havana-live-tampa_aquariumHAVANA-TAMPA,11 October  (Paul Guzzo) Members of The Florida Aquarium’s fundraising arm will travel to Havana next week for meetings with the National Aquarium of Cuba just as the Cuban institution is expressing interest in a research partnership with a U.S. aquarium.

The Florida Aquarium Foundation in Tampa isn’t saying whether it hopes to be that partner or who will be traveling. “This is an educational mission,” said Tom Hall, foundation chairman, who will be on the Tuesday-to-Sunday trip.
“We want to talk about what we do, hear what they do, and then compare notes. I’ll know more when we get back.” There is no collaboration now by aquariums in the two countries. The National Aquarium of Cuba hopes to change that, said Jeffrey Boutwell, board member with the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit fund carries on the work of author Ernest Hemingway on a shared U.S.-Cuba approach to maritime resources.

Boutwell was part of a group that visited Cuba in September to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Hemingway’s first trip from Key West to Havana aboard his cabin cruiser. Boutwell met then with representatives from the National Aquarium to learn what’s being done to protect the marlin, tuna and other game fish with which Hemingway is identified.
He asked Julio Baisre, vice director of the aquarium, if he’d consider partnering with U.S. aquariums. “He was definitely interested,” Boutwell said. “I told him I’d reach out to the National Aquarium in Baltimore since I am from that city. I have not yet done so and did not know about Tampa’s trip, but I hope something positive comes from it.”

The aquariums in Tampa and Havana both focus on research as well as public exhibits. A partnership would help protect the two nations’ shared marine resources, he said. “Water does not know national borders or politics,” Boutwell said. “We can provide them information they need and vice versa.” Currents, for example, could wash oil spilled in Cuban waters into Florida waters in less than a week.
That concern prompted an international oil spill agreement signed in March by five nations with Caribbean shorelines — Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the United States and Cuba. The agreement circumvents the U.S. travel and trade embargo, which would have slowed the process of sharing resources to clean up a spill. In June, former Sen.

Bob Graham announced his intentions to lobby the federal government to take the next step in protecting Florida’s shores by providing Cuba access to top-of-the-line oil drilling equipment made in the U.S. but now banned from sale in the island nation. Without the equipment, Graham said, Cuba would be more vulnerable to an oil drilling accident.
Marine biologists from throughout the U.S. are already collaborating with their counterparts in Cuba on research that could reverse the deterioration of coral reefs, prevent overfishing and lead to better understanding of the gulf ecosystem.

Those working for state-funded Florida universities, however, are barred by state law from such work. Under Florida law, money that flows through a state university or institution — including grants from private foundations — cannot be used for travel to a nation on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba is on the list. “There always seems to be political barriers keeping the two countries from properly working together,” Boutwell said. “Aquariums are private institutions so they can help bring the two nations together on these important issues.

   havana-live-children-circus1 HAVANA, 10 October (Reuters Daniel Trotta)  Inside an abandoned movie theater on a noisy avenue in a working-class erea of Havana, some 70 Cuban children as young as nine pursue their dream of joining the circus.

Aspiring acrobats climb a rope while young jugglers toss pins back and forth, and others take turns on the trampoline or parallel bars. No one seems to mind the dilapidated conditions, at least as long as the weather is dry.
Several corrugated tin laminates are missing from the roof, exposing the sky. “Ever since I was little, I always said, ‘I want to join the circus,'” said 12-year-old Daniela Rodriguez, who likes training at heights. “At first I was a little scared, but not anymore.”

The circus is a lucrative career path and a rare opportunity for Cubans to make real money on the communist-led island. Cuban circus artists working abroad make a minimum of 800 euros (about $1,015) a month, and usually much more than that, a relative fortune compared to the meager salaries back home.
Odelmi Hernandez, 42, who once worked briefly as a circus clown, guides the students for three hours daily at the Havana school, where some students commute from as far as two hours away. “A lot of these children come from disadvantaged homes, have shown bad conduct, or come from family conflicts,” said Hernandez, whom everyone calls Kiko.

“Through this project, we help them incorporate socially. They also learn values here.” On a recent day the program included physical exercise, from push-ups to chin-ups to running, with most of the students dressed in leotards. One teenager balanced on a board placed over a cylinder and started jumping rope, blind-folded, and with young Daniela on his shoulders. “My heart is up here,”
said Ivette Rivera, grabbing her throat as she watched her daughter participate in the stunt. Rivera said her daughter hopes to enter Cuba’s National Circus School and then perform professionally, even if that means long stretches overseas.

“It scares me but it’s what she likes to do,” Rivera said. “I’ll accompany her all the way to the airport if she makes it. She’s fighting for her dream.” Youth circus training is fairly common internationally, whether as pure recreation or career training.
“Circus education is on the rise all over the world,” said Amy Cohen, director of the U.S.-based American Youth Circus Organization. The Cuban National Circus tours as a company and also hires out its talent to companies such as Ringling Brothers and Cirque du Soleil. Even though the Cuban state takes a cut of their salaries, the circus gives students a clearly defined profession, said Jose Manuel Cordero, spokesman for the Cuban National Circus.
“They know that in the circus they have a future as a person, as an artist,” Cordero said. “They can triumph doing what they love.” www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/10/uk-cuba-circus-idUSKCN0HZ14920141010  havana-live-children-circus2  havana-live-children-circus   havana-live-children-circus3   havana-live-children-circus4CREDIT: REUTERS/ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI

 havana-live-freaksHavana, 10 October  (AFP) Every weekend, a new generation of rebels converges on downtown Havana, their tattoos, piercings, and dyed hair a world apart from the “new man” the island`s revolutionary leaders dreamed of.

They claim membership in a disparate band of urban tribes — “emos,” “screamos,” “repas,” “mikis,” “punks” and “freaks” — but come together on G Street, one of the capital`s main avenues, to drink, smoke, flirt, gossip and listen to the music that defines their clans. Cuba`s government once considered them “ideological deviants,” but has recently begun allowing these globalized rebels a small space of freedom — though still under the watchful eye of the police.

Gathering at midnight beneath statues of Latin American independence fighter Simon Bolivar and leftist hero Salvador Allende, several hundred mostly teenage revellers gather each weekend sporting creative tattoos, multiple piercings and gauged ears. Others wear leather or metal wristbands, or exotic post-punk hairstyles. In their cross-cutting fashion philosophy, “black is the new khaki.”
Under the raw light of streetlamps or in the shadows of the tree-lined median, they gather around MP3 players or cell phones playing hard rock, hip-hop, emo and reggaeton. They bear little resemblance to Havana`s postcard image of crumbling colonial buildings, classic American cars and salsa musicians decked out in white.

They are also a far cry from the revolutionary ideal of the selfless communist citizen that Che Guevara and Fidel Castro hoped to make the model for Cuba and the world after toppling dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and seizing power.But it is a well-behaved rebellion, with no fighting or loud music. This is still Cuba, after all, even if Fidel has relinquished power to his younger brother Raul and the island has started taking tentative steps toward reform.
A handful of police, both plainclothes and uniformed, keep an eye on the crowd. Nevertheless, the regime`s attitude has changed dramatically since the 1960s, when it persecuted young people who listened to the Beatles or Elvis — music labelled “counterrevolutionary”.

“There`s more tolerance now,” said Ruben Gutierrez, a self-described punk and G Street regular sporting six face piercings and several tattoos. The government has grown slowly more tolerant of “freaks,” or rock music fans, since the 1980s. In the early 2000s, police still chased fans of “enemy” (American) music away from G Street when they tried to gather there after the authorities closed their previous spot, a square near the Plaza de la Revolucion.

But in 2007, after carrying out a sociological study and deciding the young music lovers` worldview was compatible with communist ideology, the government began allowing them to stay on G Street. “This has been closely observed by the police and certain groups that carry out surveillance,” said Omar Padilla, a 30-year-old rocker with long hair. “There was a time when we couldn`t be here.”
But now, he said, “G is a kind of sanctuary for rockers. In reality it`s a bohemian life here, not just for rockers but for people from any urban tribe…. And yeah, you feel a little bit free.”The styles they embrace are the same ones that can be found on the streets of London, New York or Berlin.

Each tribe has its own space on G Street, but there are no signs of rivalry as they pass the night drinking rum and smoking cigarettes — plus a little pot — under the distant but constantly present gaze of the police. They include rockers, emos, punks, “repas” (hip-hop fans), “mikis” (pop fans) and “screamos” (a mix of punk and emo, according to adherents).
Their conversations range from music to literature to technology to fashion to love — but politics is absent. “They share the Cuban population`s disbelief and mistrust in political institutions, which they don`t consider spaces for mobilization or social transformation,” said psychologist Daybel Panellas of the University of Havana, who has studied the groups.

Pedro Luis Fernandez, a 17-year-old emo, described G Street as a place “to meet people who think like you, who like the same music and look the same.” Jorge Herrera, a 16-year-old “freak,” had more concrete goals: “We came to meet girls and get lucky if possible,” he said. “When you don`t have money to go to a club, you come to G,” said Pedro Tumbarell, a 21-year-old “screamo” by night and nursing student by day.

 havana-live-virgenHAVANA, 9 October  The New York City book launching of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre en el alma del pueblo cubano, the result of thorough, in-depth and decades-long research by Cuban historian Emilio Cueto, who brings to light the pervasive presence of Our Lady of Charity across the centuries and in the work of hundreds of artists from all genres.

Throughout, the author enhances his research with more than a thousand images that make for an exquisite visual journey. Emilio Cueto has put together a volume that is not only an invaluable reference tool, but also a source of inspiration for the faithful and for anyone interested in the Virgin’s multifaceted cultural dimension.
As the author points out, it is also the privilege of viewing Cachita, as Our Lady of Charity is affectionately called by the Cuban people, in all her splendor. Emilio researching Emilio Cueto is an indefatigable researcher on all things Cuban, and has produced extensive work on various aspects of Cuban culture, particularly music and colonial prints.

An avid collector of Cuban memorabilia, he has exhibited portions of his private collection in Miami’s Historical Museum of Southern Florida and prepared the three catalogs accompanying those exhibitions, Mialhe´s Colonial Cuba (1994), Cuba in old maps (1999) and Illustrating Cuba’s flora and fauna (2002)). havana-live-virgen1He has organized five concerts of Cuba-related music at Florida International University in Miami (2008-2012), including music of American composers inspired by the Cuban Wars of Independence, also presented in a 2010 concert at Manhattan’s Merkin Hall under the auspices of the Cuban Cultural Center of New York.

33162391_11534044Havana, October 9   Partial shortage of cigars and cigarettes at Havana’s local shops is due to increasing consumption and hoarding and other reasons, according to local media.

The shortage has been made evident in shops that sell these products in Cuban pesos as residents from other provinces like Artemisa and Mayabeque, close to Havana, have purchased large amounts of cigarette package, add to this the increasing number of adolescents with smoking habit.
The vice-director of the Group of Wholesale Shops Francis Herrera explained about some cigarette brands largely affected by the shortage and added some of them are rapidly sold out from shop shelves despite a large local production.
Cigars undergo the same situation, however up to September nearly three million cigars were distributed to the commercial network and in order to revert the situation the Group of Wholesale Shops is considering a strategy to increase cigar production next year.(ACN)

 havana-live-videoconferenceHAVANA, 7 October   Tomorrow 8th, a videoconference between Havana and Washington DC, will be held at 10:00am Havana time.

The damages caused by the blockade to the economic and financial spheres will be the main issue in the discussion. Experts from both sides will attend the exchange.
Internet users will now be able to submit comments or questions related to the issues to be discussed at Cubavsblockade website email:gbloqueo@minrex.gob.cu This videoconference will be broadcast live through Cubavision International and

havana-live-havana_clubHAVANA, 7 October Cuba’s CIMEX corporation recognized that one of its establishments was selling adulterated bottles of the popular Havana Club rum, CubaDebate reported.

The incident was first reported early last month, when it emerged that a user had been scammed by acquiring the product at the Servicupet Cotorro in East Havana, The rum inside the bottle was not Havana Club.
The measures taken by the company led to the “firing of the 7 workers involved, including 6 cashiers and one salesperson, as well as the corresponding charges filed by the prosecutor.”
Most people say that the Havana Club rum marketed domestically is different from that exported, and for which that mark is famous internationally. Moreover, it often happens that the content of this brand, as well as rum “Santiago de Cuba” are adulterated. (Havana Times)

havana-live-ballet.festival.havanaHAVANA, 7 October  The advertising spot upcoming International Ballet Festival of Havana shows that the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) is not intended to lose the classical genre in dance, and continues to opt for the elegance and tradition of this art form.

In recent times dance has faced major economic difficulties that hinder the multiplication of stagings and promote more realistic and concise scenic resources in contemporary art and clothing. In fact, most of the foreign participants in the event were enrolled with neoclassical and modern works, which ignore the tutus and pointe shoes.
The television spot highlights elegantly creed of the host company, in favor of the preservation of a centuries-old heritage. “This spot is a way to take the viewer through the magic and fantasy of the theater world from the clubhouse to the function,” said Cuban journalist and photographer Gabriel Davalos, producer of the material with the designer Raul Munoz.

The original idea of Dávalos broke with most promotional products of the BNC, mostly dedicated to perpetuating the image of the current director Alicia Alonso, 92 years old.
The approval of a project focusing on today youth who represents the prestige of the company deserves applause. This edition theme is “For Shakespeare, dance” in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the birth of one who is considered the greatest writer in the English language. It will be held from October 28 to November 7 with the participation of companies from the United States, France, Switzerland, Argentina and Cuba.
Source: OnCuba

havana-livel-marinas-cuba-trip Patrick Hemingway, grandson of the late U.S. author Ernest Hemingway, waves from a yacht at the Marina Hemingway in Havana Sept. 8. Hemingway’s grandsons Patrick and John are in Cuba to mark the 60th anniversary of his Nobel Prize in Literature.

HAVANA, 7 October  (ENRIQUE DE LA OSA / REUTERS)  Richard Graves dreams of the day when South Floridians can take their yachts for a weekend in Cuba.
That’s why the Fort Lauderdale-based marina consultant is helping organize a trip to explore the island’s marine scene, hoping to prepare for a time of open U.S-Cuba travel as Cuba seeks to develop marinas. Graves aims to accompany more than a dozen U.S. marine industry specialists to Cuba from Feb. 18 to 22, just after Miami’s international boat show.

He hopes some participants at this month’s mammoth boat show in Fort Lauderdale may sign up for the trip. Number of U.S. travelers going to Cuba is on the rise, report says Mary Forgione, Daily Deal and Travel Blogger Washington’s 52-year-old embargo on Cuba restricts most U.S. business with the communist-led island, but the Obama administration allows people-to-people tours, such as the one Graves is developing with licensed travel group Other Cuban Journeys.

Their group aims to meet folks from the veteran Marina Hemingway and the expanding Marina Gaviota in Varadero, as well as Cubans in the arts, budding businesses and other fields.
lRelated Cuban doctors flee foreign missions to Florida BUSINESS Cuban doctors flee foreign missions to Florida SEE ALL RELATED 8 “The idea is to make contacts and get a visual. You have to start understanding the culture to do business there one day,” said Graves. “This is a long-term process.”

The largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba now has just 15 marinas with roughly 800 slips, an inventory basically frozen for half a century. But the government has plans to add 23 marinas with more than 5,000 slips, working with foreign investors. Projects include expanding Gaviota Varadero marina to 1,200 slips to become one of the Caribbean’s largest, Cuban officials have said.
A University of Florida study has estimated 60,000 U.S. vessels over 25 feet long would visit Cuba the first year after Washington lifts restrictions on U.S. boat travel to the island.
“For boating and the marine industry, Cuba is a perfect gateway to the Caribbean, eastern and western,” said Graves, who has done studies to boost U.S. boating to the Caribbean overall.

la_habana_desde_la_cabana_recortadaHAVANA, 6 October (By Matt Sloane CNN)  It may seem unlikely, but Havana, is one of the healthiest cities on the planet.

Yes, much of the country is in abject poverty, and the trade embargo by the United States has kept some of the best medical technologies out of health care workers’ hands. But a focus on prevention has helped many residents avoid the hospital altogether.
Consider these facts: Cuba, a country with 11 million people, has an average life expectancy of 79 years, the same as the life expectancy in the United States. The infant mortality rate is actually better than in America. And the Cuban government spends an average of just $400 per person on health care; the United States spends close to $9,000. How?

One word: prevention. “Fundamentally, prevention is how you keep your costs down,” says Pierre LaRamee, the executive director of MEDICC, a nonprofit cooperative medical effort between the United States and Cuba.
“If you’re a country with very limited resources like Cuba, you put all of your resources into the most effective, most low-cost interventions.” Simple things like a near-100% vaccination rate and regular health screenings help. Every community has a network of small doctors’ offices in nearby homes and free access to neighborhood “polyclinics.”

Larger tertiary care hospitals are reserved for the most complicated cases, and problems that can be headed off early in the small clinics are dealt with locally. Taking care of yourself and your neighbors is a practice that everyone is taught from a young age in Havana, says LaRamee.
Kids are taught basic first aid and CPR, which is important in an area that’s often in the path of many hurricanes and where emergency medical services are scarce. “If people are trained early on to think about their overall health – the need for proper nutrition, the need for exercise – that creates a culture of health,” LaRamee says.

Another effect of the government’s focus on preventive care: Medical school is free, and Cuba trains more doctors than any other Latin American country. Some critics point out that doctors make between $20 and $30 per month, about the same as everyone else, and are often forced to take side jobs as taxi drivers to earn extra money.
Treatment for more complicated or rare diseases is often nonexistent and 25% of the adult male population still smokes. All of that said, Havana is a prime example of what public health officials in America have been saying for a long time: It’s better to prevent the problem in the first place than to have to treat it.

 havana-live-divorceHAVANA, 4 October   A total of 32,848 couples in Cuba divorced during 2013, an increase of 843 over the previous year, the National Bureau of Statistics and Information, or ONEI, said.

ONEI’s Annual report detailed that 10,689 of those couples had remained married 15 years or more, while 6,260 marriages lasted between three and five years. The growing number of divorces is forcing Cuba’s family courts to address more and more conflicts over issues that impinge on the welfare of children, the official AIN news agency said.
Courts must determine which of the parents gets custody of the children and which will pay child support, according to attorney Janet Manso. “The parent who will pay child support must do it whether he or she has a job or not, even if they work within the new models of economic activity (self-employment), and to that purpose the law provides appropriate mechanisms,” she said.

Divorce has been legal in Cuba since 1917, but it remained rare until 1963 – four years after the revolution – when for the first time the island had more than one broken marriage per every 1,000 inhabitants.
The rate has tripled since then, reaching 64 percent of marriages in 2009, placing Cuba along with Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Spain among the countries with divorce rates above 60 percent. Experts say this trend in Cuban society reflects women’s self-reliance. As a result, there are in Cuba many households headed by women. EFE

firefox_etecsaHAVANA, 4 October  Cuba’s state-owned telecommunications operator Etecsa is limiting the activation of new mobile phone lines in the provinces of Havana and Holguin, reports AIN.
The operator has not provided any explanation for these limitations. One of the possible explanations is the recent activation of e-mail access from mobile phones by Cubacel, which boosted demand.
Another reason for the increased demand, which exceeds the current capacity of Cubacel, could be the offer that reduced the monthly fee for the mobile line from USD 10 to USD 5.

havana-live-dance-contestHavana, October3  Carlos Acosta will be the ambassador of a dance program dedicated to ballet and dance in general, informed on Thursday the British public television network BBC.

This media outlet and the Sadler’s Wells Theater of London organize the 2015 Young Dancer Contest to select the best 16 to 20 year-old dancer in four categories: ballet, contemporary dance, hip-hop and dances of south-east Asia, the Prensa Latina news agency reported.
After a selective process, finalists will be assessed by dance experts, like the current director of the English National Ballet, Tamara Rojo, and choreographers Akram Khan and Matthew Bourne, among other personalities of the artistic world.

A few months ago, the Prince of Wales conferred the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire upon Acosta, and during the ceremony, held at the Palace of Buckingham, he praised the Cuban dancer for becoming an inspiration to humble youngsters.
According to the director of the Sadler’s Wells, Alistair Spalding, the representation of the leading dancer of the Royal Ballet will contribute star quality to the new television program.
Spalding, also a member of the jury, commented that the very same personal history of this dancer of humble origin can motivate contestants. The final competition of the program has been scheduled for May 9 and the British television network expects this contest to become one of reference.(acn).

havana-live- Cubana  HAVANA, 2 October (by Narayan Ammachchi) Cuba will soon begin offering direct flights to Costa Rica, as the Caribbean country intensifies its efforts to bolster its tourism sector in the face of the ongoing U.S. embargo.

Cubana de Aviación, the nation’s top airliner, says it will begin running flights to Costa Rica from November 16.Cubana had dropped the Costa Rican route six years ago, citing fewer demand, but now the airliner is resuming service in a bid to support the national tourism industry.
The Caribbean country, ruled by a single-party communist regime for over five decades, recently launched “Authentic Cuba,” a campaign to promote its tourist sites on the international stage. A key component of this program is persuading airliners to bring more tourists into the country.

The route will operate twice weekly, on Thursdays and Sundays, with departures from Havana in the morning and a flight time of two hours and thirty minutes. Flights will be operated by Antonov 158 aircraft, with a capacity of 85 passengers. Data from the Costa Rican Tourism Board showed that only 3,372 travelers visited Cuba last year.
Despite U.S. sanctions, more and more tourists are arriving in Cuba from places such as Russia and Venezuela. Weeks ago, Russian carrier Transaero launched a flight service to the Caribbean country. Tourism is one of Cuba’s top four generators of income, along with nickel mining, medical services and remittances from relatives living abroad.

 havana-live-fito-paezHavana, Oct 1  Popular Argentinean singer-songwriter Fito Paez will offer a concert on Wednesday at Havana’s Karl Marx Theater, as part of the special programming of the 6th Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival.

Absent from Cuban stages since 2012, the interpreter returns now to perform some of his songs and some by Cuban troubadours Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo Milanes, in a presentation he has called Fito Paez Essential.
With the orchestration and direction of maestro Leo Brouwer, the concert will include the cooperation of pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, Daiana Garcia and other guests of the two nations, according to the international festival’s program.
This singer-songwriter and pianist, a member of the so-called Trova of Rosario is one of the most important exponents of Argentinean rock; He has also worked as a filmmaker and a scriptwriter. (ACN)

havana-live-marabanaHAVANA, Oct. 2  With a month and half to go before Havana hosts its annual marathon, known as the Marabana, some 370 runners from 39 countries have already registered to compete, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) reported Wednesday.

If the trend holds, Cuba could see a record number of international runners take part in the Nov. 16 event. “With 45 days still left till the official deadline for online registration, Marabana organizers are highly pleased with the way things are going,” the ACN said.
Given the huge international interest in the run this year, organizers have decided to extend online registration until Oct. 30, in a bid to see whether they can surpass Marabana’s record high of 400 foreign participants, the agency said.

The Marabana, first held in 1987, is considered Cuba’s biggest international marathon. The marathon and half marathon are open to all categories of runners, from elite to those with disabilities (blindness, hearing impaired, confined to a wheelchair).
The countries with the most number of runners at the 2013 Marabana were Italy, Germany and Denmark. Some 50 runners from the United States also took part, despite U.S. travel bans on Americans going to Cuba. (Xinhua)

ortakoy-mosque-in-istanbul-turkey-08HAVANA, 2 October Cuba’s government has turned down a plan to open a mosque in the capital Cuba. Pedro Lazo Torres, the leader of Havana’s Muslim community, revealed that his joint efforts with Turkey’s Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV) to open a mosque in Havana was rejected. Torres expressed his dismay at the decision, noting that Russia was granted permission to build an Orthodox church in the country but 4,000 Muslims in Cuba still have no official place of worship. Cuban Muslims have until now had to make do with performing congregational prayers in Torres’s living room. In April, TDV assistant manager Mustafa Tutkun sought permission to begin work on a mosque, which was to be designed after the famous Ortakoy mosque in Istanbul. The plan was part of a wider project by the TDV in building mosques for Muslims who live in the Caribbean. A similar project in Haiti is due to be complete by the end of this year.

 havana-live-currencyHAVANA, 1 October (Ramon Espinosa AP) Cuba’s central bank chief is giving new details about the elimination of a special currency, saying that the shift will require putting more pesos into circulation and issuing higher-denomination bills.

Elimination of the stronger currency is one of the toughest challenges facing Cuba’s struggling socialist economy, forcing officials to eliminate a distorted double set of prices for many goods without spawning inflation.
Most Cubans earn and buy goods in local pesos. The convertible peso used largely in the tourism sector is also used by Cubans to buy goods long unavailable in local currency. The convertible peso is worth about one U.S. dollar, or 24 local pesos.
The highest-denomination local bill is 100 pesos. The state news agency reports Wednesday that Central Bank president Ernesto Medina says consumer prices won’t change.

havana-live-Tutor-for-StudentsHAVANA, 1 October (HT Dmitri Prieto)  A brochure handed out in Havana’s neighborhood of Vedado offers a “package” of refresher courses for high-school students. Parents are invited to pay between 5 CUC (Math only) and 15 CUC (Math, Spanish, Physics and Chemistry) a month to ensure their “son or daughter becomes a university student”, calling a mobile phone number for enrollments. The scope of the academic packages offered catches the eye: they offer refresher courses for the subjects mentioned as well as for the natural sciences, in diverse combinations and at different prices.

The subjects are taught in 45-minute lessons according to a weekly schedule. One wonders, in view of the way these lessons are structured, whether we are dealing with mere refresher courses or a veritable proposal for an alternative to Cuba’s public schools. 

It’s clear the teachers of these refresher courses would not subject students to exams, which would be taken by the latter in the institutions where they “study” officially. The quotation marks are not accidental: it is also clear that the budding business of private lessons exists thanks to the poor quality of public education, which can’t even manage to have its students pass or obtain good grades at the exams designed by the State educational-methodological bureaucracy on the basis of official programs.

That is why both parents and students turn to “refresher” (or perhaps downright private) lessons as an individual option. I see nothing wrong in the existence of private refresher courses. But State education is in such dire straits that these are beginning to replace the systematic education offered at schools, in their very essence. The offer I described above isn’t the only one out there.
There are others, such as “comprehensive refresher courses”, at 10 CUC a month, offered 3 days a week (1 and a half to 2 hour lessons), for secondary school students, which include the completion of the “assignments” required by teachers of a wide range of subjects. The issue becomes particularly complex when we start dealing with university admittance exams.

Those who wish to purse different kinds of university studies must take a Mathematics, Spanish and History exams. Some private refresher courses charge some 300 Cuban pesos (13 CUC) for lessons (offered 3 times a week) designed to prepare you for these exams in full. The core problem isn’t (exclusively) that of prices, but the extent to which State education has deteriorated.
Following this year’s History university admittance exam, the Ministry of Higher Education had to offer a public statement in the news, explaining that the contents of the exam were to be found “in textbooks” and hadn’t been prepared on the basis of the whims of the examiners. It seems many of those aspiring to enter university who failed those exams had complained.

When those of us who graduated years ago saw the exam questions put on screen, they struck as the most elementary queries about facts that, it is logical to assume, “every Cuban ought to know” about the country’s history. Will private schools that offer an alternative to State institutions emerge, reducing the latter to mere venues for “rituals of passage” (examinations) for young people who wish to “go up the ladder” of their personal education? That is the question.

havana-live-medical_educationHAVANA , Sep 30 (acn)  Some 400 delegates and guests, half of them Cubans, will meet today in this city to discuss the role of universities in the health of population.

Renowned personalities of medical education and public health of the United States, Great Britain, Angola , Mexico, Venezuela , El Salvador, Belgium, and other countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe will participate in the 2nd International Conference on Medical Education for the 21st century, which runs until October 3.
Dr. Iliana Morales, director of Science and Technology of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) and president of the organizing committee, announced that the event will focus its discussions on how human resources graduate from these centers of higher learning can contribute directly in solving major health problems the world’s population suffers today.

The list of those attending the event includes Dr. Maria Isabel Rodriguez, who served as El Salvador Health Minister, and this time the Havana Medical Sciences University will confer her Doctor Honoris Causa title. As part of the side events a symposium on ethics in health, headed by Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez, MINSAP Ethics Committee president, and visiting professors from the United States will be developed.

Another symposium will deal on education in pharmacology and will be given by the main educators of this specialty in Cuba. The Forum , based in Havana Conventions Palace, includes the presentation of three books by Cuban group of authors on comprehensive general dentistry, obstetrics and perinatology: diagnosis and treatment and anatomy applied to dentistry.


havana-live-panchocespedes8Havana, September 28 (EFE)  Singer and songwriter Francisco “Pancho” Cespedes, who has not taken the stage in Cuba for more than two decades, once again performed live for fans in his native land with a feeling of “indescribable emotion” and with the view that “life is opening up” on the island.

“I don’t make concessions on principles in my life for anything. If I’m singing here without making any concession on principles, something is changing,” Cespedes told Efe moments before taking the stage Saturday night at Havana’s Karl Marx Theater, where he offered a concert to kick off the 6th Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival.

In Cuba, “everything is opening up” and “getting straightened out” 56 years after the Revolution,” a time “of too many difficulties,” and Cespedes said that “there’s the thinking and a need that everything is moving forward,” the singer said. “We’re confident about that. I, too, am on that same page,” the write of “Vida loca” said.

Cespedes is known for his personal style of interpreting boleros and ballads with a touch of jazz. It was 24 years ago that he settled in Mexico, his “adoptive homeland,” but Cespedes, who was born in 1957 in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, has visited Cuba a number of times since then.
However, the chance to sing once again in his homeland and before his countrymen is “a very special moment” and perhaps the key event of his life, Cespedes said. The Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival will run until Oct. 12 in Havana and will feature the performances of more than 300 Cuban and foreign artists.havana-live-panchocespedes4  havana-live-pancho havana-live-panchocespedes3

cytokmakjian.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoHAVANA, 28 September  (Michael Weissenstein AP)  A Canadian automobile executive has been sentenced to 15 years in Cuban prison on corruption-related charges that officials here call part of a broad campaign against graft, his company said Saturday.

Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group said the charges against its president, Cy Tokmakjian, 74, were concocted as an excuse to seize the automotive firm’s $100 million in assets in Cuba. The company described the case Saturday as “absurd” and a “travesty of justice.”
The company’s Cuban offices were raided in 2011 as Cuba launched an anti-graft drive that has swept up foreign business executives from at least five nations as well as government officials and dozens of Cuban employees at key state-run companies.

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. President Raul Castro has said that rooting out rampant corruption is one of the country’s most important challenges. More than 150 foreign business people and dozens of small South American and European companies have been kicked out of the country under the anti-graft drive.
Several dozen defendants have ended up in jail, including a few foreigners and high government officials accused of influence-peddling and taking bribes. Such cases, and questions about their fairness, have chilled many current and potential investors in Cuba, which is trying to attract foreign capital to jumpstart the stagnant economy.

Cuba’s judicial system is known for speedy proceedings behind closed doors with little or no media access. Cuban officials have said little about the Tokmakjian case beyond announcing last year that the Tokmakjian Group’s operating license had been rescinded due to unspecified actions “that are contrary to the principles and ethics that should characterize commercial activity, and contravene Cuban judicial order.”

Tokmakjian managers Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche got 12- and 8-year sentences, respectively, company vice-president Lee Hacker told The Associated Press. He said the company’s lawyers were notified of the sentences on Friday. The Canadian company said its president had been allowed to call only four of the 18 expert witnesses he wanted to testify.
“The deception taking place in Cuba is beyond imagination,” the company said. “Lack of due process doesn’t begin to describe the travesty of justice.” The company’s website lists its head office in Concord, Ont. The website says it provides both transportation services and engine repairs. With files from The Canadian Press

 havana-live-pefumeHavana, September 27   Cuba will punish officials with the Biological Laboratories Entrepreneurial Group Labiofam after they launched two perfumes in presumed homage to Cuban-Argentinean guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara and Bolivarian leader Hugo Chavez.

“This serious mistake will lead to correspondent disciplinary measures, reads a statement by the Executive Committee of the Cuban Council of Ministers published by Granma newspaper.
Labiofam workers announced to the international media during a recent congress of the entity in Havana that two perfumes, still in the works, would bear the names of Ernesto and Hugo.
The details of this irresponsible action were deeply analyzed in the evening of Friday, September 26 in the presence of the Enterprises’ director and the officials who presented the product, even when it was not being commercialized or registered, the statement reads.

It was made clear that it was not true that the relatives of Che and Chavez would have approved such use of those names, as one of the officials told AP news agency. After asserting that such symbols are sacred today and always, the statement stressed that such actions will never be accepted by the people or the revolutionary government.(acn).

 havana-live-taxiHAVANA, 27 September  Cuba’s state-run tourism industry is increasingly doing business with the country’s new class of private entrepreneurs, trying to improve quality of food and lodging while maintaining a grip on the sector’s biggest sources of foreign exchange.

One of the country’s highest tourism officials provided new details on the initiative in an interview with The Associated Press, saying two dozen restaurants for tourists have been converted into worker-owned cooperatives since January.
Jose Manuel Bisbe, president of state tour operator Havanatur, also said his firm was sending tourists to hundreds of private bed-and-breakfasts instead of government hotels. “The state must free itself from activities that aren’t decisive for the economy and that experience is showing function better privately,” he told the AP on Thursday.

He said that some tourism-related businesses like bus transport and large-scale hotels would remain in state hands. Tourism is one of Cuba’s top four generators of income, along with nickel mining, medical services and remittances from relatives living abroad.
State-run restaurants for tourists and for Cubans have long suffered from complaints about poor quality and widespread pilferage by employees who resell food and supplies on the black market or take them for personal use.

Hundreds of private restaurants have sprung up around the country since the launch of a limited economic liberalization four years ago and generally offer food and customer service far superior to those in government venues. Cuba sees cooperatives as a middle ground between the communist model of state ownership and the private enterprise that has been making inroads into industries like restaurants and personal services under the reform meant to spur badly needed growth.

State news agency Prensa Latina has reported that Cuba has 11,000 restaurants, most for Cubans, and 1,260 private establishments known as “paladares,” which cater mostly to visitors and foreigners living in Cuba.
Official statistics are sparse in Cuba and Bisbe declined to provide further details of the private enterprise initiative, including how many restaurants were run wholly or partly by the state tourism sector. The Ministry of Commerce also runs a large number of restaurants.
State news agency Cubadebate reported this week that 200 homeowners in the lush Vinales valley had signed deals with state tour operators to provide lodging for tourists. (By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN Associated Press)

 havana-live-grammy-award-2014HAVANA, September 26 Cuban artists Descemer Bueno, Eliades Ochoa, Pablo Milanes and the popular group Gente D Zona were nominated on Wednesday by the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to opt for different awards in the 15th edition of its Grammy Prizes.

Composed by Descemer Bueno and interpreted by Gente D Zona and Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias, the single Bailando gets to this internationally renowned contest with mentions in the categories of Recording of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Urban Performance and Best Urban Song.
Santiago de Cuba musician Eliades Ochoa and his Patria Quartet will compete in Best Traditional Tropical Album with the CD El Eliades que soy, produced in Cuba by Bis Music, the record label of Artex S.A, as informed by the contest’s official site.
Also represented in the annual competition for the most important awards in the Latin sound context will be troubadour Pablo Milanes with this CD Renaciendo, competing in Best Album by a Singer-Songwriter.
Another member of the island’s New Song Movement will be present through the nomination of Ojos Color Sol in Song of the Year, a piece in which Silvio Rodriguez cooperated with the Puerto Rican group Calle 13.
The 15th edition of the annual Latin Grammies will take place on November 20 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena of Las Vegas .(ACN) 

havana-livemurilloHAVANA, Sept 26  (Reuters)  Cuban President Raul Castro granted more authority to the man who has led the campaign to modernize Cuba’s socialist economy, naming Marino Murillo as economy and planning minister on Thursday, the government said. Former Economy Minister Adel Yzquierdo, 69, was demoted from minister to deputy minister but will retain his position on the powerful 14-member Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party, the government said in a statement. Murillo, 53, also a member of the politburo and one of Cuba’s vice presidents, takes over as head of the ministry in an attempt to give more impetus to the market-oriented reforms that Castro has been implementing since taking over for his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008. “It is necessary to take the process of modernizing the economy and planning to a higher level,” the statement said. Marino will retain his position as chief of the commission charged with implementing the reforms, the statement said. (by Daniel Trotta)

 havana-live-luis-cristalHAVANA, September 25  Cuba expects the visits of 200 cruise ships in the upcoming winter season, the largest number of calls by those boats ever, according to a Tourism official cited by specialized media.

The visits by tourist and academic boats are expected to surpassed their record in 2013, when the island received nearly 200 boats, said the president of the International Tour Operators and Travel Agents Group Havanatur, Jose Manuel Bisbe.
According to specialized media online, the directive announced that during the winter season, beginning October 29, the island expects to receive the British Cruise Ship Thomson Dreams with capacity for 2 000 passengers.
The boat is expected to call Havana harabor with no operations in that destination. Also scheduled to arrive the Canadian Cuba Cruise, which will take a seven-day tour around the island, while others like the Panorama and the Star Clippers are also on the winter agenda.(ACN)

  havana-live-old-havana-repaire3HAVANA, 25 September  (Havana Times Elvira Pardo Cruz)  Many are the obstacles we must dodge as we head for work or go out for a stroll around the city. One sees men wearing helmets and overalls in hectic movement, oblivious to the hot tropical sun and what day of the week it is.

Their minds are firmly set on installing underground gas, electricity, fiber-optic and telephone pipelines. People of all ages – and even those with disabilities – dodge, jump and climb over the trenches dug up by these men, such that one feels one is watching the Olympics at times.  Some are helped by a worker and there is always the charitable old lady who offers these hard-working and willful men a bottle of water or a cup of coffee.

  havana-live-old-havana-repaire1The installation of underground piping began in January of 2013. A large investment to restore this infrastructure using cutting edge technology is being made. These efforts involve brigades from the Union Nacional Electrica (National Electric Union, UNE), Recursos Hidraulicos y Aguas de la Habana (Havana Hydraulic and Water Resources Center), the telephone company ETECSA, the Empresa de Gas Manufacturado de La Habana (Natural Gas Company of Havana) and the Direccion de Redes Tecnicas (Technical Networks Office) of the Provincial People’s Power Assembly.
  havana-live-old-havana-repaire4The Direccion de Inversiones (Investment Office), Puerto Carenas construction company and Plan Maestro para la Revitalizacion Integral de la Habana Vieja (“Master Plan for the Comprehensive Restoration of Old Havana”), projects attached to the Office of the City Historian, are also participating in the project. Cuba’s National Housing Institute, the Road and Traffic Center and the Servicios Especializados de la Construccion (Specialized Construction Services, SECONS) verify the state of the buildings before work begins. The company GEOCUBA and Pinar del Rio’s GEOMINERA have also taken on the challenge.

The work goes on from sunrise to sunset.
The narrow streets make it impossible to install all of the pipelines at once. Old Havana is in a state of commotion, as the repair of parks and old buildings as magnificent as the Capitolio, the Manzana de Gomez complex or the Parque Cristo, as well as the restoration of housing, is also underway. Old Havana, it seems, is being reborn from the foundation up. 

 havana-live-old-havana-repairePassersby, tourists and locals look on, marveling at the pace of the work. A building being built on the corner, a long piece of pipe being transported by a dozen men, a dumper loaded with construction materials, a crane lifting the concrete foundation off an old building, an enormous truck being loaded with rubble, the deafening noise of sledge-hammers breaking up the pavement, the sirens of fire-fighters, rushing to the scene of a fire, making their way through the tight streets – many are the sights during the day, but people remain positive as they head home to rest, harboring the dreams yet to be fulfilled.
Tomorrow will be another day, the repair work will continue, the city will stir like a giant, and the streets will show the dug-up trenches that are a testament to these efforts, undertaken in sunlight or in rain.
(Photo by Elio Delgado Valdes) havana-live-old-havana-repaire2 0030

 havana-live-pefumeHAVANA, 25 September (AP ANDREA RODRIGUEZ)  Call it “Eau de Revolution” Cuba’s biggest producer of natural products has come up with a pair of colognes for the discerning supporter of international socialism who wants something more than just the iconic “Che” T-shirt.  Formulated by a French company and produced in Cuba, the colognes are being presented this week at a Labiofam convention in Havana.

A woodsy and refreshing citric scent with notes of talcum powder called “Ernesto” honors guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara. For those seeking something softer and fruitier, there’s a blend with hints of mango and papaya called “Hugo,” for the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
“They will be very attractive colognes, but the names also mean a lot to us,” said Isbel Gonzalez, vice president for research and development for Labiofam, which produces homeopathic medicines, cleaning products and dietary supplements. Formulated by a French company and produced in Cuba, the colognes are being presented this week at a Labiofam convention in Havana.
The two scents so far have generic bottles and simple printed labels bearing only their names. But Labiofam is developing more attractive bottles and labels with hopes of putting the colognes on sale in Cuba and internationally, Gonzalez said. She declined to provide a timeline. Labiofam officials said they and French firm Robertet worked for more than 1 1/2 years to produce the colognes.
The Cuban company polled 122 visitors to other pharmaceutical conventions to determine what names people preferred from a pre-selected list of options. “It was a great challenge,” said Cuban biochemist Mario Valdes, who led the scent design team. The French company did not respond to a request for comment. Labiofam is also producing a pair of women’s perfumes called “Amalia” and “Alba.”

While ALBA is the Spanish acronym for the leftist Latin America regional alliance founded by Chavez, Gonzalez did not provide details about whether the perfumes’ names also had political connotations. Celebrity endorsements are a vital part of the perfume and cologne business, but scents inspired by political figures are rarer. One example is that associated with ousted Philippines President Joseph Estrada, a former movie action star and heart throb who was forced out in a 2001 “people power” revolt.
Estrada, now mayor of the Philippines capital of Manila, was known for using a distinctively scented body powder, and at one point during his presidency packages described as Estrada’s body powder were put on sale for his followers. Guevara’s image has long been appropriated for products as diverse as clothing and automobiles, often running into objections from the survivors of the Argentine-born revolutionary who helped Fidel and Raul Castro’s rebels overthrow Cuban President Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
Chavez became the Castros’ greatest ally since the breakup of the Soviet Union, frequently visiting and supplying Cuba with millions of barrels of discounted oil that provided vital support for the island’s struggling economy. Labiofam’s director is a nephew of the Castros, and Valdes said the families of Guevara and Chavez had been consulted and approved the use of the names.
Cubans are enthusiastic consumers of perfumes and colognes. State cosmetics company Suchel-Camacho produces “Alicia,” a scent named for Cuban National Ballet founder Alicia Alonso, which has been popular among both tourists and Cuban women since the 1980s. At the Labiofam convention, visitors’ reactions to the revolutionary scents were largely positive.
“I’d probably be more likely to buy ‘Ernesto’ because the scent is a little more striking,” said Reymundo Miranda, an expert in traditional medicine. Valdes said the colognes had no intention of trivializing the two men’s legacies. “We didn’t want to create propaganda, but rather pay homage to them and help their names endure,” he said. FRANKLIN REYES — AP Photo.

CUBA-GALA CLAUSURA XXIII FESTIVAL INTERNACIONAL DE BALLET DE LA HABANAHAVANA, September 24  (acn)  Cuba’s National Ballet Company (BNC), directed by Alicia Alonso, will be present with prima ballerina Yanela Piñera and leading dancer Camilo Ramos at the 20th International Gala of Ballet to be held on September 27 and 28 at the Grand Opera House of the German city of Dortmund.

The Cuban dancers will interpret the pas de deux of The Corsair, choreographed by Alicia Alonso over the original by Marius Petipa, music by Riccardo Drigo and customs by Salvador Fernandez.
In two presentations, the Cuban dancers will share the stage with figures of the San Francisco Ballet, the Royal Ballet of London, the Staatsballet of Berlin and the National Ballet of Norway, among other important companies.
The press department of the emblematic Cuban company also informed that choreographer Eduardo Blanco is working in the Republic of Honduras, at the Art School of the city of San Pedro de Sula, following an invitation by the authorities of that artistic center.
From October 28 to November 7, the BNC will be the host of the 24th edition of Havana’s International Ballet Festival, a unique moment to exchange experiences between personalities, critics, specialists and impresarios of all parts of the world.