havana-live-nine p.m. cannon shotHAVANA, Dec 7  (acn) The nine p.m. cannon shot, a centuries-old tradition of Havana nights that takes place at the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, was declared Cultural Heritage of the Cuban Nation.

The official declaration was delivered during the military ceremony by Gladys Collazo, president of the National Council of Cultural Heritage in recognition of the universal significance that this practice has reached, which has become a symbol of the Cuban capital.
The traditional cannon shot at nine in the evening began in the eighteenth century since from that fortress they fired a salvo to announce neighbors when closing or opening the doors of the wall or placing the chain that closed the harbor entrance.

At that time the town was surrounded by a wall defining its limits; of that work there are still some sections in what is now Old Havana. For over 300 years ago Havana inhabitants have heard the blast, which it was also part of a military regulation for the Spanish fleet sailors, then reached a value of social use and subsequently became a tradition, museologist Migleidis Escalona told ACN.

The specialist explained that the ceremony hasn’t taken place on a few occasions, including during World War II and US intervention in Cuba, and besides that from La Cabaña, it was perfomed from the ship Infanta Isabel anchored at the entrance of the bay during the nineteenth century.

Each time the ceremony has been developed in accordance with the practices used by the Spanish and Cuban armies, however currently a military fantasy that imitate the technique of colonial stage is used, Escalona said.

 havana-live-caricomHAVANA, 6 December  Heads of State and Government of the member nations of the Caribbean Community(CARICOM), and regional organizations, will be arriving in Havana this Saturday, to participate in the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit.

According to the program released by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the presidents of Surinam, Grenada, Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda are expected to arrive on different noon flights in José Martí International Airport.
The arrival of the heads of delegations of Barbados, Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also expected, and the heads of the Association of Caribbean States, the Caribbean Community and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

In December 2002 the CARICOM-Cuba mechanism was founded, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the date when Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago decided, in a brave gesture in 1972, to establish relationships with the largest Caribbean nation in open challenge to isolationist siege that Washington had on the island.
From that moment, every three years the summits of heads of state and government meet, with a clear integration objective, on the basis of equality, respect and understanding, where Cuba and its Caribbean neighbors review what has been achieved in collaboration and commerce.

havana-live-meo-australiaAlong the northern coast of Cuba is Block 9, assigned to the Australian oil company MEO.

HAVANA, 5 December (By Wilfredo Cancio Isla Café Fuerte)  The company MEO Australia Limited will join the onshore oil exploration effort in Cuba after signing a production sharing contract with the Cuban state oil company Cupet. The Australian firm announced Thursday the signing of the agreement with Cupet after a negotiation process that lasted two years. It allows for exploring the Block 9 oilfields on the north coast of Cuba.

The start of operations is subject to final regulatory approval. “MEO has been in talks with CUPET since early 2013 when it was classified as a potential oil operator on land and in shallow waters. Block 9 was always a favorite of MEO due to the confirmed presence of hydrocarbons and proximity to production and existing infrastructure, “said a statement from the firm, based in Melbourne.

New oil approach
The signing with MEO is part of the new approach to Cuban oil exploration, which has chosen to turn the page on the once highly touted projects for deep-water drilling and concentrate on producing wells on land after several unsuccessful attempts in the Gulf of Mexico.

MEO joins the Russian state-controlled Rosneft and the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC), which earlier this year agreed to extract more heavy crude and support horizontal drilling of new wells on the northwest coast of the island, but without signing agreements for deep-water drilling in the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, an area of 112,000 square kilometers divided into 59 blocks.

Rosneft, CNPC and now MEO, join efforts for heavy oil extraction with the Canadian company Sherritt International, a pioneer of foreign investment in Cuba, and Zarubezhneft, the second state oil company in Russia. The MEO exploration program is divided into four sub-periods for a total of eight and a half years with an option that the Australian company can withdraw from the project whenever they complete a stage.

The work plan includes a commitment negotiated for an initial period of 18 months during which seismic data will be evaluated and reprocessed before the company decides whether to continue with a 24-month exploration phase.

Heavy oil
The block selected by the Australians covers approximately 2,380 square kilometers, at the height of the villages of Corralillo and Rancho Veloz, about 130 kilometers east of Havana.
It is very close to the Varadero area and includes the Motembo field, which was the first Cuban oil field, discovered in 1881. The strip of heavy oil in northern Cuba has an area of 320 kilometers and covers about five kilometers offshore. The extracted oil is highly viscous, with a recovery factor of only 10%, but serves to cover 40 percent of the country’s needs, with about four million tons annually.

The geology of Block 9 is analogous to oil systems where the technical staff of MEO has significant experience, a key factor in the company’s request application being accepted by the Cuban authorities, believes the company. “We see great potential in Cuba and in particular, in Block 9 and look forward to working closely with Cupet for mutual benefit,” said Jürgen Hendrich, president of MEO.
But there are several questions about the involvement of MEO and the financial resources available to invest in the island.

Worrisome financial statement
MEO is a small public exploration and production company with operations only in Australia, New Zealand and other islands of Oceania. Apparently, this is the first time that the firm ventures out of its traditional area of operations.
According to its latest financial reports, consulted by CaféFuerte, MEO’s capital is limited. Its assets plummeted from $159,810,505 Australian dollars in 2013 to $26,728,457 in 2014, when it reported net earnings of only $293.425 dollars.

The price of its shares on the stock market are only $ 0.02 cents Australian dollar. (One Australian dollar = 0.83 USD). The Cuban government is eager to revive the hope of abundant oil on the island, which vanished in 2012 after the drilling of three wells in deep waters without satisfactory results.

Unsuccessful attempts were made by Repsol (Spain), PDVSA (Venezuela), PC Gulf (Malaysia) and Gazpromneft (Russia). After the fiasco, all companies that had contracted deep-water blocks withdrew from Cuba, with the exception of PDVSA and the Angolan Sonangol. Cuba promoted its Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico as having a potential up to 22,000 million barrels, but other estimates put it at between 5,000 and 9,000 million.

 havana-live-karl-marx-teaterHAVANA, December  5 (EFE)  The 36th edition of the Festival of New Latin American Cinema at Havana has kicked off with a homage to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014), a well known film enthusiast and one of the major promoters of the event.

The opening ceremony was held at Havana’s Karl Marx theater, with an audiovisual montage on the Nobel Prize-winning author, highlighting his role in promoting projects such as the New Latin American Film Foundation and The International Film and TV School in San Antonio de los Baños.
The Havana Film Festival was followed by a solo concert by Cuban singer Pablo Milanes, who made use of the occasion to recall his personal friendship with the celebrated writer and the wonderful moments they shared. He sang some of his hit numbers like “Dulces recuerdos,” which he said was one of Garcia Marquez’s favorites, “Yolanda” and “El breve espacio en que no estas,” among others.

The Festival’s director Ivan Giroud dedicated this year’s edition to the celebrated novelist for having been an influential and decisive promoter of the festival. “It is a good decision to have this homage to Gabito for the love he showered upon the film school in Cuba and also because he was a big promoter of Latin American films,” Jaime Garcia Marquez told Efe refering to his deceased brother.
Screening of documentaries related to his life, works and legacy, a discussion and presentation of books were a part of the tribute the writer of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, who often participated in many such events in the same space during his lifetime.

Wild Tales by Argentine filmmaker Damian Szifron was the film selected to begin the festival, coinciding with the first digital projection at the event, a novelty by the organizers to add more quality to the event. This film, which is Argentina’s selection for the Oscars in the best foreign film category, is among the favorites to win the Coral prize at the festival.
It is also among the probables to receive the Goya award as the best Ibero-American film, and has already received wide critical and public acclaim since its release in May. The competition will screen 116 films, including 42 feature films, 21 short films of fiction, 30 documentaries and 23 animated films, along with 25 unproduced scripts and 11 posters.

The jury, headed by Bolivian filmmaker Juan Carlos Valdivia will be responsible for deciding the winners in the categories namely feature films, short and medium-length films, direction and acting, among others. Winter Sleep, the winner at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals this year and the Romanian film Child’s Pose are also set to feature in the event, along with productions from Spain, Canada, Italy, Germany and the United States.

 havana-live-ponderosa-toursHAVANA, 5 December (By Claire Boobbyer) The youngest son of Che Guevara is launching a motorbike tour company in Cuba, named after the revolutionary’s bike, La Poderosa.

The youngest son of Che Guevara, whose The Motorcycle Diaries is one of the most iconic travelogues of all time, is launching motorbike tours of Cuba this month. Ernesto Guevara’s La Poderosa Tours (lapoderosatours.com) will run trips for bikers on two routes across Cuba using Harley-Davidsons.
The company is named after the motorbike used by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara when he toured the South American continent for nine months in 1952. La Poderosa II (the Mighty II) was the nickname the Argentine medical student gave to his motorbike, a Norton 500cc, which he rode 8,000 miles from Argentina to Venezuela along with his biochemist companion Alberto Granado.

The account of this life-changing road trip was first published as a memoir, The Motorcycle Diaries, in 1993 and subsequently turned into a 2004 film with the same title. Che Guevara was in Mexico in 1955 when he met young firebrand Fidel Castro. Guevara’s revolutionary identity had been forged in Guatemala two years earlier.
Together with Fidel, and Raúl Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, the rebels with a cause plotted the overthrow of Cuba’s then dictator Fulgencio Batista. When Fidel’s grassroots revolution succeeded in 1959, Che Guevara was at Fidel’s side. Ernesto Guevara, 49, is the son of Che and his second wife Aleida March.

He has teamed up with his friend Camilo Sánchez and mechanic Sergio Morales to lead the La Poderosa trips. Ernesto told Telegraph Travel: “I have been a fan of classic Harleys all my life and I like to restore them, too. My love of bikes, of bike trips and of Cuba, and the desire to show my fellow Harley bikers my beautiful country, has been the reason for setting up the tours.”
La Poderosa Tours covers two routes – dubbed Fuser 1 and Fuser 2 for the nickname Che Guevara had in his younger years – using either a Harley Touring Street Glide or a Dyna Wide Glide. havana-live-ponderosa As well as riding past the ubiquitous images of Che Guevara painted on billboards across the island, tour highlights include visits to places connected to the revolutionary:
the Comandancia del Che (a small museum dedicated to him) at the monumental 18th-century Cabaña fortress at Havana’s harbour, where Che had his headquarters; and Che Guevara’s mausoleum in Santa Clara.

In 1965, Che Guevara severed his ties with Cuba to fulfil his ambition to export revolution to other countries. In 1966, he left for Bolivia and formed a guerrilla force. He was captured and executed in 1967 in La Higuera. It wasn’t until 1997 that Guevara’s remains were discovered and sent to Cuba to be interred in the mausoleum that stands in the Plaza de la Revolución.

 havana-live-cocktails-colorsHAVANA, 3 December The Cuban bartender Yuleidi Sánchez will represent Cuba at the fourth edition of the Global Beefeater Bartender Competition (drinks with gin), to be held on January 15, 2015 in London, UK.

Sanchez took first place in a meeting of this kind held in the Hotel Riviera in Havana attended by dozens of colleagues from other tourist facilities in the country, as Varadero. The panel of judges in Havana was chaired by Sebastian Hamilton, ambassador of the brand of gin in the world, and composed of national bartenders and sommeliers.havana-live-bartender sanchez
The winner (34 years) presented an aperitif cocktail named El Cuervo, with which she earned her pass to international competition in London. This type of test is performed for the first time in Cuba and led the organization of the company Havana Club International SA, and support of the Association of Bartenders of Cuba (ACC).
Those attending the event of the Cuban capital were inspired by London culture to create their drinks, where the house Beefeater gin, considered the most awards of its kind in the world.

havana-live-se-vendeHAVANA, 2  December  Cuba’s government has enacted new regulations for the sale, purchase and gifting of homes to prevent attempts at tax evasion, Communist Party daily Granma said on Monday.

The new rules for property transactions were approved last Friday’s Cabinet meeting, chaired by President Raul Castro. The rules provide for “a new market-related reference value to be applied to the donation and sale/purchase of housing units.”
Variables to determine the reference value include “the number of bedrooms, type of construction, urban services, neighborhood characteristics and the existence of garages, patios and gardens,” Granma said. The sale and purchase of housing units between private citizens were authorized in 2011 after a decades-long ban.

To alleviate a chronic shortage of decent housing, the government in 2010 began licensing construction and lifted restrictions on the sale of building materials.
Last year, the government expanded a credit and subsidy program to finance home construction and repairs to existing homes. Cuba’s Central Bank has lent some 3.23 billion pesos ($135 million) to individuals over the past three years, with 63 percent of the funds channeled to the construction and repair of houses and apartments.
Housing is one of the most pressing social problems in Cuba, where nearly 40 percent of homes are in disrepair and the housing deficit is estimated at more than 600,000 units.

havana-live-bus-accidentHAVANA, 2 December (AFP) Forty-one French tourists and two locals were injured in Cuba Monday when the bus they were traveling in hit another vehicle, media reports and diplomatic sources said.

Seven are said to be in a serious condition. In addition to the tourists, the Cuban driver and tour guide were also hurt, said the news agency Prensa Latina. Seven of the French nationals were in serious condition after the accident in central Cuba following a visit to a monument to Che Guevara, said an official at the French Embassy.
All 43 injured were taken to a hospital in Cienfuegos, 250 kilometers (160 miles) southeast of Havana, the diplomat said. The bus struck a vehicle traveling in the same direction as the bus was returning to Varadero from Santa Clara, where the tourists had visited a monument that holds the remains of the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter.

Cuban television said the bus was dragged several meters and locals used a crane to lift the bus and help the injured, it reported.
The accident came during the busy season for Cuban tourism, in which thousands of visitors from Europe, Canada and Latin America flock to the island. Tourism is one of Cuba’s main source of revenue. The government has forecast it will receive around three million visitors this year.

 havana-live-buena-fe-se-bota-a-matar Havana, Dec 1 (PL)  Cuban filmmaker Ian Padron and music group Buena Fe were today the winners in the main video event of this country, Lucas 2014.

The video clip “Se bota a matar”, directed by Ian Padron and sung by Buena Fe, won the awards for Best Video of the Year, Best Fusion Video and Best Production. The awards ceremony of Lucas 2014 began yesterday night and continued until the first half hour of today at the Karl Marx Theater, packed with thousands of music fans.
Due to the interest of the people, and as tickets were swiftly sold out, organizers placed on the same street a large screen to broadcast live the ceremony to a thousand people gathered out there.

The jury also gave special awards to the record label EGREM (Company of Recordings and Musical Editions), for its 50 years of work, and the Distributor Company of the Cuban Radio and Television, RTV Commercial. The ceremony had two solemn times to pay tribute to two great figures of Cuban music who died this year, Juan Formell and Santiago Feliu.

The video clip “Besando tu boca” by Los Angeles, directed by Manuel Ortega, was given the Popularity Award. Prima ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba Sadaise Arencibia announced the winner for Best Choreography Video, given to the the famous video clip “Bailando”, directed by Alejandro Perez, which recently earned three Latin Grammys for Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias and Cubans Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona.

 havana-live-britisch-fregattHavana, Nov 30 (PL) The British Royal Navy frigate HMS ARGYLL, arrived today in this capital for a friendly visit.
A 21-gun salute from the visiting ship was reciprocated by a battery from the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabana. Commander Paul Hammond said this is an opportunity to further strengthen relations with the Cuban people.

In a meeting held at the Mayors House, Vice President of the Public Administration Council in Havana, Juan Montalvo, told the visitor that he will be able to verify the Cubans’ effort to improve the economic situation of their country.
Montalvo gave Hammond the Medal for the 495th Anniversary of the City. As part of their stay in Cuba, the British sailors will develop a busy agenda, including meetings with top officials of the Cuban Revolutionary Navy and visits to places of historical and cultural interest. According to an official not, the population will be allowed to visit the ship on 11:00-14:00 local time today.

havana-live-Rent HAVANA, 27 November (Reuters) In Bob Nederlander Jr.’s mission to export Broadway to new markets around the world, he found an old one where the American art form lay dormant for a least 50 years – Cuba.

After testing the Cuban appetite with a 2011 concert of Broadway show tunes, Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment decided to stage a three-month run of “Rent,” the first Broadway musical exported to Cuba in decades. “We were all blown away by the reaction,” Nederlander said of the 2011 show. “Standing ovations. People cheering, on their feet dancing.”
Based on that and interest from Cuba’s Culture Ministry, “we then suggested we bring authentic Broadway here to Cuba; that we do it in Spanish with Cuban actors and musicians,” Nederlander told Reuters from Havana’s 350-seat Bertolt Brecht Theater on the second day of rehearsals. “Rent” will premiere on Dec. 24, just two months after casting.

The Americans will direct and provide set design, sound, lights, choreography and the wardrobe. Nederlander is part of the third generation of his family business, the entertainment empire behind hits such as “Chicago,” “La Cage aux Folles” and “West Side Story.” The Cuban production is a total financial loss meant as a cultural exchange, Nederlander said, declining to reveal any details.
Cuba’s National Council for Performing Arts is sharing expenses. Broadway shows were popular in Cuba before the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, but what happened after that is unclear, an official from the National Council for Peforming Arts said. The United States imposed a trade embargo, and Cuba banned some capitalist influences from the Caribbean island.

Whatever the reason, the curtain came down on Broadway in Cuba. Nederlander, who has a license from the U.S. government for this show, said “Rent” was chosen because it was contemporary, youthful and had a relatively simple set.
The show debuted on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre in 1996, winning the Tony for Best Musical, and ran for 12 years. Andy Señor Jr., a Cuban-American who will direct “Rent” in Cuba, also hoped the play’s gay story lines would resonate in a country where homosexuality was not decriminalized until 1979.

“‘Rent’ is such a celebration of who you choose to be in your life,” Señor said. “I’m hoping the gay community knows about the show and comes to see it, and that they’re able to see themselves on stage.”
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta)

2050966028_b0fb319930HAVANA, Nov 26 (acn) Havana has great possibilities to be one of the seven wonder cities of modern world, asserted on Tuesday Jean Paul de la Fuente, head of Value Development of the New 7 Wonder Foundation of Switzerland, who is on a visit to Cuba until Thursday.

The final list in which Havana could appear will be released on December 7, so in a meeting with the press the executive asked for Cuban support for the campaign with that purpose, with the creation and expansion of vote mechanisms throughout Cuba.
The process of voting on line to choose the seven wonder cities began in 2012 with over 1, 200 nominations of approximately 220 countries, and on October 7, 2013, the list with the initial 300 aspirants was made public. Later, the number of cities was reduced to 28 and on October 7 the 14 finalists were presented.

These cities are: Barcelona (Spain), Beirut (Lebanon), Chicago (the United States), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia), London (the United Kingdom), Mexico City (Mexico), Perth (Australia), Quito (Ecuador), Reykjavik (Island), Havana (Cuba) and Vigan (the Philippines).

 havana-live-marquezHAVANA, 26 November (Photo Reuters) The Colombian author and journalist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was one of the founders of the film festival. The 36th edition of the Havana Film Festival will honor one of his creators .

Gabo, as he was known, died in April in Mexico City, where he used to live. He is considered one of the greatest spanish speaking novelists and writers of all times and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. He was best known for his many books, like “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” but another of his passions was cinema and writing scripts.
Gabo even participated in several adaptations of his novels. His passion for cinema led him to found and preside over the Foundation of New Latin American Cinema, based in Havana. He was also one of the founders of the Havana Film Festival.

The festival will take place from December 4-14 and will also honor Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro, who has portrayed Ernesto Che Guevara two times on teh silver screen, and Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovski.
The director of the festival, Ivan Giroud, said on Tuesday during a press conference that a total of 478 movies will be shown during the festival. The countries that will compete in the festival are: Argentina, Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Dominican Republic.

1.171761HAVANA, 25 November (By Ryan McPhee)  Rent is coming to Cuba! The Tony and Pulitzer-winning tuner by Jonathan Larson will mark Cuba’s first full production of a musical in over 50 years.
The Spanish-language production will open on Christmas Eve (the same day the first act of the show takes place), at Havana’s Bertolt Brecht Theater. Andy Señor Jr., who made his Broadway debut as Angel in Rent, will direct the cast of 15 Cuban actors.

Based on Puccini’s La Bohème, Rent tells the story of a group of young artists struggling in New York’s East Village in the early 1990s and the obstacles they face, including AIDS, homelessness, poverty, lack of healthcare and homophobia.

The Great Whiite Way production of Rent opened on April 29, 1996, following a sold-out, extended limited engagement at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop. The musical, directed by Michael Greif, went on to win every major Best Musical award, including the Tony, and became one of only eight musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The show closed on Broadway on September 7, 2008.

Señor made his professional stage debut in Rent. He also toured with the show. In 2011, he was assistant director to Greif for the show’s off-Broadway revival.
As previously reported, a workshop production of an updated Carmen Jones, another musical inspired by a classic opera, took place in Havana earlier this year.

havana-live-architecturaHAVANA, November 24  About 450 experts and researchers from 33 countries, as well as 694 Cubans, are participating in 17th Scientific Convention on Engineering and Architecture, to be opened today in the capital.

 The meeting, the major event on this sphere of knowledge taking place in Cuba, will be run until November 28 at the Havana’s Conference Center.
About 15 scientific events conform this convention, among them are workshops, symposiums and collateral forums, with researches linked to energy, environmental issues, new technologies, biotechnology and food. 687 works by foreign experts plus other 760 by Cuban researchers conform the scientific and cultural spectrum of the convention.

The scientific program also includes 55 keynote speeches by figures from 18 countries. Organizers expect that this meeting helps to increase collaboration and exchange of experiences and results, which will be presented by representatives from universities, research institutes, and companies.

 havana-live-jose-martiHAVANA, 23 November The battle for the Cuban charter flight business out of Tampa International Airport has landed in federal court, exposing what U.S. citizens must pay the secretive Cuban government for use of Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

The annual total is somewhere between $31 million and $62 million — more than any other nation pays, said one Cuba analyst — enough to make critics question whether the fee is covering actual costs or going to support Cuba
. Tampa International Airport, by comparison, received $14.6 million in landing fees during 2014 for flights from airlines based in every nation that lands here. On a per-flight basis, the same U.S. plane that pays $275 for landing fees at Tampa International pays up to $24,000 in Havana.

The cost estimates on U.S.-Cuba flights is based on two factors: the revelation in court documents that landing fees range as high as $148 for each U.S. passenger, coupled with the projection that two-thirds of the 635,000 Americans traveling to the island nation in 2014 are destined for the capital city of Havana.
“It is a way to get more money off the U.S. since the U.S. government blocks it from making money in other ways,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a policy analyst for the Cuban government from 1992-94 who now is an academic in Denver and an advocate for better relations between Cuba and the U.S. Lopez-Levy said the U.S. is the only nation in the world that pays such high fees to land in Havana.


 havana-live-child-abuseHAVANA, 22 November A Canadian, an Indian and two Italians were sentenced to prison in Havana for having sex with minors in Cuba. In addition two other foreigners are awaiting trial and 13 Cubans have been convicted on this.

The Canadian was sentenced to 13 years, the Indian sentenced to a combined 30 years for crimes of corruption of minors and illegal drug trafficking and the 2 Italian sentenced to 23 and 25 years respectively on charges of murder and corruption of minors . While 2 other foreigners (English and Spanish) are pending the hearing of the trial for having sex with minors.

All this was presented in a report published by the Cuban Foreign Ministry which says that Cuba applies zero tolerance to human traffic and sexual abuse of any kind.
Moreover, the report noted that “since the middle of 2013 the police authorities because of provide tracking information indicating the existence of alleged cases of trafficking of young Cubans abroad, giving rise to research that still maintain its course.”

“We have been able to identify a group of Cubans traveling or residing in the related foreign-nationals, who are dedicated to the collection and transfer of victims under false promises of employment contracts, for which cover expenditure on output and the journey of these, fulfilling the legal formalities in place” it said. The report added that “in this way a debt must be paid by the exercise of prostitution in the country of destination.”
Source: Diario de Cuba

havana-live-enriqueiglesiasbailandoHAVANA, 21 November  “Bailando”, the popular theme of Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias and the Cubans Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, was the big winner at the gala of the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

The song won the awards for Song of the Year, Best Urban Performance and Urban Song on a night in which the announcement by President Obama on US immigration policy, made shortly before the Grammys got underway, was widely celebrated.
“This is a historic day for all Latin Americans living in the United States,” said Enrique Iglesias on a video connection from Paris when receiving one of the three prizes. In addition, the 43 students missing in Mexico since 26 September were remembered by the artists and audience.
Iglesias, Bueno and Gente de Zona were the big winners, but they were not present in Las Vegas as they are on a European tour. The gala ended with “Dancing” but played by them at a concert in Madrid. 

 havana-live-mosqueeHAVANA, 21 November  After the Turkish president said a mosque would be appropriate on the spot where he claims that Muslims discovered the Americas, a site has reportedly been allocated for a mosque’s construction in the Cuban capital Havana.

Five acres of land in the Old Havana district of the city have been spared, and Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is working towards constructing the mosque, daily Vatan reported on Nov. 20.
Diyanet Vice General Manager Mustafa Tutkun, who is negotiating the possibility of a mosque’s construction in Cuba between Cuban officials and Turkey, said they had proposed the construction of a mosque similar to the picturesque Ortaköy Mosque in Istanbul. However, he added that Cuban officials would prefer the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (IOC) to construct the mosque, rather than one country.

“Our foundation is ready to pay the costs of [the mosque]. This idea first came out as our foundation’s project and bilateral visits then took place. The land where the mosque can be constructed is ready. We are thinking of building a [mosque] similar to the Ortaköy Mosque,” said Tutkun.
Speaking to an audience at the 1st Latin American Muslim Leaders Summit in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hit international headlines by claiming that Muslim sailors arrived in America in 1178, more than 300 years before Christopher Columbus. He also said Columbus had mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast.

Erdoğan later instructed Turkey’s educational institutions to adopt a policy of highlighting the contribution of Islam to global science and arts, including the discovery of the American continent by Muslim sailors. The president underlined that he is not the first to make this suggestion, referring to claims found in books written by Germany-based Turkish Professor Fuat Sezgin.

 havana-live-sun-countryHAVANA, 20 November (eTurboNews) Cuba Travel Services will now be offering direct flights from New York’s JFK Airport to Havana, Cuba. Cuba Travel Services arranges flights operated by American Airlines and Sun Country Airlines to popular destinations including Havana, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santa Clara, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba Travel Services believes expanding its flight network will provide licensed travelers more options at a substantial savings. Currently, authorized passengers from the New Jersey/New York areas experience connection delays, additional baggage fees and extra domestic ticket costs when connecting to Cuba through Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa.
Although initial request to operate flights to Havana from Newark Liberty International Airport was denied by local airport authorities, the JFK airport is easily accessible from New Jersey.

This new market features one of the largest Cuban American populations in the United States, second only to Florida. In the spirit of the recent New York Times Editorial published on October 11, 2014 titled “Obama Should End the Embargo On Cuba”, Cuba Travel Services chose to provide this important cultural and social link between the two cities.
The new service will also offer a cost effective travel solution to those Cuban Americans seeking to visit family.
Flight Information: The new flights to Havana will be arranged by Cuba Travel Services and operated by Sun Country Airlines which will utilize next generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft with first and coach class configuration.

 havna-live-huitiasIn this Nov. 17, 2014 photo, Congui, a domesticated huitia, rides on the front door of an American classic car driven by its owner Rafael Lopez, in Bainoa, Cuba. Five years ago Lopez and his wife Ana Pedraza adopted Congui, their first pet huitia, a large rodent that lives in Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas and some of the smaller Caribbean islands. More than a half-dozen more of the furry animals have been born at their home after occasionally bringing in a male huitia in to mate with Congui.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA, 19 November (AFP) Some people keep guinea pigs or hamsters as pets. But in Cuba, where a larger, more exotic rodent runs wild, Ana Pedraza and her husband prefer the huitia.

With a rope-like tail and long front teeth, the huitia looks like a giant rat, only cuter, some would say. They live in Cuba and other Caribbean islands where they are sometimes hunted for food.
But Pedraza and her husband Rafael Lopez say they only want to want to protect and take care of the animals, which measure nearly a foot long (about 30 centimeters), with the largest ones weighing in bigger than a small dog.

The couple began collecting huitias about five years ago when they found one languishing on a roadside and named her Congui. They found her a mate and now have more than a half-dozen huitias in their home about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the capital, Havana. Congui and her brood like to drink sweetened coffee and munch on crackers and vegetables. Her son Pancho enjoys an occasional nip of rum.

 havana-live-partagas-factory HAVANA, November 18 (Prensa Latina) The XXVII edition of the Meeting of Clients and Friends of the Partagas House began yesterday in Havana and was attended by 350 businessmen from twenty countries, rather interested in smoking cigars.

Businessmen, executives and traders arrived in Cuba this Monday 21 November to hold ceremonies and meetings mostly private, which will allow a close approach to one of the most important brands of the handmade Premium Cuban cigar.
The director of the Partagas House, Grecia Quiñones, said that smokers worldwide who love this brand and place, located in the Partagas building (founded in 1845, Industria No. 520, behind the Capitolio of Havana) will participate.havana-live-Partagas

Among those attending the ceremony are cigar lovers from Germany, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Kuwait, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, Greece, Cayman Islands, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Singapore, Chile, France, United States, Sweden and the hosts. This event is organized by the Commercial Business Group Tiendas Caracol S.A. when the Partagas House also celebrates its 21st anniversary.
Dinners for smokers, competitions, artistic performances and tours in Havana, Varadero beach and rural farms complete the event, that has already become customary, including a closure in the protocol center of the Cuban government El Laquito. Habano cigars are considered the best in the world for the three-fold condition of the soil, climate and the experience of producers, with 37 brands, among which Partagas stands out.

 havana-live-solarHAVANA, 17 November  Cuba asked international companies on Monday to invest over $8 billion to help the island combat its economic crisis. The money would assist with kick-starting a centrally planned economy starved for cash and hamstrung by inefficiency.

Foreign Commerce Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz announced that it will cost about $8.7 billion to build a list of over 200 potential projects. The list of possible investments is a big step in a push for foreign capital.
“Cuba is pushing strongly to take advantage of the benefits associated with foreign investment to stimulate development,” he said. Hopes for foreign capital could allow fewer restrictions on investments. It could also help to create a special trade zone around a new deep-water port west of Havana.

Yet, foreigners at Havana’s International Fair say that Cuba is a place that still makes investors deeply nervous. The comments made at the country’s main economic promotional event come at a time when many basic supplies are lacking and simple decisions could take months for approval from overlapping government agencies.

The Cuban government refuses to release basic information about current levels of foreign investment. Malmierca says refusal of the information is to protect Cuba against the United States misusing the figure.
Cuba blames the U.S. for much of its economic misfortune while America maintains an embargo on the island. Cuba is “in an economic war with the world’s primary power,” he said to the Associated Press.

“We don’t give out that data.” The country says it needs to drive foreign investment to more than $2 billion a year in order to help raise an economic growth rate not expected to exceed 1 percent this year
. The main goal is to push growth to 5 percent annually. Foreign executives also complain that doing business with Cuba is not the best idea because they would have to hire Cuban employees through a state agency, making it difficult to directly choose and promote people.

 havana-live-cubanaHAVANA, 17 November At 9:30 am Sunday morning at the Juan Santamaria International Airport the inaugural direct flight of Cubana Airlines landed from Havana. Flights from Cuba have been suspended since 2008 but the airline stated it would be starting this route again.
That time is now.
Cubana will have this flight on Thursday’s and Sunday’s in an Antonov 158 aircraft which has a capacity of 85 passengers. The general manager of Cubana Aviation, Daniel Mendez, said the aim of reviving direct flights to Costa Rica is to strengthen the business alliance and enhance development in both tourist markets of the nations. Rafael Mencia, CEO of Aeris Holding Costa Rica, said the decision to start this route again is to facilitate the arrival of the Russian tourist market.
“It also represents an opportunity for Costa Ricans who decide to travel to that destination,” said Mencia. In 2013 there were 3.372 Cubans that came into Costa Rica and this number is expected to increase with the new service. A total of 4,146 Russian tourists also visited the country.

el-gato-tuertoHAVANA, 15 November (Café Fuerte By Daniel Benitez) A new Cuban initiative to obtain dollars mainly from Miami is up and running: Dining in Havana with dollars from family or friends from abroad.

Starting this month, state officials authorized restaurant reservations for Cubans living on the island made from abroad; people can now make invitations for lunch or dinner for their relatives or friends with all expenses paid. The new service began on November 1 and allows purchasers to select a table and menu, only via the internet, to 43 restaurants and cafes in four provinces: Havana (13), Villa Clara (6), Camaguey (13) and Holguin (11). The website www.bazar-virtual.ca allows those interested to choose dishes ranging in price from $13.83 dollars at the Gato Tuerto to the menu 4 at the Bodeguita del Medio for $ 28.08. Payments with Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

Contribution from Cubans Living Abroad

The service is similar to that established by the State monopoly phone company ETECSA for online payments from outside the country for telephone bills of residents on the island, in force since January. The objective of the ETECSA and restaurant pay from abroad system seems one and the same: tap the potential of the Cuban diaspora as a source of capital for the island’s economy.
The assistance not only comes from outside in the form of shipments of food, clothing, medicine and electronics and more than $ 2.600 billion in annual family remittances, but now begins to branch out into other expenses of daily life. These include payment of phone bills, cash to finance buying houses and cars, supplies for private restaurants and even moments of relaxation and enjoyment, such as footing the bill for stays at resorts and now dinners at restaurants.
The announcement of this new type of food service is promoted by the state company Cubanacan Travel with the attractiveness that reservations may also be made at private business associated with the tourism company.

Diversifying the Offer
Dining at the famous Bodeguita del Medio is also available via online payment form abroad. Dining at the famous Bodeguita del Medio is also available via online payment form abroad. Oscar Mederos Mesa, manager of the Havana Cubanacan office, told the local media that the tourist agency has contracts with 27 private restaurants in Havana, Mayabeque and Artemis, but said that only five are currently visible on the new pay by Internet service.
With this new step to diversify the market for national and international tourism, and in the process attract more dollars, the company also has contracts with private owners of 33 vintage cars, 32 taxis and 13 private lodgings. The manager said that to choose the private cars they took into account many details, giving preference to convertibles … “and the more original cars, preferably with factory engines”, all geared to please the visitor.

The fusion of government with private initiatives started in 2013. At present, 68 percent of the country’s 11,000 food service units have state administration, although the government plans to gradually move them to the private sector. The launching of the pay online service for dining comes on the eve of beginning preparations for year-end festivities, so the invitation to dinner can be a good gift for a family member to say goodbye to 2014 and welcome 2015.

havana-live-enrique-olveraEnrique Olvera

HAVANA, 14 November (Reuters)  They have already earned a place in the firmament of the world’s best chefs. Now Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and Mexico’s Enrique Olvera have set their sights on one of the world’s toughest markets: Cuba.

The island has seen a restaurant boom in recent years, fed by market-style reforms enacted under President Raul Castro, though ingredients can be scarce. The pair are eager to take on the challenge.
Aduriz’s restaurant Mugaritz, in Spain’s northern Basque region, was named the sixth best restaurant in the world this year by Restaurant Magazine, while Olvera’s Pujol in Mexico City ranked at No. 20. “We’re at a stage where we don’t just want to cook good, creative, avant-garde food,” Aduriz told Reuters by telephone as he prepared dinner with Olvera at Pujol on Wednesday.

“Why not do a project that aspires to be on a hypothetical list of the most fun restaurants in the world?” Since 2011, restaurateurs in Cuba, who previously were limited to 12-seat establishments in their homes, can seat up to 50 people in rented spaces. While state restaurants and joint ventures with the state can import luxury items, Cuba’s private restaurants, known as paladares, often struggle to find ingredients from supermarkets and other retailers.
havana-live-andurizAndoni Luis Aduriz

In keeping with Cuba’s ideals, Aduriz and Olvera aim to create a restaurant that levels the social playing field. “Gastronomy is not a privilege of people with money, but rather of intelligent people. Why not dream of a restaurant in which we manage to mix all social classes of people and no one asks who anyone else is?” Adruriz said.

It is not clear how economically viable the planned restaurant would be. The pair are still at the early stages, with no planned start-up date. Havana’s dining choices now include inventive fusion spots, ethnic choices offering Spanish, Italian or Russian food, and white-tablecloth restaurants serving haute cuisine.

They serve tourists, foreigners including diplomats, and a growing number of Cubans who have access to hard currency from their jobs, small businesses or relatives working abroad. “We are going through the beginnings of something that didn’t exist a short time ago,” said Pilar Fernandez, who opened her second restaurant, Casa Pilar, in Havana a month ago.

“This is going to create a new school in the world of Cuban gastronomy. With time, all these young people learning new skills will end up being good chefs.”
(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta in Havana; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Leslie Adler)

 havana-live-cell-phonesHAVANA, Nov 12 (EFE) Cuban state telecoms company Etecsa said Tuesday it is relaxing its service restrictions and will allow ordinary citizens to obtain up to three wireless phone lines, state-run media reported.

Individuals on the island, where mobile telephony use has grown quickly since President Raul Castro’s government lifted a ban on personal cellphone ownership in 2008, had previously been limited to a single wireless line.
The new policy, set to take effect in February 2015, responds to the need to “relax contracting terms and the use of mobile ground telecommunications service,” Etecsa said in a resolution that the Communications Ministry published in the Official Gazette.

Earlier this month, the company lifted another restriction that had required users of pre-paid cellular service – the only option available to Cubans – to buy a minimum amount of minutes per month or else lose their wireless line.
Under the new rules, users must buy a minimum amount of minutes annually. Among other developments this year in Cuba’s mobile telephony market, Etecsa also inaugurated a new wireless e-mail service, although it does not allow Internet access.

Demand for that local wireless e-mail (located on Cuba’s intranet) exceeded the company’s expectations in just a few weeks, leading to system crashes. The number of wireless subscribers in Cuba – whose population was just over 11 million in 2012 – climbed to nearly 2 million last year, according to official figures.

cabecera_web_marabana4HAVANA, 12 November  A total of 562 foreign riders have already confirmed their attendance at the 28th edition of Marabana to be held on Sunday, said Carlos Gattorno, race director.

Besides that number of foreign representatives, confirmed their participation over two thousand contestants from Cuba. Among the foreign athletes stands a group of over 150 Americans, benefit from a special amateur sports license issued by the Treasury Department of the United States. According to the director, on Monday arrived here a delegation from the Madrid Marathon and the representative of the World Marathon Series circuit.
Gattorno also confirmed the availability of the necessary for the completion of the grueling resources, which this year pays tribute to the 495 anniversary of the founding of the town of San Cristobal de La Habana and the Day of Physical Culture and Sports (November 19).
On November 16 at seven o’clock there will be the Marabana snatch while Maracuba will be race the day before, both with accurate output across Radio Reloj. The official presentation of Marabana-2015 will be held on Friday at the Melia Cohiba Hotel.

 havana-live-jojazz-2014HAVANA, 11 November  Victor Rodriguez, director of the music festival JoJazz 2014 revealed the artistic program of the event that promotes young figures of Cuban Jazz and will be held in Havana from November 13 to 16.

The event will begin with a concert-tribute to renowned Cuban singer Pablo Milanes, where winners of previous editions will perform iconic songs of the singer. As a surprise for the concert Rodriguez said the inclusion of a little known song composed for four hands by Milanes and Chucho Valdes.
Among the winners of the previous contest who gathered at the Lazaro Peña Theater for the opening concert will include Rolando Luna, William Roblejo, Zule Guerra and the female vocal group Sexto Sentido, among others.

“This is an event that over the years has become an essential date in Cuban music, not only of jazz but of national music as a whole,” said Rodriguez, who added that in his opinion the musicians participating in the event have an undeniable quality and proven experience, despite their youth.
The chief of artistic direction of JoJazz 2014, Alexis Vazquez, referred to the primary goal of its organizers: show the strength that is in the young jazz today in Cuba, for-his understand- since you hear a work of an artist their sound is recognizable, which speaks to its authenticity, said.

Former winners of the musical, Michel Herrera and Yasek Manzano, will preside over the jury of the major categories of interpretation and composition, while this year contestants from all provinces are participating concluded one of three musicologists of event Yentsy Rangel. JoJazz, which in 2014 will be dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Jazz Plaza Festival, takes place in Cuba since 1998 and has served as a way to boost the careers of some 500 young talents from the current Cuban jazz firmament

  havana-live-trade-fair2The Cuban government has unveiled a raft of investment projects in hopes to attract foreign capital. But German firms criticize the lack of support from their government, DW’s Andreas Knobloch writes from Havana.

HAVANA, 11 November  Now that Cuba’s economy has made steps to open up to foreign capital, the island’s communist government hopes to lure potential investors with numerous incentives. But doing business in Cuba requires a different approach.
“The Cuban market has many special features,” said Stephan Gruber, one of the directors of Casa Alemania, a German umbrella organization for German companies wanting to do business in Cuba.
“The short term does not work in Cuba.” Gruber said Casa Alemania, which means Germany House, has built up experience in dealing with Cuban businesses through years of discussions, earning what he described as “acceptance through continuity.”

No room at the German pavilion havana-live-trade-fairPeter Scholz German ambassador Peter Scholz (r) visited the trade fair
This experience includes a stand at the 32nd Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2014), which has just come to a close. Some 2,000 companies from 60 countries took part in the week-long show that covered over 18,000 square meters.
Thirty-seven exhibitors traveled from Germany – most of them technology and engineering companies, including heavyweights such as Bosch, MAN and ThyssenKrupp. For the third year in a row, the German pavilion was fully booked. It’s no secret that Cuba is now in transition.
For several years, the country has been undertaking a cautious economic realignment. Under the motto of “updating the socialist model” Raul Castro’s government has lifted restrictions on private sales of cars and real estate, allowed more free-market initiatives and set up a Brazilian-funded special economic zone around the port of Mariel, 45 kilometers west of Havana. The centerpiece of this new openness is a new law on foreign investment that took effect in June. It allows foreign companies to invest in all sectors of the Cuban economy for the first time.

‘Trial balloon for the free market’  havana-live-trade-fair1Cuba enters the smartphone era
The trade fair in Havana and the new law are part of a push that the government hopes will bring much-needed capital into the country. Foreign investors will be offered tax benefits and investment protection. “It’s a trial balloon for the free market,” Tobias Schwab, another of Casa Alemania’s directors, called it. The investment law means Cuba “for the first time can form deeper and more complex economic interrelationships,” said Klaus Hartmann, a former East German ambassador to Cuba who now works as a consultant on Latin America.
Expectations are high on all sides. “Cuba has invested heavily to reap the benefits associated with foreign investment,” Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz said as he unveiled the government’s 8.7-billion-dollar spending program at the fair. It includes 246 projects – from chicken farming to manufacturing vaccines to constructing wind farms – across the whole island.

Rebuilding power networks
“What’s positive about this program is that concrete projects are finally being presented in detail. Not many investors know much about Cuba,” said Udo Volz, an economics specialist at the German embassy in Havana. “But it can only be a first step.” Cuba, he said, would need to get the word out about its investment law, not least because it is competing with other investment-hungry nations on the world market.
The Caribbean island needs about 2 billion dollars of foreign direct investment every year to increase its overall economic growth to 5 percent from its current 1 percent, Malmierca said. “Governments can do much to create a business environment, but in the end, it’s companies that must make something of it.” And the once-secretive state has changed its approach to foreign business. “The communication from the Cuban side has changed,” Volz said, describing a new “openness.”

Whereas the government in Havana once understood foreign capital to be “complementary,” it is now expected to play a “fundamental” role in some sectors, especially food production, agriculture, tourism, construction and energy. In the latter case, Cuba wants to move from fossil fuels to renewable energies and cannot do so without foreign expertise
Germany could be a valuable partner, especially in this field, Ambassador Peter Scholz said during his visit to the trade fair. Renewable energies are also a priority for Casa Alemania. It held initial talks with the Cuban government on wind power in 2004, its director Mathias Schultze said. “But in the years that followed, German policymakers scaled back their commitment to Cuba.”

‘Germany is holding back’  havana-live-trade-fair3Casa Alemania directors Klaus Hartmann, Stephan Gruber, Tobias Schwab, Mathias Schultze fly the flag for Germany
Today, Schwab said, Chinese companies were taking the lion’s share of Cuban foreign trade, not least because of aggressive state-backed Chinese financing. “In contrast, German companies have to fend for themselves in Cuba.” Schwab said the German government needed to offer more support to its companies, because there was clear rethinking on the part of the Cubans.
Quality and sustainability now played a greater role and German engineering still enjoyed an impeccable reputation, he said. But, he said, any financing schemes would require stronger backing from Germany, especially in light of the US economic boycott of the island: “German policy is too focused on the United States.” Investment in Cuba was overshadowed by this political and cultural agenda, he said.

And while countries such as Spain and Canada have shown it is possible to follow a different course, Schwab said, “There’s no political desire for that in Germany.” Even the German embassy in Havana had done little to encourage economic cooperation, he said. This is a criticism that Volz is unwilling to accept. He said efforts were being made to support German companies with consulting advice.
But he also acknowledged that Cuba is not a priority as a business partner. “Cuba is not just on the agenda.” This is made clear by the fact that Cuba lacks an independent German chamber of commerce – the German Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala is responsible for Cuba – or even a German trade office. “Other countries have done much more,” Schultze said. “Britain, Portugal and Italy sent ministers to the fair.” Germany, however, didn’t even send an undersecretary.