havana-live-habanos-festivalHavana, 21 Feb.   (AFP) – Cigar aficionados will pay tribute to Winston Churchill in Havana Monday as the world’s largest Cuban cigar festival opens with a nod to the late leader’s favorite brand of cheroot.

The 17th Habanos festival will honor Churchill’s beloved “Romeo and Juliet” cigars at the opening of the five-day event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the former British prime minister’s death.
Churchill, who died on January 24, 1965, visited Cuba twice in his life — once in 1895 when he was a young military officer and again in 1946 after leading Britain through World War II.

Habanos has no fewer than three types of cigars named after the British leader, and the company’s Gran Reserva Cosecha 2009 Wide Churchills will be showcased at Monday’s opening ceremony, which will also feature a performance from Cuba’s Latin Grammy-winning singer Descemer Bueno.

The festival comes as the Cuban cigar industry possibly looks forward to a booming future following the historic announcement in December by US and Cuban leaders of moves to normalize relations after half a century.

Barack Obama’s administration authorized US travelers to Cuba to bring back up to $100 worth of rum and tobacco although the figure is largely symbolic as a relatively small number of Americans are able to visit the island.

havana-live- cy-tokmakjianHAVANA,21 Feb. (AP) — A Canadian automobile executive imprisoned in Cuba on corruption charges for more than three years was released Saturday after Cuba’s government ended a case that it called a demonstration of the fight against bribery and critics said was a warning against doing business here.

Cy Tokmakijian’s case was seen by some as a loose end in the U.S.-Cuba deal late last year that led to the release of three Cuban intelligence agents in exchange for U.S. contractor Alan Gross and CIA spy Rolando Sarraff Trujillo.
Canada and the Vatican hosted key talks in 18 months of negotiations leading up to the exchange, which was accompanied by a joint move to restore full diplomatic relations between the countries.

Canadian officials declined to comment on whether the deal boosted to their efforts to win freedom for Tokmakjian, who was serving 15 years after his arrest in a 2011 anti-graft drive that swept up Cuban officials and foreign business executives from at least five nations. Tokmakjian, 74, was sentenced in September and his representatives said that firm managers Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche got shorter sentences.

Their whereabouts were not immediately clear Saturday. Tokmakjian family says his prosecution was an excuse to seize his Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group’s $100 million in assets in Cuba. Some potential investors in Cuba said the case made them wary of Cuba’s drive to draw billions in new foreign investment.

“Cy returns home in good health, fantastic sprits, and is looking forward to spending time with his family,” lawyer Barry Papazian said. Foreign business people have long considered payoffs ranging from a free meal to cash deposits in overseas accounts to be an unavoidable cost of doing business in Cuba.

They have skeptically greeted government assertions that rooting out rampant corruption is among the country’s highest priorities.(BY MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN)

 havana-live-jose-marti-aerportHAVANA, 22 Feb. (Sputnik) The creation of a transcontinental aviation hub in Havana is an interesting prospect, but will only be possible after the economic embargo on the country is lifted, the CEO of Mexican carrier Interjet said Tuesday.

“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. The Interjet CEO believes Cuba has excellent opportunities to create a hub in the future, but first needs to work out a lot of issues. “But the creation of a transcontinental hub there [in Cuba] is a very interesting idea,” Garza added.
The United States had an embargo in place against Cuba since 1961, which was initially put in place due to Cold War antagonism between Washington and the Communist government in Havana.

In late 2014, US President Barack Obama announced Washington’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Havana and ease the five-decade-long US trade and travel restrictions on the island.

Under the new policy, the United States plans to ease travel restrictions for US citizens traveling to the country, and ease certain sanctions. Nevertheless, the decision of abolishing the US trade embargo against Cuba has still not been taken.

MBE_20150221085605_high.00_01_19_10.Still001HAVANA, 22 Feb.  While some are using the Internet to hack into personal information, others use it to support their dreams. Crowdfunding has reached the island of Cuba. Now the rest of the world can invest in emerging Cuban artists.

Cuban rumba beats like “guaguanc” and the Afro-Cuban sounds of the Bat drum mixed in with a little bit of Jazz to makes the eclectic sounds of the Cuban band “Banda Ancha” led by Yissy Garcia.
They call the style high-speed Cuban jazz. “We mixed it with funk, and a little bit of reggae and samba, and we mix all these rhythms together to produce a fun sound,” Yissy Garcia from Banda Ancha said.havana-live-Yssi1

27-year old Yissy is a well known percussionist in Cuba. She has worked on various studio albums and has scored a few deals like her partnership with Sabian cymbals, but when it came to putting together her first album, she didn’t want to be signed by a label.

“The idea is we want to own the recording rights, but it is really hard to record an album if you don’t have funds,” she said. That is how the idea of crowdfunding came along. It’s a way for people to raise money for everything from donations for personal art projects to equity financing for businesses. The goal for Banda Ancha crowdfunding campaign was about $6,000.

During the last five years, the crowdfunding industry has grown to be a worldwide phenomenon. One industry report said in 2013 alone more than $5 billion were crowdfunded online. But for those here in Cuba campaigning on the Internet isn’t easy, since the island has limited bandwidth and a low number of connections.
“We had to constantly move the campaign every hour, and from here that can be complicated. Sometimes we had the issue that we couldn’t find an Internet connection!

We would run to hotels, or ask friends for help that could maybe offer us the connection,” Garcia said. The efforts have paid off. Garcia and “Banda Ancha” surpassed their goal of receiving donations from the United States, Europe and all across Latin America. Related Read more:

 havana-live-hotel-pargue-central-poolThe rooftop pool at the Iberostar Parque Central hotel in Havana

America is ready for Cuba. Are Cuban hotels ready for Americans?

HAVANA, Feb 21 Imagine booking a $4,000 weeklong vacation to an -exotic locale near the ocean. Now imagine that when you get there, your room has no hand towels, the air conditioning is spotty, and it’s illegal to kick back by the beach.
Welcome to Cuba, home to miles of white-sand beaches, premium tobacco, oak-aged rum—and 50 years of a business-phobic government under a crippling trade embargo.

Thanks to new regulations the U.S. announced in January, which among other things will eliminate the need for a special travel license to go there, the island nation has become the world’s buzziest destination for Americans. It’s also probably the only one that won’t accept most credit cards. Cuba has long been the forbidden fruit of the American tourist.
A 30-minute flight from Florida, it already draws enough people from Canada and Europe to make it the Caribbean’s third-most-popular destination, after Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Cuba gets about 3 million visitors a year—just 90,000 of them from the U.S. New rules have made travel to the country easier than it has been in half a century, and President Obama has said he wants more barriers to fall. In the Senate, Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a bill to end the embargo outright.
If that happens, the IMF has said, the number of annual visitors to Cuba could easily double. Yet with a shortage of high-end accommodations, what Cuba will do with all of them is unclear.

Tour operators are already seeing a surge. Michael Zuccato of California-based Cuba Travel Services, which operates flights to Cuba and organizes tours for Americans, says he expects his business to increase 50% to 200% over the next several years. Michael Sykes, founder of Cuba Cultural Travel, has moved to secure some 10,000 rooms in anticipation of strong demand.
Pam Hoffee, a VP at Swiss travel company Globus, predicts its Cuba travel business will triple. The main obstacle to all that expansion? Hotel space.

Jennine Cohen, managing director for the Americas at high-end travel firm GeoEx, says it’s rooms rather than demand that’s limiting growth, a challenge that she expects will worsen in coming years as Cuba’s weighty regulations hold up private development.
But, however slowly, development is coming. In downtown Havana, Swiss luxury brand Kempinski is in negotiations to build a 200-room resort that would be the city’s most deluxe.

-Sebastiaan Berger, CEO of leading Cuba developer CEIBA Investments, says 10 to 15 hotels have a realistic shot at being built in the next few years. And there are signs of a more relaxed attitude toward new construction.
About the same time the country released imprisoned British businessman Stephen Purvis from a Cuban jail after 16 months in custody on murky charges, it gave the green light to a new $350 million golf resort (the island has only three courses, and one of them is at Guantánamo Bay).

What really gets developers going is the possibility that the restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba could be eliminated entirely. Full normalization of trade relations would unleash a tourist deluge in the country, make construction far easier, and beckon the likes of Marriott , Hilton and Coca-Cola , which have all expressed interest in investing on the island. Until then, discerning travelers and their guides still have options.

True luxury hotels on many itineraries include the Meliá Habana and the Meliá Cohíba, run by Spanish hotel company Meliá; the Iberostar Parque Central, also operated by a Spanish hotelier; the Hotel Saratoga, run by state-owned company Habaguanex; and the storied Hotel Nacional de Cuba, with stunning ocean views, though travel agents warn not to expect ultramodern amenities at the 85-year-old stalwart.

Increasingly Cubans are also opening their homes to travelers, in bed and breakfasts called casas particulares; some can be wonderful, but quality varies, and it’s difficult to arrive as a tour group.
What Cuba may lack in first-class amenities, it makes up for in culture, and the years before luxury development takes off may be the best time to go. “It’s a trip for people really interested in active learning who want to be engaged all the time,” Hoffee says. “If you want to sit on the beach and read a book, go to another island.” For CEIBA’s Berger, it’s a long-term play.

The very adventurous will come see the Cuba unspoiled by capitalism and frozen in time: old cars, vintage streetscapes, and the faded glamour of a wayward egalitarian experiment. “With all its romance, the slippage of five-star services is being forgiven,” Berger says. “That will last three or four years. Then Cuba will have to improve.”

To travel to Cuba legally under the new regulations, Americans must fall into one of 12 categories. Some are concrete, like religious or business trips. Other categories are less clear, including “support for the Cuban people.”
Most U.S. visitors travel under the education classification, using a subset that requires a full-time schedule of “people-to-people” activities. That typically means going with a tour agency that will coordinate city tours, talks with artists, and face time with locals. Packages for tourist activities like beach- going are explicitly forbidden. Travel may get easier soon, but in the meantime, these agencies can get you there and back.

havana-live-Havana   by Bill Klipp,LA HAVANE, 21 Feb. On ne revient jamais vraiment d’un voyage à Cuba. Pays coincé dans le temps, entre 30 et 40 ans en arrière, on ne peut être que dépaysé en arrivant sur l’île. Pourtant, la vie sur place coûte plus cher que ce qu’on pourrait s’imaginer de ce pays où de vieilles américaines roulent encore…


C’est à coup sûr le poste de budget le plus important lors d’un voyage à Cuba. Pour de longs trajets, il vaut parfois mieux privilégier le taxi partagé que le bus, qui est bien plus rapide et parfois moins cher !
– Bus Viazul La Havane- Viñales : 12 CUC (8,64 €) (+ 6 CUC de taxi pour se rendre à la station de bus depuis le Parque Central).
– Taxi partagé La Havane- Viñales : 15 CUC (12 €) (et on vient vous chercher devant votre casa !).
– Taxi partagé La Havane- Varadero : 15 CUC (12 €)
– Bus Viazul La Havane-Varadero : 10 CUC (7,2 €)
– Un ticket de bus local à la Havane : 1 MN (0,033 €)

Le meilleur moyen de se loger à Cuba reste les casas particulares, qui sont des chambres louées par l’habitant.
– Une chambre double dans une casa particular à la Havane : 25 CUC (20€)
– Une chambre double dans une casa particular à la Havane (prix internet) : 20 CUC (16 €)
– Une chambre double dans une casa particular à Viñales : 15-20 CUC (12-16 €)

Nourriture et boissons
Le prix peut varier du tout au tout en fonction de la région et du type de restaurant. Forcément à la Havane, il faut s’attendre à payer un peu plus qu’en province.
– Une bière Cristal ou Bucanero à La Havane : 1,50 CUC (1,2 €)
– Une assiette de poulet grillé à la Havane : 5 CUC (4€) – Un mojito : 3 CUC (2,4 €)
– Un dîner dans une casa particular: 10 CUC (8 €)
– Un petit-déjeuner dans une casa particular : 5 CUC (4 €)
– Un sandwich dans un stand de rue : 1 CUC (23 MN=0,8 €)

Sorties, activités et extras
Pour les activités et comme partout, il faut toujours comparer les prix.
A la Havane, mis à part les musées, vous n’aurez pas vraiment à dépenser niveau activités.
– Une entrée au Museo de la Revolucion à la Havane : 8 CUC (6,4 €)
– Une balade à cheval de 2 heures dans la vallée de Viñales : 10 CUC (8 €)
– Une entrée dans las Cuevas de Santo Tomas dans la vallée de Viñales : 10 CUC (8 €)
– Une boîte de rangement à cigares dans une boutique souvenir : entre 5 et 15 CUC (4-12 CUC)

Du coup, pour une semaine de voyage à Cuba, voilà ce que donne un budget… Une grande partie est allouée au budget, parce que le premier soir et comme tout bon touriste qui se respecte, j’ai eu l’immense honneur de me faire bien arnaquer et de payer un resto 55 CUC à deux, ô joie ! Cuba n’est donc pas un pays si économique que ça pour un voyageur petit budget.

Voici le budget par jour par catégorie:Sans-titre2
Transport: 9,94 €/jour
Nourriture: 17,14 €/jour
Logement: 11,57 €/jour
Sorties et activités: 3,42 €/jour
Extras: 2,28 €/jour


● Il existe deux types de cubains : les cubains sociables qui sont toujours enclins à parler aux touristes, et ceux qui viendront avec l’idée en tête de vous vendre quelque chose, ou tout bonnement de vous arnaquer. Si un cubain vous propose d’aller boire un verre, assurez-vous d’abord que vous ne devrez pas lui payer son verre (expérience vécue !).
● Si possible, payez en moneda nacional (MN) : les prix sont toujours plus bas dans cette monnaie et vous économiserez un peu.
● Les cubains ne sont pas des gens qui négocient, sauf pour les taxis : n’hésitez pas à baisser le prix et à partir si besoin, car ils ont        tendance à bien gonfler la note, et parfois plus qu’en Asie !
● Au lieu des bus, privilégiez les taxis partagés, qui vous reviendront moins cher.
● Si vous voulez manger pour très peu cher, allez dans les stands de rue et évitez les restaurants en général : attention par contre, vous ne mangerez pas forcément local mais plutôt pizza/hamburger.
● Toujours demander l’info à deux personnes différentes ! On se rend vite compte que les cubains arrangent souvent la vérité à leur sauce : le taxi ne peut pas venir je vous emmène, mes cigares sont meilleurs que les siens, et tutti quanti.

havana-live-IDT_LOGOHAVANA, Feb 20  (Reuters) – U.S.-based telecom company IDT Corp has reached an agreement with Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), Cuba’s national telecom provider, to provide international long distance telephony between the United States and Cuba directly.

The company said that the agreement was filed today with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and is subject to FCC review for a period of ten days. FCC was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.
If the agreement takes effect, IDT will be the only U.S. carrier to have a direct interconnection into Cuba. “This is an important first step in the liberalization of telecommunications between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Bill Pereira, Chief Executive Officer of IDT Telecom in a statement.

IDT joins a list of U.S. companies looking to take advantage of thawing diplomatic relations between the United States and the communist-ruled island country. Netflix Inc launched its movie and TV streaming service in Cuba last week.

MasterCard Inc has said it will allow its cards issued in the United States to be used in Cuba, effective March 1. American Express Co has also said it would launch operations in Cuba. The announcement follows revisions to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations announced by the U.S. government earlier this month.

 havana-live-artCubaLA HAVANE, 20 Feb. Des critiques et experts de l’art contemporain cubain s’interrogent sur l’avenir de l’art dans l’île. Le rapprochement entre la Havane et Washington ne risque-t-il pas de lui faire perdre son identité ?

“L’art cubain sera-t-il un vecteur de conciliation ?” C’est la question que se pose le critique d’art cubain Píter Ortega Núñez dans le quotidien de Miami El Nuevo Herald.
Le rapprochement entre les Etats-Unis et Cuba ne peut qu’encourager les investissements privés des mécènes, des collectionneurs et des professionnels au sein de l’île, estiment certains observateurs et experts de l’art contemporain.
Ce nouveau “business” ouvre en effet le champ à la création de galeries indépendantes, de publications sur l’art, mais aussi à des espaces de débat et de revendication sur la liberté de création des artistes cubains.

Nivellement par le bas ?
D’autres sont moins enthousiastes. Ainsi le directeur d’une galerie d’art à Miami, Robert Borlenghi, estime-t-il que l’accroissement des échanges entre les deux pays pourrait entraîner une sorte de nivellement par le bas de l’art cubain.”La situation politique de Cuba a forgé pendant longtemps l’inspiration de ses artistes”, affirme-t-il.

Or, le processus de mondialisation qui n’épargne pas le milieu artistique pourrait faire perdre son identité à l’exception culturelle cubaine “du fait de l’adaptation des artistes aux tendances du monde occidental”. La meilleure visibilité dont bénéficieront les Cubains sur le marché de l’art pourrait également, en multipliant l’offre, “faire baisser la qualité moyenne des œuvres”, ajoute le galeriste.

Nouvelle scène
A l’heure actuelle, seule une poignée d’artistes cubains ont pignon sur rue à New York ou en Europe, rappelle El Nuevo Herald. Ils sont les rares représentants d’une catégorie de Cubains disposant d’un niveau de vie supérieur à la moyenne sur l’île.

Mais à l’image de “Los Carpinteros” (un trio de sculpteurs) à New-York ou de Carlos Garaicoa (sculpteur) en Espagne, rares artistes cubains présents sur la scène internationale, une nouvelle génération de créateurs reconnus pourrait bientôt émerger. C’est ainsi que l’art pourrait bien jouer un rôle futur dans l’émancipation des individus à Cuba, conclut El Nuevo Herald.

 havana-live-filming-havanaHAVANA, 19 Feb.(Paul Duran) Since President Obama eased tensions with Cuba late last year, the film community in the island nation has been optimistic, if cautiously so, about striking new relationships with its counterpart in Hollywood, and hopeful it can reform the Cuban film industry to compete on the world stage.

“Many (American) directors have expressed — more or less privately — their interest in filming in Cuba,” says Luis Barrera, senior advisor at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC), the government-run film commission that, in essence, acts as the sole movie studio in Cuba.
“On the other hand, Cuba has its own tradition in cinema, and is among the leading lights in the Caribbean region,” he adds. Helmers like Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”) and Daniel Diaz Torres (“La Pelicula de Ana”) are some filmmakers who’ve gained international recognition.

Barrera notes that it’s also important for Cuba to build an efficient and competitive infrastructure, with professional crews experienced not only in local productions, but in co-productions with Europeans. “This is one aspect we can quickly work on, as well as looking toward investments and joint ventures, including tax rebates and other incentives to attract U.S. filmmakers,” Barrera says.Havana-Club-2007

Local filmmakers, though, worry that ICAIC will prioritize the needs of foreign productions that want to film in Cuba over the needs to develop those of the nation’s own creative talent.
“The first step should be to see how Cuban cinema can flourish from this relationship on its home turf, and hopefully not get swallowed up by the great machinery of the U.S. film industry,” says Carlos Quintela, whose second film, “The Project of the Century,” about three generations of a Cuban family living near an abandoned Soviet nuclear power station, won a Tiger award at Rotterdam after being acquired for international sales by Berlin-based M-Appeal.

Filmmaker Yassel Iglesias, who made 2012 doc “The Chosen Island,” about Jewish emigres in Cuba, which ultimately brought him to the U.S., sees progress coming only after regulations ease.
“I think that (reform) will definitely help the production of Cuban films,” says Iglesias, “but I can’t use the phrase ‘Cuban film industry’ yet, because so far there have been no reforms or laws that recognize new independent companies, and the only ‘industry’ is ICAIC, which many Cuban filmmakers refuse to work with.”

Many Cuban filmmakers have had to seek funding overseas. Quintela, a former student at the Intl. Film and Television School (EICTV) in Havana, started a production company in England and raised coin for “Project of the Century” from Argentina (with production shingle Rizoma Films), as well as tapping coin from the Rotterdam fest’s Hubert Bals Fund.
At its heart, Cuba is a warm, welcoming nation full of vast promise and rich potential, yearning for opportunity, both economically and artistically.03062010422

Despite its communist roots, the country has an entrepreneurial spirit, built of raw necessity plus a desire to make its own way, without an intrusive government or an overbearing next-door neighbor.
For now, the greatest obstacle to rebuilding the local film industry may well be the lack of freedom of expression. The promise that a diplomatic thaw would change that took a blow when Boris Arenas Gonzalez, a professor at EICTV, was fired after being jailed for attempting to participate in a free-speech-themed performance-art event.

Especially troubling is that the school, which has an international charter, has been a beacon of free speech in Cuba for students and filmmakers from around the world. The hope is that this is a momentary blip on the radar, and that the thawing of relations with the U.S. will bring more free expression and less government intervention.
“I think it’s a historical change that presents opportunities and challenges to both nations,” says Barrera. Quintela agrees. “If we were to combine the shared histories of both countries, there would be enough material to create movies of great significance.”

For Iglesias, who just finished shooting his latest film, “Lois” in Havana, the future is already beginning to take shape. “There’s more hope, and Cubans need that. A year ago, nobody thought of change, and to find a smile on the streets was harder. Today people scream, ‘Ya somos amigos de los Yuma!’ — Now we are friends with the Americans!
And there is laughter, and rum … of course.”

 havana-live-zz-topHAVANA, 19 Feb. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons is going to Cuba this June to play a jazz summit.

And even he doesn’t know why. “How did my name get on a jazz roster? I’m a blues and rock & roll player,” Gibbons tells Rolling Stone. “But I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’d love to go to Havana.”
Yet the ZZ Top guitarist, who recently recorded a weed anthem with his Nashville protégé Tim Montana, says he’s not going to come armed with only rock riffs.

Gibbons has been hunkering down in the studio, writing what he calls “Cuban music.” “The engineers were rolling their eyes, going, ‘Yeah, Gibbons is going to go Havana on us.’ But when I was 13, I got a guitar and my dad — being the consummate entertainer — sent me up to New York to study Latin percussion with Tito Puente. I learned maracas, timbales, clavas, bongos…you name it,” Gibbons says.
“And having lived in Mexico a couple years, I know just enough Spanish to get me in trouble.” Encouraged by the results, Gibbons is eyeing the project as a proper solo album. “I put together a little side band,” he says.

“I’m going back to wrap up the project and, believe it or not, it’s turning out to be such an obtuse, oddball, unexpected left turn from ZZ Top’s blues background. But there is something to it.” While filming Dave Grohl’s Sonic Highways documentary series, he even turned to the Foo Fighters leader for advice on balancing careers.

“I said, ‘How do you get around having multiple bands?'” Gibbons recalls. “He said, ‘Keep the golden goose. Doing a little side project ain’t no big deal!'” With ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill recovered from an August fall on his tour bus, Gibbons and the Texas trio will return to the road in March to resume their tour.
Last week, the band marked 45 years since playing its first gig together in 1970.

 havana-live-internet-50%HAVANA, 19 Feb. (AP) Cuba has temporarily reduced the hourly charge for using state-run Internet cafes in the country’s first small but substantive public move to increase online access since the declaration of detente with the U.S.

President Barack Obama said late last year that Cuba had promised to increase Internet access, although U.S. and Cuban officials have since provided few specifics. Virtually all home connections remain illegal in Cuba and getting online at government centers remains prohibitively expensive.
Post-discount, an hour costs roughly 10 percent of the average monthly salary of $20. Users nonetheless hailed the decision to cut the rate by 50 percent until April 10. State centers previously charged $4.50 an hour.

The promotion gives Cubans two hours and 16 minutes for $5. “The cut is something that’s really positive,” said Dimas Bencomo, an artist who goes nearly every day to one of the 155 cyber-cafes opened in 2013.
“They should be charging even less and it would be much better to have a connection in my house.” Cuba announced last month that it plans to open an additional 136 Internet centers around the country this year.

The price doesn’t appear to have changed in hotels, which charge $8 an hour. The price cut that began Feb. 10 has received virtually no publicity in state media and news of it spread by word of mouth. It doesn’t appear to have dramatically increased demand at state cyber-centers.(HabanaLinda)

havana-live-Metro-bus-en-El-vedado-G-y-25HAVANA, 19 Feb. The Cuban Ministry of Transportation’s Trans-Metro company has been operating a new articulated bus to improve the Santiago de las Vegas – Vedado service in Havana since December 22 of last year.

This novel express metro-bus operates Monday to Friday during rush hours, making a total of 17 stops, from the town of Santiago de Cuba to the interesection of 25 and G streets in Vedado, and 18 stops on its way back.
With two articulated sections and air-conditioning, the bus charges 1 Cuban peso per person. This State initiative is part of a six-month experiment. Should it yield positive results, the country will import ten additional buses from Holland and operate them in different routes around Havana.(Havana Times)

havana-live-200_Pax_Catamaran HAVANA, 18 Feb. With travel restrictions to Cuba eased since last year, a Fort Lauderdale-based company is looking to start a ferry service from the Marathon City Marina to Havana,by the end of the year.

Catamaran broker Brian Hall, owner of KonaCat, said he’s confident he can get clearance for his 200-passenger catamaran to travel from the Florida Keys to Cuba twice a day. He hasn’t decided the number of days a week it would run.
A four-hour one-way trip would cost $169 or ($338 round trip). Ferry service between the Keys and Cuba was huge before the U.S. government halted travel to Cuba shortly following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Hall said he’s wanted to start roundtrip service to Cuba from the Florida Keys after a 2011 business trip to Havana. With President Obama’s announcement in December that most travel restrictions for Cuba were being lifted, Hall decided to apply to the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control to travel to Cuba.
The Office of Foreign Asset Control operates under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. “We’re going to operate as a nonprofit organization. I feel pretty certain we’ll get the OFAC license,” Hall said.

“The trips are going to be for religious groups, educational trips and for Cuban-Americans to see their families again.” General U.S. tourism travel to Cuba remains banned but the federal government has no way to enforce it. It’s basically an honor system — one must cite a specific non-tourism reason to go to the island.

Generally, travel to the country must be for family visits, official business of the U.S. government, journalistic activity, educational programs, religious activities and humanitarian services. According to Hagar Chemali, spokesman for the Treasury Department, Hall would still be able to take people from Marathon to Cuba even if he is denied a general license.
“General licenses have been issued for travel to Cuba within categories of travel that Treasury has jurisdiction over — that means travelers that meet the requirements within those categories do not need to apply for a license as the travel is generally permitted,” Hagar said.

“Travel service providers and air carriers also would not require a license to provide services to authorized travelers.” Hall must work out how he will work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clear travelers and prevent Cuban stowaways from hiding on board and coming to the U.S. Hall said he’s working with agents at the Customs station in Marathon to address those issues.
Hall said he hopes the under-construction Customs international entry point will be completed at Florida Keys Marathon Airport before the first vessel launches.

Assistant Director of Airports for Monroe County Thomas Henderson said the Customs office could be complete by August. Former Mayor Rick Ramsay, who helped spearhead getting the official international point of entry at the Marathon airport, has expressed interest in the past of extending Customs’ services from the airport to the city marina.
Regardless of the status of the entry point at the airport, Hall said he’ll work to have regular inspections with Customs agents. “When we dock, the boat will be given to a Customs agent who will sweep the whole boat and all the baggage,” Hall said.

“It will be similar to the Customs screening you get if you flew into the country by plane.” Space for what would be an increase in parking at the Marathon marina is another obstacle Hall said he’ll have to overcome. Still, having traveled to Cuba himself last month, Hall sees day trips from Marathon to Cuba as inevitable.

havana-live-pelosi-CUBA EEUUHAVANA, 18 Feb. (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is traveling to Cuba on Tuesday with a delegation of congressional Democrats, Pelosi’s office announced.

Late last year, President Barack Obama moved toward normal relations with Cuba and some members of Congress favor further relaxation of trade and travel restrictions with the communist-led island.
“This delegation travels to Cuba in friendship and to build upon the announcement of U.S. normalization of relations and other initiatives announced by President Obama,” Pelosi said in a statement released by her office.

“This delegation will work to advance the U.S.-Cuba relationship and build on the work done by many in the Congress over the years, especially with respect to agriculture and trade.” Republicans, who have a majority in both houses of Congress, are generally more resistant than Democrats to changes in U.S.-Cuba policy.
Pelosi and her delegation will meet with Cuban government officials, Cuba’s Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega, local community leaders and representatives and American officials at the U.S. Interests Section, her office said.

Other members of the delegation include Representative Eliot Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Representative Rosa DeLauro, the senior Democrat on the agriculture appropriations subcommittee; Representative Collin Peterson, the senior Democrat on the agriculture committee; and Representative Jim McGovern, the co-chair of the congressional Human Rights Commission.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 they would work toward normalizing relations between their countries, more than half a century after Castro’s brother Fidel took power.

 havana-live-pink-tankHAVANA, 17 Feb. (Café Fuerte)  With his own, personal infantry tank, Jesus Leiva is most probably the only Cuban civilian who owns a war machine in Cuba.

If we add that he keeps it parked outside his house, letting troops of children climb its belts, hang from its 75-mm cannon and enter and exit the vehicle through the hatch – as well as the fact the machine is painted pink and isn’t owned by Al Qaida – it would probably not be too rash to conclude he is most likely the only individual on the planet with such an artifact.

For Leyva, it is nothing out of the ordinary – the fact this World War II Sherman tank should be part of El Progreso, a botanical garden with over 25 types of fruit trees (including sugar-apples, cherimoya and mango trees) and precious-wood trees (including carob, cedar and ocuje trees) is a kind of added bonus to this lush, green paradise in Havana’s Bahia neighborhood, just across the Havana Bay Tunnel in the direction of the capital’s east-laying beaches.

Without offering any kind of factual evidence, the legend and Leiva stubbornly insist that it is the last of the seven M4 medium tanks (as they are officially called) that Fulgencio Batista stationed at the Residencial Via Tunel (as the area, nicknamed the “Key to Havana”, was known at the time) in the 1950s, during his first 5-year-term in office.

There, his son had plans to build a series of gaming establishments in conjunction with friends from the Italian-American Cosa Nostra. There is nothing to suggest this story is true.
Fulgencio Batista hoped that these Sherman tanks would drive other powerful families (and opposing clans) away from the place, and that they would ensure no one and nothing stood in the way of his very noble and commendable aim of stuffing his pockets with the takings from these casinos. The truth appears to be rather less exciting.

To begin with, there is no evidence to suggest the president’s son had any ties to the mafia. There is also no record (not even the slightest indication) suggesting Batista’s involvement or that such connections existed on the island, which to some resembles a tongue (saying everything) and to others an ear (listening in on everything).
Locals do maintain that the Sherman was used at a facility where military exercises were conducted, a facility that operated there in the days of Cuba’s Territorial Militias (or MTTs), a Cuban version of Vietnam’s all-out people’s war.

Fidel Castro founded them in 1980 when he had plans of turning every inch of land into the worst nightmare of any troops dispatched by Ronald Reagan.
Whether it was the mafia or the MTTs, Leyva stresses that the only way he’s giving away his Sherman – the nickname the British gave the tank, after US Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman – is in exchange for the vehicle’s weight in iron rods, which he needs to repair his large house.
We’re talking about a vehicle that weighs 3.3 tons. What isn’t clear is why he painted the tank pink. “Well, if there’s a yellow submarine, why can’t there be a pink tank?” he asks.

 havana-live- O'Brien poses with U.S. first lady Obama during the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in WashingtonHAVANA, 17 Feb. (CNN) Conan O’Brien and his late-night show are no stranger to road trips, but this time it looks like he’s pulled off a major one: filming in Havana.

O’Brien spent the past weekend with his crew filming the March 4 episode of his TBS show in Havana, Cuba. It marks the first time a U.S. late-night show has filmed in the country since the embargo began in 1962.
A news release from the show says the host spent “multiple days taking in the sights, sounds and culture of the country. The trip gives the ‘Conan’ audience a rare glimpse into the daily life of a country not often seen by American viewers.”

In December, President Obama announced that the U.S. would be moving to re-establish diplomatic relations with the island nation, including reopening an embassy in Havana and loosening travel restrictions.
According to Deadline, O’Brien picked the weekend before Presidents Day because his show does not tape on the holiday and would be available to travel. In the past, he has taken the show to locations including Ireland, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago and Dallas.

Now that the door has been opened, there may be a flood of American productions headed to Cuba’s shores. In January, it was announced that a production of “Rent” done in cooperation with the Cuban National Council of Performing Arts would be the first full Broadway musical held in the country in 50 years.
In February 1959, Jack Paar traveled to Cuba to interview Fidel Castro for “The Tonight Show.” Paar was roundly criticized for the move, despite the fact that Ed Sullivan had interviewed the Cuban leader in January.

havana-live-aidsvirus_0Les spécialistes du sida craignent l’apparition d’une nouvelle souche du VIH plus virulente.

LA HAVANE, 16 Feb. Des chercheurs de l’Université catholique de Louvain (Belgique) et de l’Institut de Médecine Tropicale Pedro Kouri de La Havane ont mis au jour une nouvelle souche du VIH plus virulente.

Selon leurs recherches, celle-ci développerait le sida beaucoup plus rapidement. Les personnes atteintes seraient en effet malades en seulement trois ans, contre six à dix ans avec les souches du virus existantes.
Virus meurtrier
Certains n’auraient même pas le temps de se rendre compte de leur infection et de démarrer un traitement. Même si le diagnostic des chercheurs a été réalisé sur seulement 95 personnes, cette découverte expliquerait la rapide progression du sida sur l’île caribéenne. Elle pourrait éviter à terme que le virus fasse autant de mort chaque année.

havana-live-aidsvirus_0HAVANA, 16 Feb.  Moving so fast that the use of retroviruses may be of little use, an aggressive form of HIV has been found in Cuba with the virus progressing to AIDS within just three years.

Alarmed by the speed at which some HIV patients were developing AIDS, officials in Cuba reached out to Professor Anne-Mieke Vandamme, a professor of health at the University of Leuvan in Belgium.
Vandamme and her team studied over 70 patients, dividing them into groups. The team composed one group with those progressing toward AIDS much quicker than the five to 10 years the virus normally takes to develop into the autoimmune disease.

The individuals that developed AIDS at the unprecedented rates had tested negative for HIV just one or two years prior to testing positive. HIV would typically only progress to AIDS at the speeds observed by Cuban health officials and Vandamme’s team when a individual’s immune system was already weak prior to contracting the virus.
But what’s happening in Cuba appears to be the recombination of three sub-strains of the virus. Individuals with the aggressive strain were found to have more of the virus in their system than the other patients.

“Here we had a variant of HIV that we found only in the group that was progressing fast,” says Vandamme in an interview. “Not in the other two groups. We focused in on this variant [and] tried to find out what was different. And we saw it was a recombinant of three different subtypes.” Outside of the lab, recombinant strains of diseases can develop in a person who has contracted multiple variants of a virus.

The aggressive strain of HIV found in Cuba combines sub-types A, C and D to create what being called CRF19. The discovery of CRF19 in Cuba comes just after the world received a bit of good news in the war on HIV and AIDS.

Research shows HIV-related deaths among African Americans has dropped by about 28 percent, a landmark for the group that suffers the highest mortality rate due to the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) used data from 2012 to reach its conclusion that HIV-related deaths among African Americans was on the decline. The CDC report also found the disparity between HIV-related deaths in white and black people has narrowed from about a 28 percent margin in 2008 to a divide of approximately 13 percent 2012.

havana-live-luise-cristal1HAVANA, 15 Feb. Under newly relaxed regulations governing travel to Cuba, Cuba Cruise is offering Americans seven-night trips that circumnavigate the island.

In the past, American passengers had to book lengthier land-and-sea itineraries with a sanctioned American tour operator. Now securing passage aboard the 1,200-passenger Louis Cristal involves reserving the trip with Cuba Cruise, a Canadian company, and registering for a People-to-People Program with the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, an American nonprofit.
The organization then issues a participant letter authorizing travel. Sailors can embark in Montego Bay, Jamaica, or in Havana for trips that include visits to six Unesco World Heritage Sites in and around Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and the capital.

Americans are limited to educational shore excursions, all of which are optional, including visits to Fidel Castro’s birthplace, the mountains of Baconao Park, the Spanish colonial city of Trinidad and Havana via a vintage auto.
The cruises run through March and will resume in December. They start at 782 Canadian dollars a person, or $637.50 at 1.22 Canadian to the U.S. dollar, plus port fees (178 Canadian dollars) and the cost of registration ($75), excluding airfare.

havana-live-USA--Importation-regulation HAVANA, 13 Feb.  (Reuters) – The United States on Friday dramatically eased restrictions on imports of goods and services from private Cuban entrepreneurs as part of Washington’s rapprochement with Havana after more than half a century of enmity.

The U.S. State Department said the import of all goods and services was now permissible except in certain broad categories, which include arms, live animals, tobacco, vehicles, mineral products, machinery, and some textiles and base metals.
“The administration had made it very clear they are changing the thrust of U.S. policy to allow the private sector in Cuba to blossom,” said Pedro Freyre, chair of law firm Akerman LLP’s international practice.

“Of course there are two ends to this. We are still waiting to see how it is going to play out in Cuba.” Under Cuban law, private sector entrepreneurs cannot independently import and export products or services without a government license.
However, artists are allowed to sell their work to foreigners, and there is also an exotic bird cooperative that obtained a license in 2013.

The goods that can now be imported exclude those specified in the following sections of the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule:
Section I: Live Animals; Animal Products (all chapters);
Section II: Vegetable Products (all chapters)
Section III: Animal or Vegetable Fats and Oils and their Cleavage Products; Prepared Edible Fats; Animal or Vegetable Waxes (all chapters)
Section IV: Prepared Foodstuffs; Beverages, Spirits, and Vinegar; Tobacco and Manufactured Tobacco Substitutes (all chapters)
Section V: Mineral Products (all chapters)
Section VI: Products of the Chemical or Allied Industries (chapters 28-32; 35-36, 38)
Section XI: Textile and Textile Articles (chapters 51-52)
Section XV: Base Metals and Articles of Base Metal (chapters 72-81)
Section XVI: Machinery and Mechanical Appliances; Electrical Equipment; Parts Thereof; Sound Recorders and Reproducers, Television Image and Sound Recorders and Reproducers, and Parts and Accessories of Such Articles (all chapters)
Section XVII: Vehicles, Aircraft, Vessels, and Associated Transportation Equipment (all chapters) Section XIX: Arms and Ammunition; Parts and Accessories Thereof (all chapters).

 havana-live-hemingway-pilarHAVANA, 13 Feb. The mystery of whether Ernest Hemingway’s widow volunteered or was coerced into leaving their Cuban house to the nation has come a step closer to being solved, with the discovery of a letter in which she states that her late husband “would be pleased” that Finca Vigía be “given to the people of Cuba … as a centre for opportunities for wider education and research”.

Hemingway lived on the 19th-century Cuban farm for 21 years, between 1939 and 1961, writing his masterpieces The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls there as well as posthumously published works including A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream. He committed suicide in Idaho in 1961.

The property became a museum in 1962, but it has been unclear whether this was following the wishes of Mary Hemingway, his fourth wife, or at the insistence of the Cuban government, with differing accounts from different parties.
The newly discovered letter, dated 25 August 1961, sees Mary Hemingway specifically donate the Finca Vigía to the Cuban people. “…Whereas – my husband, Ernest Hemingway, was for twenty-five years a friend of the Pueblo of Cuba … he never took part in the politics of Cuba … he never sold any possessions of his, except his words, having given away cars, guns, books and his Nobel prize medal to the Virgen del Cobre,” she wrote to her husband’s friend Roberto Herrera.

“I believe that he would be pleased that his property … in Cuba be given to the people of Cuba … as a center for opportunities for wider education and research, to be maintained in his memory.
With this document, as the only heir of Ernest’s estate, I hereby give to the people of Cuba this property, in the hope that they will learn and profit from, and enjoy it, as much as Ernest and I did.” havana-live-hemingway-letter

 havana-live-horse-purebredIn this Jan. 31, 2015 photo, a horse trainer braids the main of the horse he’s been training, before the start of an auction at the National Equestrian Club in Lenin Park on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba. Cuba splits proceeds from the auction with a Dutch equine company and uses much of its share to fund a new initiative to breed the horses locally rather than have to import steeds at great expense. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA,13 Feb. (AP ANNE-MARIE GARCIA) — Already renowned for fine rum and fancy cigars, Cuba is carving out a new luxury niche that is attracting Latin American elites to Cuba: thoroughbred jumping horses.
By importing colts and fillies from the Netherlands, Cuban trainers are creating prized competitors capable of fetching more than $40,000 from buyers at private auctions, with much of the proceeds going back to the government-led equine enterprise.

At an auction last month at the National Equestrian Club, well-heeled horse collectors gathered in the tropical air to sip wine and raise their bidding paddles, hoping to find a champion among the Dutch Warmbloods paraded before them. By evening’s end, 31 horses sold for a total of about $435,000 to buyers from Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, the Netherlands and Mexico.

“The great advantage is that they are already in the Americas,” said Cecilia Pedraza, a Mexico City collector who bought several of the Dutch Warmbloods. “In addition, they have been trained very well. They are advanced for their age, very well-behaved, perform concentrated jumps and have excellent blood lines.”
Rufino Rivera, from Xalapa, the capital of Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz, paid about $17,000 for a horse he hopes will follow the path of Aristotelis, a prize-winning jumper he bought at the club’s first auction six years ago.

Cuba’s tradition of horse breeding and training dates to the 16th century, but after the 1959 communist revolution, Fidel Castro’s government banned horse racing along with gambling and professional sports. Cuba continued to participate in amateur equestrianism, producing top-notch horse riders and trainers.
But the costly sport slipped into decline in the 1990s, when the fall of the Soviet Union provoked an economic crisis that made it hard to care for the animals. Then, starting in 2005, Cuba began seeing horses as a way to gain badly needed foreign currency.

It began to import Dutch Warmbloods around age 1½, then train them for competitive jumping before selling them at age 3. In the days before an auction, jockeys and trainers like Jose Luis Vaquero can be seen brushing their purebred wards’ coats and braiding their manes so that “everything is perfect.” “You have to take care of the horse, look after it every day,” Vaquero said.
The National Equestrian Club is run by Flora and Fauna, a state business that promotes the island’s natural resources. It keeps 117 horses in stables in Lenin Park on the outskirts of Havana. Cuba, which splits proceeds from the auction with a Dutch equine company, uses much of its share to fund a new initiative to breed the horses locally rather than have to import animals at great expense.

Willy Arts, the head of the Royal Dutch Sport Horse association’s North American wing, said there is growing demand for high-quality show horses and Cuba’s program could be important to people in the Western Hemisphere looking to purchase them at more accessible prices. Cuba complains bitterly about training world-class athletes who leave to make millions for themselves in other countries.

If successful, the new equine initiative would produce four-hooved performers whose success only means more revenue for the program that produces them. Nearly two dozen mares currently are part of the breeding effort.
Last year, three horses born through the insemination program were sold at prices ranging from $39,000 to $50,000, said Maydet Vega, a veterinarian who oversees equine programs at Rancho Azucarero, the horse-breeding center west of Havana where the artificial insemination program is being developed.

Breeding foals in Cuba has the additional advantage of allowing horses to adapt to Cuba’s sweltering heat and humidity from birth, she said. “It’s important to be able to produce them on the continent,” Vega said. “They can adapt to the tropical conditions of our climate so people can have them in all countries in the Americas.”

 havana-live_jetblue HAVANA, 12 FEb.  JetBlue Airways  the largest airline to the Caribbean, today announced an agreement with its partner, ABC Charters, to add a new charter flight to Cuba beginning this summer.

The weekly flight, which begins on June 5, will operate on Fridays from Tampa (TPA) to Havana (HAV). JetBlue will have the most flights to Cuba from Tampa. Travelers should make arrangements directly with ABC Charters (www.abc-charters.com).
The addition marks one of the first expansions in charter service by a major U.S. airline since restrictions on travel to Cuba were eased in January.

“Cuba will one day play an important role in our overall Caribbean network, a region where customer response has already helped us grow into the leading U.S. airline,” said Scott Laurence, senior ‎vice president, airline planning, JetBlue.
“Expanding our charter program today reflects the thoughtful approach we are taking in Cuba over the long-term.” JetBlue will now have four weekly round trips to Cuba.

In addition to the new Friday flight, JetBlue and ABC Charters operate weekly flights from Tampa to Havana on Tuesdays and from Tampa to Santa Clara (SNU) on Wednesdays.
JetBlue also operates flights between Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Havana through Xael Charters on Fridays.

JetBlue is currently evaluating opportunities to add additional charter flights. JetBlue serves all charter flights to Cuba on its Airbus A320, which are configured with 150 leather seats, the most legroom in coach of any U.S. carrier*, large overhead bins, free live seatback entertainment, and free snacks.
“Travelers to Cuba would prefer to fly in a roomy and comfortable aircraft with an airline they know and trust,” said Laurence. “By expanding our charter program, we are able to bring the JetBlue experience that customers love, on our modern fleet of aircraft, to even more people making their way to Cuba.”

JetBlue began flying to Cuba for charter companies in 2011. The airline’s leadership in the Caribbean and valuable operational experience in Cuba positions it well to offer additional service to Cuba from multiple U.S. cities as soon as permissible by law.


HAVANA, 12 Feb. It’s been a busy few weeks for the half-dozen or so companies licensed to charter flights between the United States and Cuba.

In December, President Barack Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the easing of travel and trade restrictions started in mid-January.
We have just been inundated,” says Bob Guild, vice president of Marazul Charters, which has been around for 35 years and flies mostly between Miami and a few Cuban cities. In the second half of January 2014, Guild says his company received 30 requests for group travel.

During that period this year—the first two weeks under the eased rules—the company got 1,300 requests from groups of Americans seeking to visit the island. In fact, Guild says he is discouraging people from packing their bags until April or May. “Cuba is already filled, as far as their hotels go,” he says. Air service agreements between the two countries date back to 1953.

Until last month, the U.S. had limited air travel to Cuba to companies holding special licenses and operating non-regular flights. As Jimmy Carter and other presidents expanded Cuba travel categories beginning in the late 1970s, companies such as Marazul, Gulfstream, ABC, Xael, Wilson and Cuba Travel Services grew to dominate the market.
In 2003 and 2004, President George W. Bush set restrictions on family visits and cut back cultural licenses for Americans. “He hit us really hard,” says Tessie Aral of ABC Charters.

“We had to lay off half our staff.” The industry bounced back in 2009 and 2011, when Obama began easing restrictions. Michael Zuccato of Cuba Travel Services estimates his business is up more than 100 percent since 2011.
Marazul isn’t the only company cashing in. Zuccato says he represented his company at a travel show, and a week later, “I’m just now getting my voice back.” His company is adding a weekly flight from New York City to Havana in March.

A Tampa International Airport spokeswoman says that she expects charter operators there to add additional flights to Cuba in the coming weeks, and that GoToCuba.org, a website the airport created to provide Cuba travel information, has seen 1,580 percent more traffic since before Obama’s announcement in December.

A plan to renegotiate the 62-year-old air service agreement between the two countries could clear the way for major commercial airlines to start flights. American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United have all expressed interest in flying to Cuba, and representatives from the Priceline Group and Orbitz tell Newsweek they’re eager to get Cuba on their booking websites.
Kayak, a travel search engine under the Priceline umbrella, has already added Cuba hotel and flight data to its search results. Still, the charters have loyal followings and have weathered tough storms—extremists bombed Marazul’s offices in 1988 and 1996.

Lillian Manzor, a University of Miami associate professor and expert on U.S.-Cuba travel policies, says the smaller operations have “a long experience and tradition of working with Cuba” and “an experiential know-how that they’ve already had to deal with for 20-odd years that the [major] American companies don’t have.

havana-live-dead.daisiesblackLA HAVANE, 12 Feb. (AFP)  Le groupe de rock américain The Dead Daisies, composé en partie d’anciens membres de Guns’n’Roses, partira en tournée à Cuba ce mois-ci, le premier concert d’un groupe américain depuis 2005.

Les musiciens ont notamment prévu une semaine d’enregistrement en studio avec des artistes locaux. En clôture, le groupe se produira le 28 février au concert de “Cuba Rocks for Peace” à La Havane. .

Le groupe a mentionné que la tournée serait une première pour un groupe américain d’envergure depuis que le président Barack Obama a pris, en décembre, la décision historique de rétablir les relations diplomatiques avec Cuba en assouplissant un embargo économique décrété il y a plus de cinquante ans contre l’île communiste.

“Avec ces changements diplomatiques qui n’ont que trop tardé, nous avons senti qu’il était temps d’y aller”, a indiqué Dizzy Reed, ancien claviériste de Guns’n’Roses. “Cuba, c’est le rêve de toute une vie, une partie du monde si riche en histoire et en influence, et c’est sur le point d’arriver”, a déclaré Reed dans un communiqué diffusé mardi.
Marco Mendoza, le bassiste hispanophone du groupe qui a grandi au Mexique, a ajouté avoir hâte d’explorer le riche héritage de l’île, notamment la culture afro-cubaine.

Malgré une longue animosité politique entre les deux pays, les musiciens ont souvent servi de pont entre les deux cultures et plusieurs artistes cubains d’envergure ont pu se produire aux Etats-Unis. Audioslave, le groupe de hard rock fondé par Chris Cornell, s’est produit devant plusieurs dizaines de milliers de personnes à Cuba en 2005.

En 2013, le célèbre couple formé de Jay-Z et de Beyoncé avait visité l’île en touristes, ce qui avait soulevé l’ire de certains conservateurs qui l’avait accusé de violer l’embargo américain. Le département du Trésor avait cependant donné son accord au couple ainsi qu’à Audioslave, qualifiant ces voyages d’échange culturel.

havana-live-presidente-de-turquia-llega-a-cubaHAVANA, 11 Feb.  Step by step, Turkey is showing its strong interest in the Caribbean region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Havana Tuesday for the beginning of an official visit to Cuba.

The trip is slated to include meetings with Cuban President Raul Castro and other Cuban officials. Erdogan’s trip is part of a wider regional tour that includes stops in C’olombia and Mexico.
He is being accompanied by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Food, Agriculture and Livestock Mehdi Eker, Minister of Culture and tourism Ömer Çelik and Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekçi. It’s the first visit to the region by a sitting Turkish president since 1995, according to a statement from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But it’s by no means Turkey’s first foray into the region; indeed, the country has been steadily growing its influence across the wider Caribbean in recent years. Last year, the country expanded its partnership with the Caribbean, with moves including a $2.1 million grant to the government of Antigua and Barbuda, a series of cooperation agreements with the Dominican Republic and, on the smaller side, the donation of laptops to Dominica’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Taken together, these kinds of moves seem to signal a strategy similar to that employed by China in recent years in the region. In July 2014, the country also announced what it called a “clear and long-term engagement” to strengthen its Caribbean ties.
That included a proposal to establish a joint chancery for the common use of CARICOM members to establish diplomatic representation in the country’s capital, Ankara.
Erdogan made headlines late last year when he said that Muslims were the first to reach America from the Eastern Hemisphere, referring to a passage in one of Columbus’ journals that referred to a “little hill on its summit, like a graceful mosque.” The passage was used metaphorically by Columbus.

He said Muslim sailors had reached the New World in 1178.


havana-live-se-vende-casa (2)La Havane, 11. Feb.  Depuis 2011, les Cubains peuvent vendre et acheter des maisons et autres immeubles, alors qu’il était seulement possible de les troquer jusque-là.

Un changement qui s’inscrit dans les bouleversements économiques que vit l’île depuis quelques années.Cette photo montre une maison à vendre – et à restaurer -, dans la vieille Havane. Un phénomène impossible à imaginer quelques années plus tôt à Cuba.
À la révolution, les Cubains sont restés ou sont devenus propriétaires de leur logement. Les exilés, ceux qui ont quitté l’île dans les années qui ont suivi la prise du pouvoir par Fidel Castro, se sont fait confisquer leurs propriétés, dont certaines ont été réparties parmi la population non propriétaire.

Ces confiscations restent d’ailleurs un contentieux entre Cuba et les États-Unis, qui réclament qu’on les restitue ou qu’on dédommage les propriétaires. La normalisation des relations entre les deux pays devra passer par une sorte d’entente à ce sujet.Les gens sont donc propriétaires de leur logement, mais jusqu’en 2011, ils n’avaient pas droit de les vendre.
Ils pouvaient seulement les échanger. Cela s’appelle la « permuta ». « Je t’échange mon appartement bien rénové contre le tien plus grand, mais qui a besoin de travaux. » Voilà comment ça fonctionne.havana-live-habana-casa-agence

Évidemment, un peu d’argent sous la table peut toujours compenser, même si ce n’est pas permis officiellement. Il y a donc des bourses informelles de la « permuta » ici et là. L’une d’entre elles se trouve au Prado, cette magnifique avenue qui mène du Capitole à la mer en face du phare du Morro.
Depuis 30 ans on y fait des échanges de logement. Sur l’image, on voit des enfants qui font une activité en groupe sur le Prado.Puisqu’il est possible depuis 2011 d’acheter ou de vendre, un nouveau métier est apparu et est désormais autorisé : agent immobilier. Au moins deux agences immobilières ont vu le jour. La première agence à avoir pignon sur rue a été La Isla, fin 2013.

Elle est située dans le quartier chic de Nuevo Vedado. La Isla a un répertoire de 2300 propriétés et en a vendu 800 en moins d’un an.L’autre agence, plus discrète, est Habana Casas.
Elle est située sur le Prado, près de la vieille Havane historique.Une fois rénovés, les logements peuvent être loués aux touristes, en devises, ce qui permet des restaurations d’autres logements.havana-live-isla-agence-immobiliere

Sur cette photo, on voit l’entrée d’une maison à louer aux touristes… en devises, bien entendu.C’est le début d’un nouveau marché. Un gros problème : le manque d’accès aux matériaux neufs et en gros.
On doit se rabattre sur la récupération dans les immeubles en ruines. Le quartier « chaud » pour l’immobilier : la vieille Havane historique. Sur la photo ci-haut, le deuxième étage de la maison rouge est à louer aux touristes.

 havana-live-netflixLA HAVANE, 10 Feb. Lundi, le site américain de vidéo en ligne a ouvert son service à Cuba. Mais cette arrivée sur l’île est avant tout symbolique au regard du nombre d’habitants qui pourront y accéder…

Alors que leurs relations diplomatiques étaient rompues depuis 1961, les États-Unis et Cuba ont décidé de les normaliser depuis quelques semaines. Conséquence quasi-immédiate de ce rapprochement entre les deux nations: Netflix vient de débarquer sur l’île! Lundi 9 février, le célèbre site américain de vidéo en ligne a ouvert son service à Cuba.

Mais son arrivée se veut avant tout symbolique. En effet, si les Cubains peuvent se réjouir de l’arrivée de Netflix sur leur terre, ils seront malheureusement peu nombreux à pouvoir en profiter. À Cuba, on ne dénombre que 5.360 lignes fixes à haut-débit alors que le pays compte 11,3 millions d’habitants. En clair, comme le révèle l’International Telecommunications Union, seuls 3,4% de la population locale pourront accéder au site américain de vidéo en ligne.

Par ailleurs, les Cubains désireux de s’abonner à Netflix devront avoir un accès à des méthodes de paiement internationnales et déboursé de 7,99 à 11,9 dollars par mois. À Cuba, le salaire mensuel moyen s’élevant à 20 dollars, l’accès à Netflix reste donc pour le moment le privilège d’une minorité.
Reste que l’arrivée du géant américain participe à la normalisation historique des relations entre La Havane et Washington. Une porte-parole du groupe a d’ailleurs expliqué: «Notre arrivée sur ce marché est un signe de notre confiance dans les réformes en cours à Cuba et dans le fait que l’assouplissement des restrictions sur les entreprises américaines (voulant opérer dans l’île) va conduire à des investissements rapides là-bas, y compris pour améliorer les infrastructures».

Netflix dispose aujourd’hui de plus de 57 millions de clients dans une cinquantaine de pays. Le site américain de vidéo en ligne compte 5 millions d’abonnés en Amérique latine depuis son arrivée en 2011.

havana-live-tropicanaHAVANA, Feb 10 (EFE) The legendary Tropicana cabaret, with a 75-year-long history and a symbol of cuban music, is excited about the new era with the United States with a predicted increase in North American spectators among the international audience that attend the “Paradise Under the Stars” every night.

“We are hopeful, let’s see how this process develops. We hope that finally the travel restrictions are lifted and that many North Americans come here to see Cuba and Tropicana,” the cabaret’s artistic director, Armando Pérez, told Efe.

First opened on 31 December 1939, Havana’s Tropicana remains one of the island’s main tourist attractions with a show that is unique both for the location in the open air surrounded by lush tropical flora and its quality repertoire of genuine Cuban music, where the cha-cha-cha, mambo, guaracha, rumba and African rhythms have fused with Latin jazz, samba, and Spanish and Brazilian music. In high season, between 500 and 800 people attend the acclaimed show.

All are foreign tourists mainly from Spain, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and in recent years from Russia. Very few Cubans are seen in the Tropicana audience as the cheapest ticket is CUC 75 (equivalent to the US dollar), a prohibitive price for Cubans earning a precarious income.

After it was announced that relations between Cuba and the United States were to be reestablished and the first measures taken by Washington to soften the blockade introduced, among them an easing of travel restrictions to the island, the Tropicana is waiting for an increase in North American traffic in the not-too-distant future.

One of the show’s solo singers, Idra, who specialises in son and guaracheras, sees the change as positive. “I hope they can come here and appreciate our art (…) that they see us here, at our home,” she told Efe, after explaining how the Tropicana is an “institution” that has never ceased to operate despite the 50-year U.S. embargo.
After it opened in 1939 on an old Havana estate in the neighbourhood of Marianao, the Tropicana quickly became one of the most popular nightclubs on the American continent, visited by the legends such as Ava Gardner, Marlon Brando and Nat King Cole.

Celebrated Cuban and foreign artists to perform at the club include Rita Montaner, pianist and composer Ignacio Jacinto “Bola de Nieve” Villa Fernández, entertainer Josephine Baker and singer Celia Cruz. The venue became a casino-cabaret, receiving many visits from various members of the American mafia until Fidel Castro’s revolution succeeded in 1959.

 havana-live-netflexHAVANA, 9 Feb.  Netflix Inc., the online video-subscription service, said it will offer movies and TV shows in Cuba starting at $7.99 a month as Internet access there improves and credit and debit cards become more widely available.

Starting today, Cubans with broadband service and access to international payment methods will be able to stream shows including “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” Los Gatos, California-based Netflix said today in a statement.The company will offer a curated selection of movies and TV shows.
Netflix didn’t say what role, if any, the Cuban government would play in the service. Markets outside the U.S. are the company’s fastest-growing source of new online subscribers, which reached 57.4 million at year-end. Netflix raised $1.5-billion in a bond sale this month to support its expansion, including the development of new shows.

“Cuba has great filmmakers and a robust arts culture, and one day we hope to be able to bring their work to our global audience,” Reed Hastings, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in the statement. The company began offering its service in Latin America in 2011 and now counts more than 5 million subscribers.
Netflix plans to enter Japan by fall, a person familiar with the matter said last week. The company said on its earnings call in January that it would offer its monthly service to almost every territory with high-speed Internet service by the end of 2016.