fcc714b9b96d52dd93dd47d57b011c8104f9b5ba-1aff5jdHavana, 5 Mar. (AFP) – The European Union and Cuba resumed negotiations Wednesday in a third round of talks aimed at normalizing relations, as Havana and Washington work through their own historic rapprochement.

The two-day session, part of a dialogue that began 11 months ago, is aimed at tackling sensitive human rights issues and finalizing an agreement “on political dialogue and cooperation,” meant to turn the page on a decade of estrangement.
“Our agenda is focused on cooperation, with the ambition to start dealing with the two other major topics (political dialogue and commerce) and set a stage for the next steps,” a European diplomat told AFP.

A Thursday evening press conference scheduled by the EU delegation will take stock of the progress made during the closed-door discussions. The talks mark the first meeting between the European bloc and Havana since the United States and Cuba surprised the world by announcing in December that they would move to restore relations after half a century.

The EU launched its normalization process with the communist island to encourage President Raul Castro to pursue reforms allowing for private initiatives without changing the one-party political system. The talks are being led by European chief negotiator Christian Leffler and Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno.
The pair headed the two previous rounds in Brussels in August and in Havana in April. The session, initially scheduled for January, was postponed by Cuba just before the thaw with Washington was announced.

The EU hailed the move, calling it a historic turning point. However, Spain in January urged the EU to speed up its process of normalization to not lose ground to Washington, particularly on trade. Meanwhile France announced Tuesday that President Francois Hollande will travel to Cuba in May, the first visit by a French chief of state.
An accord with Havana would facilitate European aid to the ailing Cuban economy, and favor the island’s exports to EU nations. Cuban tobacco, one of the country’s main exports, is subject to a 26 percent tariff in the EU, slowing sales.

Bilateral trade has increased, however, and the EU is Cuba’s second biggest trading partner behind Venezuela, with exchanges valued at $3.7 billion in 2012, according to the latest Cuban government figures. While Cuba exports mostly raw materials, it imports mainly manufactured goods from the European Union.

HAVANA, 5 Mar. CONAN Highlight: Watch the first four minutes of Conan O’Brien’s one-man mission to meet the Cuban people and make some friends.

Suivez l’odeur du cigare, les chants de Buena Vista Social Club et les traces de JR et José Parla

havana-live-Key-west-havanaHAVANA, 4 Mar.  A Miami travel company is reviving flights between Key West International Airport and Cuba.

Mambi International Group, which launched a similar service in February 2014, is in the cockpit once again for travel to the communist country following December’s announcement of eased travel restrictions on U.S. residents going to Cuba.
While last year’s venture lasted only about six weeks, Mambi sales executive Banay Coma said the company is more organized this time around. It opened a Key West office in December on North Roosevelt Boulevard.

“We’re hoping everything works out,” said Coma, who works out of the Key West office. “We have to build that connection.” Commercial flights on one nine-passenger plane to Havana are scheduled to start March 13, leaving every Friday with a round-trip price of $525. Mambi will also fly to Santa Clara in central Cuba every Wednesday starting March 25.

Coma said the plan is to increase flights as demand rises. It already has some reservations. The flights to Cuba will leave Key West International Airport at 10 a.m. and return at 1 p.m. The 90-mile trek from the Southernmost City to Cuba takes about 45 minutes, according to Coma. Mambi has the necessary federal approval for Cuba travel.

The company had been working on resuming Key West-to-Cuba flights since shutting down last year. “Some licenses were renewed, some we already had,” Coma said. Those who want to travel to Cuba no longer need a specific license as long as they meet criteria under one of 12 federal categories, including family visits, humanitarian projects and religious activities.

The eased travel restrictions are a result of President Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro announcing in December that the U.S. and Cuba were re-establishing diplomatic ties after half a century.
A Treasury Department spokesperson said the travel is “generally permitted” as long as travelers meet the category requirements. Travel-service providers and air carriers do not need a specific Office of Foreign Asset Control license to provide service for authorized travelers to Cuba anymore.

Coma said the Mambi International will verify the purpose of someone’s trip Cuba. For example, artists would need an affidavit from a gallery. While traveling to Cuba as a tourist is still banned, the lack of a specific license requirement essentially means Americans can come and go as long as they cite a non-tourist reason for doing so — an honor system of sorts.

Travel websites such as Kayak have begun listing flights to Havana, as well. And Fort Lauderdale-based company KonaCat is trying to start a ferry service between Marathon and Cuba by the end of the year.


HAVANA, 4 Mar.(By David LaFevor)  I first met Enrique Hitchman in a bar with no name on Neptuno Street in the neighborhood known as Central Havana. I had been living in Cuba, off and on, for several years to research the histories of race, national identity, and boxing for my dissertation. havana-live-boxerThe bartender, Pedro, was an Afro-Cuban in his late sixties. The week before, he had invited me to a funereal ceremony to reinter the bones of one of his brothers in the Abakua brotherhood, an Afro-Cuban secret society whose roots lay in West Africa and the slave trade that had brought the ancestors of so many Cubans to the island.

The day before I met Enrique Hitchman, Pedro had alerted me to be careful in talking to a regular at the bar who worked for state security, and liked to ask probing questions about opinions on Cuban politics.

This was a neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else’s business and as an American I had become a novelty and conversation piece. I hadn’t been there in a few days, but on this Friday afternoon Enrique Hitchman was asleep on a precarious stool at the bar, his face resting on a large scrapbook that contained the proof of his best days.
Pedro and the other bar regulars were very interested in what I was uncovering in the archives, and they had put out the word in the neighborhood for anyone who had first-hand knowledge of boxing in Cuba, the older the better. Enrique had gotten word, and he had come each of the last three days that I hadn’t been there, drinking steadily and keeping an eye out for me to come back.

Enrique Hitchman had once been the bantamweight boxing champion of Cuba. When the Revolution succeeded in 1959, he had chosen to stay because he believed in the changes that it entailed and in the ideas that had made idols of Fidel, Che, and Camilo Cienfuegos. Other professional fighters, his colleagues, had chosen to expatriate to Mexico or the United States.
The Cuban regime outlawed professional sport in the early sixties because it was seen as decadent and capitalist and had clear connections to the mafia that was a symbol of so many things that the United States had brought to Cuba.

Enrique explained his decision to stay in terms of a sacrifice in the name of ideas. Now, his only source of income was as a part time night watchman at a construction supply store, where those who had access to American dollars could buy expensive lumber and other goods to sure-up their aging homes.
Slowly waking, Enrique sized me up and dusted off his four-inch thick scrapbook. His story would come at a price, and he demanded the outlandish sum of thirty dollars, a month’s salary for most Cubans.

He wanted the money so he could have his wristwatch fixed. The watch was a gift from his father when he won the national title in late fifties. He still wore it, though it hadn’t worked in a decade. Hitchman is an unusual last name in Cuba.
Enrique’s father had emigrated from Barbados in the late 1920s to work on one of the massive American-owned sugar plantations in Oriente Province. Enrique was what most Cubans would call a mulatto, but he assured me that he was black and proud of being so. He presented his disfigured nose and large, swollen hands as proof of his former livelihood. havana-live-streetAt El Mundo Bar later that evening, the young bartender viewed us with suspicion as we entered and took our seats where the long wooden bar joined the wall. We ordered two beers and with boozy gravitas Enrique opened his book, careful to make sure there was no spilled liquid underneath.

The book contained dozens of brittle newspaper clippings and sepia photographs from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Now balding, Enrique had had a full head of thick hair, all of his teeth, and a boxer’s physique that could sell gym memberships.
There were pictures of him in the ring, fighting white, black, and Mexican fighters.

Other images showed him posing, trying to look threatening, among a group of his fellow boxers after a long training run along the sea front drive. His favorite picture though, was of him in street clothes, smiling behind his young daughter, at a lavish birthday party he had thrown for her with the winnings from a fight in the United States.

When asked what happened to her, he evaded the question, muttering that he had a son who lived somewhere in the United States, Chicago, maybe. As Enrique narrated his memories, young locals gathered around at the bar.
The bartender stopped pretending to be upset that no one was buying anything and hung on the old boxer’s words and jokes. In many of the pictures, Enrique appeared wearing his champion’s belt, he was careful to point it out in each image, looking around proudly and saying “faja!” the belt. havana-live-boxer One of the last pictures in the book was an eight-by-ten print with Enrique in the center, surrounded by his entourage, with a sign on the wall in the background that read “Respect the Boxers.”For the next few months I saw Enrique often. He had his watch fixed and had bought a new baseball cap, so the women wouldn’t see his white hair, he said.

We walked through Old Havana and Central Havana, he commented on almost every attractive woman we passed, but they paid him no attention. This was in 2008.
In July of 2014, I returned again to Havana to continue the research I had started on previous trips. The rules of the national library had changed, and now they allowed researchers to photograph the documents, making it much easier than copying every word by hand as had been the previous policy. I went by the bar where I had met Enrique.

No one knew or had heard of what had happened to him. At the building where he had lived no one seemed to know him. The bar with no name was no longer run by the state. New laws now allowed for limited private ownership and an entrepreneur from the interior of the island was renting the property.
He was stockpiling bricks and other materials and had big plans to modernize, even offering imported beers and liquors. He hoped to tap into the tourist trade that was rapidly transforming Old Havana. Pedro, the bartender, had died, he told me.I made a new friend there, who I’ll call Roberto. Roberto had just gotten out of jail. havana-live-boxerHe had been locked up for many years as a political prisoner. He recounted that he had been on a security detail for President Allende in Chile as a young man, but had been in Peru on that terrible day when Allende committed suicide in the face of an American-backed coup that ushered in over a decade of dictatorship, human rights violations, and murder there. 
He changed the topic of conversation when asked why he had been jailed. He had never heard of Enrique Hitchman.

havana-live-hollandeLA HAVANE, 3 Mar. C’est la première fois qu’un chef de l’Etat français se rend sur l’île de Raul Castro, affirme l’Elysée dans un communiqué. En avril 2014, Laurent Fabius était le premier chef de la diplomatie française à se rendre à La Havane depuis trente-et-un ans.

Une première. A l’occasion d’un déplacement aux Antilles, en Martinique et en Guadeloupe pour l’inauguration du Mémorial ACTe, centre caribéen d’expressions et de mémoire de la traite et de l’esclavage, François Hollande fera un détour par Cuba le 11 mai.
“Le président de la République se rendra du 8 au 11 mai dans les collectivités territoriales françaises des Antilles ainsi qu’à Cuba”, annonce l’Elysée dans un communiqué ce mardi 3 mars.

Une rencontre avec Raul Castro ? Et de préciser quelques lignes plus bas: “La visite du président de la République à Cuba le 11 mai constituera le premier déplacement d’un chef de l’Etat français dans ce pays”.

Preuve que les relations diplomatiques se réchauffent entre l’île de Raul Castro et l’Occident, notamment la France, en avril 2014 Laurent Fabius s’était rendu à La Havane pour la première visite officielle d’un chef de la diplomatie française depuis trente-et-un ans.Aucune précision n’a pour l’instant été donnée sur une éventuelle rencontre entre les leaders castristes et le François Hollande.

 havana-live-francois_hollandeLA HAVANE, 3 Mar. —French President François Hollande will travel to Cuba in May, the first visit by a French president to the country.

Mr. Hollande will be in Cuba on May 11, while he is on a four-day trip to the region, where he will also visit some French overseas territories, his office said. Mr. Hollande’s trip comes as the U.S. and Cuba are engaged in historic talks to resume diplomatic ties, ending a decadeslong rupture between the countries.

Those nations aim to reopen respective embassies in Havana and Washington. Officials from the European union and Cuba are also meeting this week in a push to normalize relations.
The talks, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Havana, are due to focus on human rights, a delicate topic for Cuba that EU officials say is crucial for any agreement.
The EU-Cuba talks, which have been postponed twice, are being carefully watched as a possible harbinger for the outcome of Havana’s discussions with Washington.

havana-live-amazon-logoHAVANA, 3 Mar. (Reuters) – Less than three months after U.S. and Cuban officials agreed to restore diplomatic ties, Amazon.com Inc appears to be laying the groundwork to ship packages to Cuba.

A “ship to Cuba” button was seen on Monday on Amazon’s website by Reuters correspondents in Havana. But the option does not appear to work and reporters got an error message when they tried to order an item and ship it to Cuba. “Due to export controls and economic sanctions laws and regulations, we are unable to process transactions from your current location,” Amazon said in the message.

There was no such option available on Amazon’s site in a U.S.-based search from San Francisco. It is unclear how quickly Amazon, the largest U.S. online retailer, could start shipping items to Cuba. Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But logistics experts said the appearance of the option suggested the company was working on it.

“It probably does mean they are testing,” said Rob Howard, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based logistics firm Grand Junction. Amazon often launches new services without much fanfare, preferring to first work out the kinks with a small pool of eligible users, he said. U.S. and Cuban officials have held two rounds of talks following the Dec. 17 announcement that they would work toward restoring diplomatic ties severed more than 50 years ago.
Cuba has also signaled its readiness for faster progress. Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has family ties to Cuba. His adoptive father Miguel Bezos was born there and came to the United States at the age of 15.

HAVANA, 3 Mar. (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he hopes the United States will open an embassy in Cuba by the time of a Western Hemisphere summit in Panama in mid-April.

In an interview with Reuters, Obama also cautioned that it will take more time to fully establish normal relations with Cuba after more than a half-century rupture. “My hope is that we will be able to open an embassy, and that some of the initial groundwork will have been laid” before the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Obama said.

“Keep in mind that our expectation has never been that we would achieve full normal relations immediately. There’s a lot of work that still has to be done,” he said. In a historic agreement, Washington and Havana announced on Dec. 17 that they planned to restore diplomatic relations following 18 months of secret talks. Two rounds of “normalization” talks in Havana and Washington have since made quick progress toward renewing official ties.
Cuba is keen to have Washington’s official recognition of its one-party system run by the Cuban Communist Party, while the Obama administration believes establishing formal relations will strengthen its hand in Latin America where longstanding U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba have failed resoundingly.

After the “last round of talks on Friday, the head of the United States division at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal, told Cuban state media that Havana was willing to restore diplomatic relations as soon as the Obama administration declares its intent to take the Caribbean island off a list of state sponsors of terrorism

. It is the first time Cuba has said publicly it is willing to restore relations before it is removed from the list. While critics, including some members of Congress, have called the end of U.S. attempts to isolate Cuba a gift to the authoritarian Cuban government, Obama said there are already signs it is prompting Havana to liberalize. “We are going down a path in which we can open up our relations to Cuba in a way that ultimately will prompt more change in Cuba.

And we’re already seeing it,” the U.S. president said. “The very fact that, since our announcement, the Cuban government has begun to discuss ways in which they are going to reorganize their economy to accommodate for possible foreign investment, that’s already forcing a series of changes that promises to open up more opportunities for entrepreneurs,” he said.
“And that’s always been the premise of this policy; that, after 50 years of a policy that didn’t work, we need to try something new that encourages and ultimately I think forces the Cuban government to engage in a modern economy.

And that will create more space for freedom for the Cuban people,” Obama said. Both U.S. and Cuban negotiating teams came out of Friday’s talks in Washington in an upbeat mood but did not set a date for formal renewal of diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961. The two countries, politically at odds since soon after Cuba’s revolution in 1959, currently have diplomats working in each other’s capitals, but they operate from what are known as Interests Sections.

The head of the U.S. delegation, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, said she was “optimistic” about the renewal of relations before the Panama summit. Vidal, the head of the Cuban negotiators, later told state media that it could take place before both sides are ready to open embassies.
“In our view it’s not necessary to put it all in one package because if, for example, in a few weeks we receive some satisfactory notification in regards to the matter of Cuba’s removal from the terrorist list, I think we will be ready to then begin talking about how to formalize the re-establishing of relations,” Vidal said in an interview published in Cubadebate, a state media outlet.

Delinking the opening of embassies could make it easier for diplomatic relations to be renewed prior to the Panama summit. The Obama administration is nearing completion of its review of Cuba’s place on the list, but it must be submitted to Congress before the country can be removed after a 45-day wait period, U.S. officials say.

Cuba was added to the terrorism sponsors list in 1982 when it backed insurgencies during the Cold War. More recently it has earned credit for aiding an ongoing peace process with Colombia’s left-wing FARC guerrillas.
A U.S. State Department representative said on Monday that Washington was focused on getting both done before the summit. “We believe re-establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of embassies should be done together. With will on both sides, we can get them done before the Summit,” the person said.

havana-live-cubaagro HAVANA, 3 Mar. (Reuters) – The most important U.S. agricultural delegation to visit Cuba in more than a decade began three days of meetings on Monday, hoping to find potential business partners and urge the U.S. Congress to lift the trade embargo against the Caribbean nation.

Two former agriculture secretaries, a number of state agriculture officials and representatives of various state farm bureaus are among the 95 people whose visit was organized by the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, formed after the Dec. 17 announcement that the United States and Cuba would restore diplomatic relations.

“The message we hope will get back to Washington is that we are a unifying voice that would like to see Congress act in 2015 and end the embargo,” Cargill executive Devry Boughner Vorwerk, chairwoman of the coalition, told Reuters.
The coalition says U.S. farmers are hungry for the $2 billion market so close to home and frustrated by U.S. restrictions. “We understand our competitors are here – Argentina, Brazil, the Europeans – and our hands are being tied behind our backs by our own government,” Vorwerk said.

While President Barack Obama has loosened some trade and travel restrictions, most of the embargo remains in place and can only be ended by Congress, now in Republican control.
The coalition was formed in January to lobby Congress to normalize trade relations. The United States created an embargo exception in 2000 to allow food sales, but it still denies Cuba credit, forcing it to pay cash up front. U.S. food sales to Cuba fell in 2014 to $291 million from $349 million in 2013 and far from the $710 million peak in 2008, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Cuba imports between 60 percent and 70 percent of its food, which came to $2 billion worth in 2014. The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act introduced in the Senate would eliminate all trade restrictions, but the Republican leadership opposes the bill in both houses of Congress. At a welcoming dinner on Sunday, soy farmer Mark Albertson marveled at the crowd.
“There is sorghum, rice, corn, wheat, soy beans; all the commodities are here,” said Albertson, director of strategic marketing of the Illinois Soy Bean Association.

“It is one thing to compete with Brazil for the Chinese market, but embarrassing when our own government stops us from being competitive in our own backyard.”
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn; Editing by Daniel Trotta)

havana-live-Insurances  HAVANA, 3 Mar. As relations between the U.S. and Cuba get cozier, one insurer is eying a lot of opportunity in the travel market.

“We are at the beginning of what could be new opportunities as Cuba and the United States explore ways of ending years of travel and trade restrictions,” says Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of Starr International Company, Inc.
“Starr is committed to assisting clients that wish to explore their own opportunities in Cuba.” Starr Companies established its international headquarters in Havana, Cuba in 1943, after it relocated from Shanghai, China.

It operated there for nearly 15 years, until it relocated to Bermuda, after diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were severed in 1961. “The challenges of doing business in Cuba are substantial,” Greenberg told Business Wire.
“But Starr is well-positioned and prepared to leverage our relationships and global network to support our clients’ entry into this market.”

The U.S. began easing restrictions on travel to Cuba on January 16, 2015, thereby prompting large numbers of individual American and business travelers to begin planning visits to Cuba for the purpose of exploring potential local business, cultural and educational opportunities.

However, the development of any such opportunities will take time and patience, notes Greenberg, as the Cuban people and government adjust to an evolving diplomatic and economic relationship with the United States.
It is likely that Assist-Card International Holdings SA, a Starr subsidiary – which operates a leading global travel assistance services business – would provide travel assistance services and insurance to individuals seeking to travel to Cuba.

havana-live-interjetHAVANA, 1 Mar.  Interjet (4O, Toluca) has approved the firming up of options for an additional ten SSJ 100-95s Russia’s RU Aviation News reports.
The move follows talks between the airline’s board and Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (Moscow Zhukovsky) executives late last year and, according to Interjet CEO Jose Luis Garza, will culminate in an agreement being signed in Venice, Italy later this year.

The Mexican LCC operates eleven of the type on flights throughout Mexico as well as to Houston Intc’l and San Antonio Int’l in the United States. Meanwhile, Garza says his airline would consider developing Havana Int’l into a regional hub but only once US sanctions against the communist island are lifted.

“It’s only a dream now, first of all, the problem with lifting the economic embargo in Cuba must be solved,” Jose Luis Garza told RIA Novosti. “But the creation of a transcontinental hub there [in Cuba] is a very interesting idea.”
After more than fifty years, the Obama administration has signalled its intent to resume direct bilateral ties with Cuba, broken off two years after Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista’s regime in 1959.

With the prospect of a Cuban economic boom on the horizon, longterm ally Russia says it has already held talks with Abu Dhabi’s strategic investment firm, Mubadala, regarding the construction of an new intercontinental hub airport on the island. Should the project go ahead, Russia would contribute USD200 million.
“We are deeply involved in these negotiations,” Russian trade and industry minister Denis Manturov told the UAE’s National newspaper. “Cuba is developing a transport hub from the seaport and a railway to the airport.

They have only one international airport and they are planning to use one of the ex-military bases to build a big airport hub for Latin America.” The paper claims Russia’s involvement in the project is part of a move by president Vladimir Putin to effectively write off about USD32 billion of Soviet-era debt Cuba still owes. Under Moscow’s new terms, Cuba must now repay Russia USD3 billion over a ten-year period.

havana-live-richmeatHAVANA, 1 Mar. (Reuters) – A Mexican meat processing firm has become the first international company to get approval for an investment project in Cuba’s first special economic development area, Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Richmeat de Mexico plans to invest in the processing and packing of meat within the Mariel special development zone of the island, the ministry said in a statement, without giving details of how much money was involved. News of the investment follows December’s agreement between the United States and Cuba to restore diplomatic ties after more than five decades.

That spurred hopes that the communist-run island could be start to open up its economy. The Mexican government is keen to play a central role in the process of ending Cuba’s diplomatic and economic isolation.

The rules and regulations governing the Mariel area were first set out in 2013, but companies have been slow to take advantage of the tax and customs breaks it is meant to offer. The special development zone covers 180 square miles (466 square km) west of Havana and is centered on a new container terminal in Mariel Bay, 28 miles from the Cuban capital.

 havana-live-paris-hiltonSelfie avec le fils de l’ancien président cubain Fidel Castro

LA HAVANE, 28 Feb. (AFP) La starlette Paris Hilton est actuellement à Cuba, île sur laquelle sa famille avait perdu un hôtel il y un demi-siècle à l’arrivée de Fidel Castro au pouvoir.

L’héritière du groupe hôtelier a publié jeudi sur son compte Twitter une photo d’elle à La Havane intitulée “Cuba Baby”. La Britannique Naomi Campbell a également été aperçue dans la vieille capitale cubaine.
Apparemment les deux célébrités ont fait le voyage en même temps que d’autres personnalités, dont l’ancien secrétaire général des Nations unies Kofi Annan.

Depuis l’annonce en décembre dernier d’un rapprochement historique entre les Etats-Unis et Cuba , les restrictions de voyage ont été assouplies. L’arrière grand-père de Paris, Conrad Hilton, le fondateur de l’empire hôtelier s’est rendu à Cuba en 1958 dans l’intention d’ouvrir un établissement. L’hôtel a été nationalisé par le président Castro en 1960 tout comme les autres propriétés américaines installées sur l’île.

havana-live-Cuba-Departure-Tax-Stamp LA HAVANE, 28 Feb. Une nouvelle procédure pour la taxe aéroportuaire de 25 CUC va être mise en place pour les voyageurs qui se rendront à Cuba.

Désormais cette taxe sera intégrée au billet d’avion, et ne sera plus réglée à l’aéroport de La Havane pour les voyages dès le 1er mai 2015, a informé Havanatour dans un communiquuaires, le Ministère de Tourisme de Cuba a modifié la procédure d’encaissement de la taxe aéroportuaire de 25 CUC (soit environ 23 €), a indiqué Havanatour dans un communiqué de presse.

Cette taxe sera intégrée directement sur le billet d’avion avec le code CU, elle ne devra plus être réglée au départ à l’aéroport de La Havane. Cette modification entre en vigueur pour les émissions à partir du 1er mars 2015 et pour des voyages à partir du 1er mai 2015.

Havanatour intégrera donc cette taxe sur tous les voyages ayant un billet d’avion à compter du 1er mai 2015, date de départ. De son côté, le Ministère des affaires étrangères n’a pas encore mis à jour cette nouvelle procédure dans sa rubrique “Conseils Aux Voyageurs”. http://www.tourmag.com/Cuba-nouvelle-procedure-d-encaissement-de-la-taxe-aeroportuaire_a72531.html.

LA HAVANE, 28 Feb (Euronews) Les Etats-Unis pourraient rouvrir leur ambassade à Cuba en avril prochain. Les négociateurs se sont rencontrés ce vendredi à Washington.

La diplomate cubaine Josefina Vidal souhaite que les Etats-Unis retire Cuba de la liste des pays soutenant le terrorisme, mais se félicite du dialogue en cours. “Je peux dire que les entretiens d’aujourd’hui étaient bons” dit-elle. “Nous avons réalisé des progrès dans nos discussions.” Côté américain la diplomate Roberta Jacobson est, elle aussi, optimiste.
La secrétaire d‘État adjointe pour l’Amérique latine pense que les obstacles à la réouverture des ambassades peuvent être levés avant le Sommet des Amériques, qui se tient à Panama les 10 et 11 avril, mais refuse pour l’instant de livrer les détails des négociations en cours.

“Il ne serait pas convenable pour moi d’entrer dans les détails des progrès réalisés ou non” dit elle. Mais honnêtement, nous ne sommes pas loin de résoudre certains problèmes.”
Pour le politologue de l’Université de Georgetown Jon-Christopher Bua, la décision de normaliser les relations avec La Havane pourrait devenir le symbole la présidence Obama. “Le président Obama cherche à se construire un héritage” crois savoir l’universitaire.

“Il cherche quelque chose qui marquera son mandat, tout comme on se souvient de l’initiative de Kennedy avec le voyage sur la lune ou Johnson pour les droits civiques.”
54 ans après la rupture de relations diplomatiques entre les deux pays, Cuba pourrait bien elle aussi rouvrir son ambassade à Washington comme l’explique Stefan Grobe, le correspondant d’Euronews aux Etats-Unis.

“Aujourd’hui, les intérêts cubains aux Etats-Unis sont représentés par l’ambassade de Suisse juste, mais d’ici quelques mois, ou quelques semaines, cet héritage de la guerre froide pourrait disparaître.”

 havana-live-us-cuba-talks(2nd L-R) United States Interest Section in Havana Chief of Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South America and Cuba Alex Lee and their team host a delegation from Cuba for the second round of normalization talks at the State Department February 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. This is the second round of historic talks that could restore diplomatic ties and mark the end of more than 50 years of of Cold War-era hostility between the two countries. CHIP SOMODEVILLA GETTY IMAGES

HAVANA, 27 Feb. Talks between U.S. and Cuban diplomats opened Friday in Washington, exploring the possibility of restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries after five decades of estrangement.

The talks are part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to end the trade embargo against Cuba. A senior State Department official said Friday’s session will focus solely on opening embassies in Washington and Havana as quickly as possible
. “This is where we roll up our sleeves as diplomats and sit down at the table and make sure that we hammer all of the details out to get embassies up and running the way we have embassies all over the world,” the official told reporters.

The official said progress depends in part on what the Cubans bring to the table. Cuba has said it is linking the embassy issue to whether the U.S. drops it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The official said the U.S. delegation is not linking the two issues and that the review of the terrorism list is a separate, ongoing process. The State Department official said the Cubans should feel comfortable that the matter is under review.

“It would be very easy to restore diplomatic relations if they would not link those two things.” The official also said a human rights dialogue will be the first open conversation the U.S. will have with the Cubans as soon as diplomatic ties are restarted. Last month in Havana, the U.S. and Cuba began a series of meetings to re-establish ties.
http://www.voanews.com/content/us-cuba-talks-open/2661645.html.  havana-live-us-cuba-talks   havana-live-us-cuba-talks

 havana-live-habana-libreHAVANA, 27 Feb. (HAVANA TIMES) — Paris Hilton, the billionaire heiress of the Hilton hotel empire, is visiting Cuba today, according to a photograph she published on social networks from Havana, reported dpa news.

“Taking off towards Cuba. I will not have phone service for a couple of days. So if I do not respond to your messages it’s because I’m not them getting,” Hilton wrote to her supporters this afternoon on her Twitter account.
Hours later, the “celebrity” published a picture on the social network Instagram where she is in Old Havana, in the heart of the Cuban capital, posing beside two lifesize United Buddy Bear bear sculptures that are part of a German exhibition that travels the world.paris-hilton-cuba

The Habana LIbre Hotel. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes The visit of the US heiress comes amid a historic rapprochement between the governments of Washington and Havana.
The two countries announced in mid-December they would move to resume diplomatic relations after more than a half century of hostilities. The Hilton family had a large hotel on the island, opened in 1958.

It was nationalized less than a year later after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The “Havana Hilton” was then renamed the “Habana Libre” and remains one of the most emblematic hotels of the Cuban capital.

Former President Fidel Castro lived there in a suite for several months after taking power January 1959. Several US politicians, both democrats and republicans, have also visited the island in recent weeks, after the announcement of the thaw between Cuba and the United States.

6a016300cc7d4e970d01901e4dbfc5970bLA HAVANE, 26 Feb. (AFP)  A Cuba, les réparateurs de matelas, parapluies, et appareils électroménagers sont omniprésents. Et prolongent la vie de tous ces ustensiles. Reportage chez ces pionniers du “développement durable”.

En proie depuis plus d’un demi-siècle à des carences d’approvisionnement, de nombreux Cubains ont été contraints de se transformer en réparateurs de génie, capables de prolonger de plusieurs années la durée de vie d’appareils et de véhicules hors d’âge.
Sur l’île, les réparateurs de matelas, parapluies, ustensiles de cuisine et appareils électroménagers sont postés à de nombreux coins de rue, aux côtés des fabricants de balais ou autres ustensiles faits maison.

Certains, appelés “alchimistes”, composent eux-mêmes des produits de nettoyage. Car tous ces articles ne sont pas disponibles dans le commerce, ou alors à un prix très élevé du fait du sévère embargo commercial et financier imposé depuis 1962 contre l’île communiste. Des restrictions qui privent les Cubains d’articles indispensables et qui les poussent à prolonger autant que possible l’usage de certains biens.

“On colle, on coud et c’est réglé”
“Ici tout peut être réparé, et même quand c’est délicat, on pose un patch, on colle, on coud et c’est réglé”, explique le cordonnier Raul Norguel, 40 ans, faiseur quotidien de miracles sur des chaussures vétustes à l’aide d’une machine à coudre qui date d’avant la révolution de 1959 et qui, selon son propriétaire, “devrait être au musée”.

Dans son atelier du Vedado, proche du centre de la capitale cubaine, M. Norguel a même bricolé une ponceuse avec le moteur d’une antique machine à laver russe “Aurika”, bien connue des Cubains.
Lassé de rafistoler les pièces défectueuses du moteur de sa vieille Buick, Raul Lopez a lui décidé de façonner lui-même un arbre à cames à partir d’une pièce empruntée à une autre voiture.
“Je me suis vu dans l’obligation d’inventer”, témoigne ce mécanicien de 51 ans dans son modeste atelier de La Havane, racontant sa déception face à la mauvaise qualité d’une pièce qu’il était parvenu après des mois d’attente à faire importer d’Argentine, et qui “n’a duré qu’une semaine”.

‘Une philosophie du recyclage’
Serafin Ortiz, un ancien facteur de 63 ans, gagne sa vie dans le Vedado en rechargeant en gaz des briquets jetables, une pratique très répandue à Cuba. “Dans un autre pays, on les jette quand il n’y a plus de gaz.
Ici on fait un petit trou dans le fond, on remplit et on referme avec une goupille”, détaille-t-il. Ses clients ? Des gens qui n’ont simplement pas les moyens de se payer de briquets, mais aussi des personnes aisées qui ne parviennent pas à en trouver.CUBA-ECONOMY-CAR SALES

Ce travail de “réparateur-remplisseur de briquets” fait partie des 200 catégories de petits entrepreneurs privés, ou “cuentapropistas”, autorisés par le gouvernement de Raul Castro dans le cadre de ses réformes économiques visant à instiller une dose d’économie de marché dans une économie largement étatisée et à bout de souffle.

Capacité de survie “incroyable”
Certaines de ces activités ont vu le jour pendant la profonde crise économique qui a suivi la chute du bloc soviétique en 1991. Privée du jour au lendemain des subsides de Moscou, l’île avait traversé une longue période de pénuries.
“C’est une philosophie du recyclage que le Cubain a dû développer et qui nous a donné une capacité de survie incroyable”, explique Fidel Rangel, un artisan de 65 ans.
Aujourd’hui, les réparateurs espèrent comme d’autres que le rapprochement historique engagé voici quelques semaines avec les Etats-Unis leur permettra d’améliorer leur quotidien avec un accès accru à des équipements de qualité pour des prix raisonnables.

L’encouragement du secteur privé cubain est l’une des priorités du président américain Barack Obama, dont le gouvernement veut autoriser l’exportation de biens destinés au développement du petit entrepreneuriat de l’île. (Avec AFP) tage chez ces pionniers du “développement durable”.

 havana-live-cheapairHAVANA, 26 Feb. Travel to Cuba for Americans has become steadily easier since late 2014, and it appears another barrier to entry has been lifted.

CheapAir.com announced Thursday that it has become the first online travel agent in the U.S. to offer flights to Cuba in a single transaction.
But there are still some caveats, and whether this catches on with travelers remains to be seen. For its part, CheapAir says the demand has been there since January, when a key law for travel to Cuba was changed: while Americans still need to claim one of 12 authorized reasons for entry, such as education or religious activities, they no longer need to obtain a license for it.

“Since the rule change, we have seen a surge in search volumes for travel to Cuba,” said CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee in a release. “Arranging flights to Cuba is a little complicated, but it’s the kind of thing we’re good at and our technology platform is flexible enough to make it possible.
Our team did a great job building it out in just a few weeks’ time.” Will this service appeal to do-it-yourself travelers looking to bypass a cultural “person-to-person” tour where the company does all the legwork?

Business travel expert Joe Brancatelli told Yahoo Travel that he’s skeptical. “It’s a PR stunt,” he said. “Anyone who really is interested in Cuba would go to a specialist. I’d be shocked if they actually booked any substantial business.”
It will work like this: you’ll have to buy two sets of round-trip tickets: one set from anywhere in the U.S. to Mexico, and one set from Mexico to Havana.

CheapAir promises to take care of arranging the most convenient connecting flights, though you may need to spend a night in Mexico each way before your flight arrives. Since the two round-trip flights are unrelated, a change or cancellation to one might inconvenience you a lot more with the other.
The announcement is an incremental change from before, when if you wanted to see Cuba without going on a people-to-people tour, you had to book online from a foreign website such as Cubana.cu, CubaJet, or the Canadian version of Skyscanner, and without the option to add a U.S. departure point.

So you’d have to book through two OTAs. When selecting a flight to Havana on CheapAir, you’ll get a prompt displaying the 12 reasons you’re legally allowed to visit, and you’ll select one.
The site explains that you’ll need to re-check your bags in Mexico each way, and that you’ll likely need to stay overnight there. It does offer some lodging options near the airport. Cuba visitors will be required to purchase a visa, which can be had for a small fee in Mexico City.

havana-live-us-cuba-relationsHAVANA,25 Feb. (Reuters by Daniel Trotta) – Cuba would agree to restore diplomatic relations with the United States in time for the April Summit of the Americas if Washington quickly and convincingly removes the Caribbean country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a senior Cuban official said on Wednesday.

Diplomatic ties were severed in 1961, and negotiators for the two longtime adversaries will meet in Washington on Friday, following up on the first round of talks held in Havana last month.
If the two sides move fast enough, they could reopen embassies in each other’s capitals in time for the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas in Panama, where U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro could meet for the first time since they agreed to restore ties and exchange prisoners on Dec. 17.

It would be their first face-to-face-meeting since a handshake at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013, when unbeknownst to most of the world the two countries were six months into secret talks aimed at ending hostilities.
A senior Cuban official on Wednesday said relations could be restored in time for the summit but put the onus on Washington to first strike Cuba from the terrorism list, which can apply sanctions to banks doing business with the designated countries.

“It depends on what the United States does. It does not depend on Cuba,” Gustavo Machin, deputy director of U.S. affairs for the Cuban foreign ministry, told reporters on Wednesday. “It depends on whether we are really taken off the list of terrorist countries.” Obama would need to inform Congress of any decision to remove Cuba from the list, a notification that requires 45 days to become official, which is not enough time before the summit.

The American side has said Obama’s notification alone should be sufficient because Congress cannot overturn the president under current law.
“I cannot say today, right now, if the act of making the announcement would be a sufficient guarantee,” Machin said. U.S. officials have shown a willingness to expedite the six-month review process and remove Cuba before the summit.

 havana-live-jose-martiHAVANA, 25 Feb. Russia may build a large international airport in Cuba with investors from the United Arab Emirates, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said in an interview with a newspaper in Abu Dhabi.

Manturov told newspaper The National that Russia is in discussions with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala investment company to invest in building a hub in Cuba for flights to Latin America. Russia is ready to invest $200 million in the project, Manturov said Tuesday.
A spokesperson for Mubadala told The National: “The company is regularly reviewing a number of different investment opportunities with its Russian partners.”

Manturov added that if the project goes forward, Cuba may provide a rail link from the airport to the nearby seaport of Mariel, where Havana has established a special economic zone to attract foreign investment.
Russia’s interest in investing in Cuba comes amid a larger pattern of courting Latin American countries in the face of Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in the conflict in Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin made Havana the first stop on his tour of the South American continent last summer, where he wrote off the majority of Cuba’s $32 billion debt to the Soviet Union. Under Moscow’s new terms, Cuba must now pay Russia $3 billion in 10 years time.

Cuba has historically denied that it owes Russia any money, asserting that the nation and currency it was indebted to disappeared in 1991 with the Soviet Union’s collapse.

  havana-live-danca-contemporadaHAVANA, 25 Feb. (HAVANA TIMES)  This past February 14th, Cuba’s Danza Contemporanea (DCC) dance company treated the audience to a marvelous Saint Valentine’s gift.

On this occasion, they performed two premieres and restaged a popular piece: English choreographer Billy Cowie’s Tangos Cubanos (“Cuban Tangos”), Cuban choreographer and former DCC dancer Alexis Zanetti’s Retorno (“Return”) and Belgian-Colombian choreographer Anabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Reversible”, which opened on January 9th in the same theater.

Tangos Cubanos enjoyed the support of the British Council in Cuba. In it, Cowie explores the universe of silence, showing us uniform bodies that move in sync to music and whispered texts.
Miguel Iglesias, who has been the director of DCC for 28 years, has said that “Billy Cowie is a poet of dance.” In the words of the author, Retorno “presents us with abstractions of time disguised as timeless memories. It portrays the act of returning as a demand, as a perpetual need.”  havana-live-danca-contemporada

The choreography was accompanied by music by the DCC Percussion Group, which performed Afro-Cuban music, seducing the audience with rhythmic cadences synched to the clean thumping of the dancers, imbuing these with tremendous vitality with every beating of the drums.
The performance was a celebration of tradition, a nostalgic invocation of the joy that reuniting with the city and its people involves. With Reversible, Anabelle Lopez Ochoa sought to address gender issues – its confrontations and pleasures.

As Jorge Brooks expressed, Danza Contemporanea is one of the most eclectic companies in the world dance panorama, proving its ability to take on different styles time and time again, keeping the idiosyncracies of our culture alive and masterfully using “bodies and the dance techniques of black and mulatto Cuban performers” conceived by Ramiro Guerra.
Photo by Maité Fernández havana-live-danca-contemporada

havana-live-arte_factoHAVANA,25 Feb. This past Wednesday saw the debut of Arte-Facto, a new gallery in Vedado focusing on design, which opened under the auspices of the Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales.

The inaugural show, Sin móvil aparente—a punning title that could translate as “Without Apparent Motive” or “Without Mobile Phone”—presents posters by eleven contemporary graphic designers. On view through April 15.

Bienal Takes Shape
The curatorial concept for the 12th Bienal de La Habana has been announced, along with the artists invited to participate.
Under the theme Entre la idea y la experiencia (Between the Idea and the Experience), this year’s edition forsakes the usual central exhibition area in favor of a decentralized approach that sends Bienal visitors into neighborhoods around Havana for performances, events, and other experiences that encourage intersections of art with dance, theater, music, cinema, and literature.

More than two dozen Cuban artists have been invited to participate, including Glenda León, Esterio Segura, Lázaro Saavedra, Elizabet Creviño, and Nestor Siré. Invited foreign artists include Anish Kapoor, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and performance artist Tino Sehgal. The Bienal runs May 22–June 22.

The_Importance_of_BeingBelgian Contemporary Art at the MNBA.
Earlier this month, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana welcomed The Importance of Being…, a show of 40 contemporary artists working in Belgium. Including Belgian-born artists and others working in the country, the exhibition raises questions about Belgian identity and its multilingual, transnational character. The featured artists include Francis Alÿs, Chantal Ackerman, and Wim Delvoye. On view through April 26.

havana-live-winston_churchillLA HAVANE, 24 Feb. (AFP) A l’occasion du cinquantenaire de la mort de l’ancien premier ministre britannique Winston Churchill, sa marque préférée de cigares, “Romeo y Julieta”, sera un grand acteur du Festival du Havane, qui débute lundi à La Havane.

Ce festival réunit chaque années des centaines d’amateurs de havanes venus du monde entier pour participer à des dégustations, des visites de plantations ou des concours de confection de cigares.
On compte même depuis l’an dernier un concours de la cendre la plus longue. Des produits des marques “Montecristo” et “Romeo y Julieta” ouvrent cette 17e édition, et “se dégusteront en exclusivité au cours de la rencontre”, la plus importante au monde, qui durera jusqu’à vendredi, selon Habanos S.A., qui commercialise les cigares cubains.

“Romeo y Julieta”, marque fondée en 1875, a compté parmi ses plus fidèles clients Winston Churchill (1874-1965), amateur de bonne chère et implacable dirigeant lors de la Seconde guerre mondiale. Trois modules – les “Churchills”, “Short Churchills” et “Wide Churchills” – portent le nom de celui qui a visité l’île deux fois, en 1895, alors jeune officier d’un régiment de hussards, puis en 1946, alors leader mondial.

“Montecristo”, marque de référence la plus connue et appréciée des 27 que compte Cuba, sera mis à l’honneur lors de la soirée de gala qui clôturera l’événement et sera l’occasion de dévoiler une pièce spéciale “80e anniversaire”.
Cette édition est également la première à se dérouler depuis l’annonce mi-décembre d’un rapprochement historique entre Cuba et les Etats-Unis. Premier marché mondial, les Etats-Unis restent interdits aux marques cubaines en raison de l’embargo américain imposé à l’île depuis 1962.

Mais parmi les premiers signes de détente concédés par le président Barack Obama figure l’autorisation pour les voyageurs américains se rendant sur l’île de ramener pour 100 dollars de rhum et cigares. Les exportations cubaines de cigares ont cru de 8% en 2013, s’élevant à 447 millions de dollars, représentant 70% des cigares de haute qualité vendus dans le monde, selon Habanos S.A.

havana-live-cigaresHAVANA, 24 Feb. (Reuters) The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to a state-owned Cuban cigar company on Monday by declining to intervene in its long-running battle with a U.S.-based rival over the Cohiba trademark that both use for their products.

By refusing to hear an appeal filed by Delaware-based General Cigar Co Inc, the high court left intact a ruling in favor of the Cuban company,Cubatabaco. Due to the long-running U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, the Cuban company cannot sell its Cohiba cigars in the United States, but it does sell them inCuba and elsewhere.

General Cigar sells Dominican Republic-produced Cohiba cigars in the United States. General Cigar is owned by Scandinavian Tobacco Group A/S, which is partly owned by Swedish Match AB..

The legal dispute is over whether the Cuban company has the right to challenge General Cigar’s trademarks in the United States despite the embargo. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last June ruled in favor of Cubatabaco.

After the Supreme Court’s denial, the case will now move forward at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The case reached the high court just after President Barack Obama announced in December that he planned to loosen some of the U.S.-Cuban restrictions, although the broad trade embargo will remain intact.

Under an easing of travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba under Obama’s changes, American visitors will be able to buy up to $100 worth of cigars, the island’s most famous product, bring them home and smoke them. In January, the Obama administration said it would allow U.S. exports of telecommunications, agricultural and construction equipment, permit expanded travel by Americans to the island and open banking relations.

Women-Smoking-CigarsHAVANA, 24 Feb  Cuba’s annual cigar festival is getting under way in the capital Havana – with American visitors able to take cigars home legally for the first time in decades.

A thaw in US-Cuban relations means American smokers will be able to stock up on products worth up to $100 (£65). Havana cigars have been banned in the US for more than 50 years under the terms of a trade embargo.
Hundreds of visitors are expected at the week-long festival. Despite the recent rapprochement between Washington and Havana, most Americans are still not allowed to travel to the Caribbean island. However some US citizens, including relatives of Cubans or academics, are allowed to visit and take advantage of the new rules.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-31598280  havana-live-cigar-festival   havana-live-cigar-festival  havana-live-cigar-festival

 havana-live-fowler-johnsHAVANA, Feb 23.  (Prensa Latina)  Darryl Jones and Bernard Fowler, two active members of the music group Rolling Stones, will perform in Cuba along with the international rock superband The Dead Daisies.

Jones, the legendary ‘Munich’ has played bass with legends like Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, noted when he reached Havana that he feels honored of being in Cuba, whose music and culture loves.

‘With The Rollings Stones, I have traveled a lot but I’ve never been to Cuba. Needless to say I feel very lucky to know this country, “told the bassist to Granma newspaper.
The Dead Daisies will perform next Wednesday at the Maxim Rock and the next Saturday at the Salon Rosado of the Tropical.
Jones said he met Cuban music through the late Israel ‘Cachao’ Lopez, and affirmed that Cuban musicians have played an invaluable role in the defense of this vibrant culture.

 havana-live-begien-art-exhibition HAVANA, 23 Feb. (Sam Steverlynck) So you walk into El Floridita, one of many Havana bars that prides itself on being a former haunt of barfly Ernest Hemmingway, and there is Guillaume Bijl, the Belgian artist known for absurd installations in which he brings a driving school or travel agency into a museum context.

On your way out, you try to hail a taxi, but it is already occupied by Joëlle Tuerlinckx. In a nearby eatery, video artist Johan Grimonprez is having lunch. It feels like Havana is having a Belgian moment—and in a way, it is.
For the exhibition The Importance of Being…in Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Cuban curator Sara Alonso Gómez selected 40 top-notch artists born or living in Belgium, including stars like Marcel Broodthaers, Wim Delvoye, Berlinde De Bruyckere, and Francis Alÿs, to showcase Belgian art—with all the complications and multiple identities that term implies—across Latin America.

Through July 2016 the show will travel to three other museums in South America: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. havana-live-belgian-art 20150223113408-Screen_Shot_2015-02-23_at_12.33.42_PM 20150223113048-DSC08228From top: Wim Delvoye, Guillaume Bijl, Kendall Geers

A number of artists were busy during their Cuban sojourn making new artwork commissioned specially for the exhibition. I caught up with three artists—two of whom are also participating in the upcoming 2015 Havana Biennial—whose work responds directly to context and environment of the host nation.

Koen van den Broek is making a new painting for every country where the The Importance of Being… will take place. Van den Broek is known for paintings in which he renders generous details of the urban landscape, like curb stones, in a style between figuration and abstraction.
“My work is often on location,” he says, “as the grey and clouded Belgian landscape does not work for me.

First I wanted to render the run-down beauty of Havana, but since I was here last time, I noticed they have been restoring a lot. And that was a bit too complex. I found a location in the street opposite Hotel Presidente, one of the oldest high-rise buildings in Havana. In this painting, there is a strong contrast between the architecture and the vegetation.
This is only the second time I’ve used this kind of green. It is a green that you see everywhere, and which has a kind of Miami atmosphere.” Van den BroekKoen van den Broek

Making the work on the spot was easier said than done. “We are here in a tropical climate with a high humidity.Because of that, the paint took a much longer time to dry. At 2 x 3 meters, it is also a big format. The work could not even enter the apartment where I was supposed to work.
Then they proposed a garage, but there was not enough light and too much dust. In the end, after some bureaucracy, I was allowed to make it in the museum, as I had hoped from the beginning.” The artist also took precautions to ensure he had all the material he needed. “We sent over a crate of 300 kilograms with all kinds of paint, even staples and a screw driver.

Finding material is not always easy here… Later, the crate will also travel to Buenos Aires and Rio. It almost becomes like a kind of mini-atelier.” Peter de Cupere, who typically works with smell, is one of the three Belgian artists—together with Koen van Mechelen and Michel François—who will be participating in the upcoming Havana Biennial.

De Cupere visited Cuba some time ago to do some advance research, and for The Importance of Being… he wanted to realize a work that captured the smell of Havana, including the powerful scent of gasoline that the old Chevys and Buicks spit out. “The pollution is strong here,” he says. “Initially I almost got sick from it. I took some samples from the various smells and sent it to a special laboratory in Paris. You only have three such laboratories in the world. I asked them to make a perfume from it. But I also added a smell that recalls smoked meat. As a reference to the pollution we inhale with our lungs.” The resulting artwork is created in a kind of cloud, in which the visitor can put his head in order to smell it.  havana-live-belgian-art   havana-live-belgian-artPeter de Cupere with his Smoke Cloud, which reproduces the scent of Havana

For the Havana Biennial, which opens in late May, he will present The Smell of a Stranger. In the Botanical Garden, he will give one plant the smell of another one, by manipulating some of its components. For over a decade Koen van Mechelen has been working on his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, which crossbreeds domestic chickens from around the world to create a truly global specimen.
He’s presented various steps of his research across the globe, including in the most remote areas in the world, and now the CCP comes to Cuba.

For The Importance of Being… he shows a 3D rendering of a chromosome of all the cross-breedings. “It is a visual rendering of immunity. It would show more resistance. The image is a chromosome of the Mechelse koekoek [a Flemish breed of chicken]. It is a very realistic image, which I call Evolution of a Hybrid, combined with a more poetic image. It is a kind of breeding center that consists of glass bowls with glass eggs that are under water. It is one installation, but consists of a meeting between two universes.”  havana-live-belgian-art

Van Mechelen will also participate in the Havana Biennial. “I was here in 2007 basically looking for the Cubalaya, a chicken species from Cuba that I could not find anywhere—until I was invited by a collector in the countryside, one hour from New York. In the fields, I saw a Cubalaya and asked the owner for some of the eggs.
The [collector] has died now, so apparently, I am one of the few people in the world who has all the varieties of the Cubalaya! When I was invited to the Biennial, I immediately decided to bring the Cubalaya back where it belongs: in Cuba!

We have sent some of the breed installations and eggs over, which was not easy at all. But we got support from the highest level, so it was possible. We have already bred some of the animals, but will continue to do so in Havana.
In a library, we will also show all the documentation material of our research, and we are organizing a symposium on fertility, inviting professors from all over the world.” Looks like Cuba hasn’t seen the end of Belgium quite yet.

In a perfect metaphor for the complexities of global and national identities, a trace of Belgium—in the form of a native Cuban chicken—will remain in Havana even after the artists have left.

The Importance of Being… is on view at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba until April 26, 2015.

havana-live- cy-tokmakjianLA HAVANE, 22 février (Reuters) – Cuba a libéré samedi Cy Tokmakjian, un chef d’entreprise canadien qui avait passé plus de trois ans en détention, a fait savoir la société de l’homme d’affaires. Cy Tokmakjian, 74 ans, avait été condamné en septembre dernier à 15 ans de prison par la justice cubaine pour corruption et crime financier.
Sa société avait alors dénoncé une “parodie de justice”. Présent dans les secteurs des transports, de l’exploitation minière et de la construction, le groupe Tokmakjian était l’une des entreprises étrangères les plus florissantes à Cuba jusqu’à sa fermeture et l’arrestation de son fondateur en septembre 2011.