health conditions of animals, legumes and Leucaena are used, which yield better results in terms of production both in spring and in the dry season. When rain is scarce, shredded sugar cane, mixed with honey and mineral salts, is used for a better diet.

Strategic plan and good practices
Although in Cuba there is no prevailing concept of modern farming, based on high technology and productivity, strategic plans and good farming practices are based on a series of interesting premises.

  • animal production with traditional methods and techniques, but according to higher development standards;
  • development of small farms, which enable higher-quality livestock production;
  • promotion of awareness of ethical, sustainable and responsible food, reducing the environmental impact;
  • development of policies to achieve animal welfare;
  • installation on farms of biodigestion systems that enable environmental sanitation and produce biogas and organic fertilizer.

Eat less, better quality meat
Slow Food members in Cuba have signed up to the Slow Meat campaign to promote environmental protection and food sustainability. The proposed action plan involves cooperation between specialists, producers, chefs, farmers and professionals from various Cuban institutions, such as the Cuban Animal Production Association (Acpa), the Research Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (Cedar), the Agricultural University of Havana and the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food of the University of Havana, as well as community projects and agro-ecological businesses.linking-food-traditions-and-education-the-experience-of-slow-food-and-terra-madre-network-15-638

Organizing a workshop at the Federation of Culinary Associations of the Republic of Cuba, from March 2 to March 4, 2016, was the most important activity. The workshop included lessons on meat consumption and its effects on climate change, cooking lessons and a visit to a farm where agro-ecological farming is practiced. With over 30 participants, the first steps were taken towards standards to guarantee a better future.


havabnaq-live- fecons-2016HAVANA, Apr 1 (PL) Around 200 companies from 29 countries will participate in the next international construction fair (Fecons) in Cuba, from 5 to 9 April, said today the President of the Organizing Committee, Angel Vilarraut.

For the first time the biennial meeting will be attended from Viet Nam and United States firms; the latter country will be represented by ten entities, he stressed the also the first Vice-Minister of the Ministry of construction (Micons).

Speaking to the press, the official said that U.S. companies are welcome; the constraints and impediments, he recalled, come from the politics of Washington, which ” deny Cubans access to technologies, products and materials of the construccion” produced in the Northern power. ”

The eleventh edition of Fecons will be held at the city Fairgrounds Pabexpo, where exhibitors were hired so far an area of more than four thousand 700 square meters, more than those employed in previous matches.

With 57 companies, Spain will be the nation with greater representation in Fecons 2016, which will take to Chile as guest country of honor, confirmed by the directors.

China, Germany, Italy and Panama also attend the trade fair, whose sessions will be antecedidas by a scientific and Technical Conference of broad spectrum on the world of construction, in the Palacio de las Convenciones, said.

According to the first Vice Minister of the MICONS, these meetings will facilitate the exchange of technical information, access to new products and technologies and will encourage the substitution of imports from investments in Cuba.

They are currently in negotiations several contracts with foreign companies and the most advanced respond to the interest of promoting national industry of construction materials, responded Vilarraut to Prensa Latina.

Facing internal projections, calls for Fecons increase its relevance, because the country expected for the coming years significant developments in terms of overall infrastructure and to increase their hotel plant, said the engineer.