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 havana-live-guantanamoHAVANA, July  6   (Havana Times)   According to a Cuban scientist, the Guantanamo Naval Base, operating on territory which the United States has leased from Cuba since February of 1903, is responsible for secondary salinization processes that are affecting soils and preventing adequate draining in the region.

The Masters in Science Mario Montero claims that the military facility at the prison built in the area has caused environmental damage and is impeding the proper draining of water at the Guantanamo and Guaso river basins. This, according to his assessment, is having a negative impact on surrounding terrains.

During a provincial gathering dealing with anti-draught measures sponsored by the National Association of Architects and Construction Engineers and other government organizations, the issue of the Guantanamo Naval Base came up during a presentation by Montero, who was a member of Cuba’s delegation at the World Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought.

Crops Affected
The scientist added that the military facility represents an obstacle to Guantanamo’s economic and social development plans and suggested that the soils affected in the valley have a direct impact on food production for the city.

According to the report published by the local press, the base has also prevented Cuban experts from studying the transition of land and marine ecosystems located on the boundary between Cuban and US territory.

The environmental deterioration of the valley began, according to studies, when the facility started to be built and the indigenous vegetation was destroyed and the soil compacted, phenomena which were exacerbated by the exploitation of the sand reserves in Malabe, today part of the municipality of Niceto Perez.

The expert also complained that US military engineers wasted no time in the creation of shooting ranges, breakwaters and airports, all later expanded to the detriment of the environment and national sovereignty.

Usurped Territory
For the US government, Gitmo, as they call it, represents a fuel resupply point for vessels in the region and a first line of monitoring and air safety, for Washington and its allies.
The 45 square miles occupied by the base have represented a disputed territory since January of 1959, as this land was considered by Fidel Castro’s government – and that of his brother – as an usurped territory, and the base as an illegitimate facility set up against the will of the Cuban people.

For the US government, Gitmo, as they call it, represents a fuel resupply point for vessels in the region and a first line of monitoring and air safety, for Washington and its allies.

The United States secured perpetual lease rights over this small portion of land located in the outer end of the Guantanamo Bay on February 23, 1903, through a treaty signed by the first Cuban president Tomas Estrada Palma.

With the thaw in relations that began on December 17 last year, the “return” of the territory occupied by the base and the end of the embargo have been at the center of discussions and demands made President Raul Castro. Both demands, however, have met with a wall of resistance put up by congress people and senators who refuse to yield to Cuban demands without anything in return.

This past Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter declared that his country has no intentions of relinquishing this military enclave.

havana-live-HAVANA SKYLINEHAVANA,  July  6 Nathan Blecharczyk, a co-founder of Airbnb, leafed through the guest book at one bed and breakfast that had joined the lodging company’s network, tried a Cuba Libre in the roof-top bar of one of the city’s most fashionable private restaurants and climbed a spiral staircase to view the roof terrace at another Central Havana listing.

Cuba is the new frontier for the company, which was founded on a decision to rent out a few air mattresses in a San Francisco apartment in 2007 and in five years has become an online force for booking in-home stays in 191 countries.

Blecharczyk’s June 23-26 trip was the first visit to Cuba by one of the San Francisco-based company’s three co-founders since Airbnb launched its Cuba booking service in April and his first time on the island.

Airbnb morphed from its humble beginning to a company that now has more than 1.2 million listings worldwide. It’s in the process of raising $1.5 billion from investors, which, according to some estimates, could boost the value of the company to more than $25 billion.

Airbnb encourages interaction between guests and hosts around the globe. “We like to say, it’s the U.N. at the kitchen table,” Blecharczyk said. At the end of each stay, guests and hosts rate each other, and hosts with high ratings and lots of reservations move to the highest positions in Airbnb’s listings.

Since the Cuban booking service went live on the island three months ago, Airbnb has accumulated more than 2,000 listings, making it the fastest-growing launch in Airbnb history. It helped that Cubans have been offering extra rooms in their homes for some three decades to supplement their incomes. Airbnb piggybacked on that trend.

Listings range from simple rooms with shared bathrooms to accommodations such as La Rosa de Ortega in suburban La Vibora where owners Julia de la Rosa and Silvio Ortega have been renovating a 1938 mansion for the past 20 years. Their B&B has a swimming pool, large sun deck and nine stylish rooms that have their own bathrooms. Renovation of a 10th room is just about finished.

havana-live-MARTA  MAYBE BIG ON DISPLAY

Marta Vitorte has two Vedado listings in Airbnb.She’s in the process of buying a third apartment that she also put into Airbnb.

“Overall, it’s been a remarkably successful launch. I think the potential is quite huge,” Blecharczyk said. “Frankly, this is unlike any other country — that there was already such an industry of home-sharing.”

But Airbnb wants an even bigger share of the Cuban pie. Currently, only American travelers are allowed to use the booking service to make reservations for in-home stays on the island. But during his Havana trip, Blecharczyk, Airbnb’s chief technical officer, said the company was seeking a license that would allow travelers from outside the United States to also use the Airbnb website to book stays.

If the proposal is approved, he said, non-American travelers using the site would still have to “qualify for the same reasons” as American travelers to Cuba. While U.S. law still prohibits tourist trips to Cuba, “purposeful travel” in 12 broad categories is allowed.

NEW FRONTIER

Although Airbnb scaled up quickly, it plateaued when it reached 190 countries. Blecharczyk said Cuba was always in the back of his mind as a new market, but the company really kicked into action on Dec. 17 when President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro announced that after more than a half-century of frosty relations, the two countries would renew diplomatic ties and open respective embassies.

The rapprochement brought with it not only U.S. permission for more Americans to travel to the island but also new regulations that made an Airbnb expansion to the island feasible.

“I think a couple of things are very important,” said Augusto Maxwell, a Miami lawyer who accompanied Airbnb executives to the island in February and helped them navigate the new legal realities.

Before Dec. 17, any company that wanted to provide travel services to Cuba had to get a specific license from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and it required reams of paperwork. “The application was very detailed, rigorous,” Maxwell said. Under the new rules, “all the paperwork is gone,” he said.

The old rules also required a bricks-and-mortar location to sell tickets, making it difficult for any company to operate in virtual space. Plus, the burden “to sell travel services only to a properly licensed traveler fell on the company and they were always subject to audits,” Maxwell said.

The shift in liability from the company to the traveler was key in Airbnb’s decision to enter Cuba, Blecharczyk said.

During his trip to Havana, Blecharczyk not only met with operators of casas particulares, the Cuban version of a bed and breakfast, but talked with private restaurant owners, young tech entrepreneurs and the owners of other small businesses.

The financially strapped Cuban government began emphasizing self-employment in 2010 in an effort to cut bloated state payrolls. Now, nearly 500,000 Cubans have joined the ranks of cuentapropistas, or the self-employed.

But the practice of renting out rooms or even entire apartments to visitors was already well-established by then.

“It began well before the special period [after the collapse of the Soviet Union when Cuba went through a prolonged economic crisis during the 1990s] when people were looking for economic solutions,” said Marta Vitorte, who has been in the casa business for the past 20 years.

“Now people in the business have evolved,” she said. “Now the mentality is more that we do this to live better than we must do this to satisfy the basic needs of a family.”

Over mojitos at Havana’s fashionable Café Madrigal, whose bare brick walls are studded with eclectic art and vintage posters, Blecharczyk discussed the lodging business with several hosts in Airbnb’s Cuba network.

Vitorte, who has two antique-filled Vedado apartments in the peer-to-peer rental network, is in the process of buying a third that will be used as a guest house. “Now is the time to act before the prices go crazy,” she said.

Since Airbnb’s Cuba launch, Cuban hosts have earned an average of $650 — far more than they could earn at most state jobs in three months. Airbnb collects 3 percent of each transaction from its hosts. On average, the hosts take in $200 per booking, Blechcharczyk said.

The average room price in Havana is $41, according to Airbnb.

VISITING CASAS

Blecharczyk, who stayed at an Airbnb listing, toured various casa particulares.

At 67 Tenth Street, he visited Armando Unsáin’s guest house, an 1861 colonial where a nine-month renovation was nearing completion. When it’s done, he plans to raise prices and officially launch on the Airbnb network.

The Madrid native, who has become a permanent resident of Cuba, rents out six rooms. For prices ranging from $35 for a double to $70 for a large suite, guests get an accommodation that boasts stained glass windows, vintage tiles and an ornate chandelier. For Unsáin, being part of the Airbnb network is like a stamp of approval. It’s a place where all serious casas need to be, he said.

As a dozen workers rushed to put the finishing touches on the reno, Blecharczyk sat in the living room with Unsáin leafing through his guest book.

“I think it’s so amazing to see how beautiful the architecture is in some of these homes,” he said. “The second piece of this is that there’s kind of an optimism in the air. There’s a lot of excitement about new opportunities among Cubans — and among Airbnb hosts in particular about how more exposure will allow them to reinvest and make improvements both for their benefit and the benefit of their guests.”

Even though Airbnb only launched in Cuba on April 2, being part of the Airbnb community has already begun to pay dividends for some hosts.

Yosvany Coca, who runs the Casa Blanca guest house that is so-named because of its all-white theme — white walls, white bedding, white towels — on the seaside Malecon, said that so far he’s had 10 Airbnb guests and has another 30 forward bookings.

Before Airbnb, Dany Hernández said he and his sister-in-law advertised their two properties by word of mouth or by handing out business cards. “We’re really happy with the way things have gone” since signing up with Airbnb, he said. They’ve had four Airbnb reservations so far.

Beyond offering a one-bedroom apartment with an updated kitchen and bath, TV and stereo for around $50 a night, Hernández, a former baseball player and now a youth baseball coach, said he likes to offer his guests something “special” if they want. He shares his life with them, taking them to his home and explaining how Cubans really live, or he might take them fishing along the Malecon or to the ball park.

More and more Cubans are thinking about converting any extra space they have into a room for visitors. Some families even squeeze into a single room so they’ll have more rooms to rent to guests.

When a bartender at the Hotel Nacional struck up a conversation with Airbnb executives during Blecharczyk’s visit, within minutes he was on the phone to his sister-in-law in Miami asking her to sign up the family’s two Cuban properties with Airbnb.

Although some hosts have Internet at their homes, it is of the snail-like dial-up variety. Those who don’t have Internet service go to hotels or state-run cyber cafés or pay around $5 to “hosting partners” with Internet who can manage their inquiries and bookings.

ROUGH PATCHES

There have been a few glitches as Cuban hosts and Airbnb adjust to each other.

Airbnb says it wants payment to reach hosts within 24 hours of a guest’s arrival, but some hosts complain it is taking longer. “We do try to pay them as soon as possible but our capacity does differ by country,” Blecharczyk said.

Airbnb has been using a Miami company, Va Cuba, to deliver the remittances, which can be sent directly to a host’s doorstep or deposited in a bank account.

One host also complained that the reservation of a guest who also booked for two of her friends was canceled because they didn’t have the correct paperwork. To travel to Cuba, each traveler must fill out paperwork certifying that they fall within one of the dozen authorized travel categories.

“In an abundance of caution, you need each traveler to certify that they’re an authorized traveler — not just the booker,” Maxwell said.

Airbnb said it’s working with its hosts to resolve such problems. “All of this is being worked out for the first time,” Blecharczyk said. “We’re working through all these issues. We’re trying to understand what isn’t working and smooth those parts out.”

Ezio Romolo said the first day that Airbnb launched he had 129 inquiries about accommodations at his stylish Casa Densil guest house, which has two rooftop terraces and an ebullient host who frequently entertains Cuban musicians. But then he did something that deactivated his listing. Airbnb helped him get back online but the upshot is that he still hasn’t booked an Airbnb traveler in any of his three bedrooms.

He has booked through mid-August anyway but after that he’s looking forward to welcoming Airbnb guests. “I make the best sangria,” he said. For a price, Romolo also offers guests everything from their choice of Cuban cigars to car service, laundry, salsa and folkloric dance classes, beer, mojitos, Cuba Libres and meals.

“What’s great to get first-hand is how the hosts have fixed their places up,” Blecharczyk. At Casa Densil, he climbed to the highest of Romolo’s roof-top terraces where guests can relax in a bed surrounded by flowing white curtains.

Around Havana, the mark of a casa particular is often a freshly painted facade in a row of crumbling dwellings. Running a guest house appears to be one of the healthiest of the self-employment segments.

NATE AND USAIN  BIG ON DT MAYBE

Adamo Usain (left) , Nathan Blecharczyk on of the companys co-founder.

In some U.S. cities, there has been criticism of short-term rentals because they cut into the tax revenue hotels would pay and may exacerbate the housing crunch in cities where rentals are in short supply. But in Cuba, casa operators are required to pay taxes and so far they aren’t considered competition to state-owned hotels because there’s still a shortage of hotel rooms in Cuba.

How did Airbnb get its name?

In 2007, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nate Blecharczyk were sharing a San Francisco apartment when the landlord raised the rent 25 percent. Blecharczyk moved out. The two remaining roommates, both designers, didn’t have the money to make the rent, but when they found out a big international design conference, IDSA, was coming to town and all the hotel rooms in the city were sold out, they had an idea.

They decided to rent out their extra room to designers who didn’t have a place to stay. “There was no furniture, no bed. But they opened up the closet, pulled out two air mattresses and set them up,” Blecharczyk said. They offered the space to conference delegates as the Air Bed & Breakfast. Surprise: They had takers at $80 a pop.

“They hosted three designers and made over $1,000,” Blecharczyk said. “Joe and Brian showed them around San Francisco and really gave them the local experience.”

Chesky, Gebbia and Blecharczyk had been thinking about starting a company together, and they did just that in 2008. “We thought why don’t we make it just as easy to book a person’s home as it is a hotel,” Blecharczyk said. Air Bed & Breakfast was born.

To raise money during the 2008 election year, they bought a load of cereal and designed candidate-themed boxes of Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain’s. Selling them for $40 each, they managed to raise around $30,000 for their new venture.

In the spring of 2009, the name was shortened to Airbnb, and since then, the company has been on a growth spurt. “I remember very early every week we would add another country to the site. We were growing very quickly but then it stopped — it stopped at 190 countries,” Blecharczyk said. That is until Cuba was added.

Airbnb now has more than 1.2 million listings, including more than 600 castles, in 191 countries around the world.

At one point, a few years ago before the U.S. travel regulations changed, some operators of Cuban guest houses were trying to sign up with the Airbnb network. “We had to put an end to that, make sure the proper restrictions were in effect,” Blecharczyk said. “We had to add code [to the website] to make sure that nobody could pay for something from Cuba.”

But since Dec. 17, it has been a whole new ballgame in Cuba.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article26213032.html#storylink=cpy

havana-live-exploracion-petroleoHAVANA, July  5 (acn) Seven citizens, including an Argentinean, were given up to 13 years of prison in Cuba after being convicted with corruption in a Cuban oil company, which was inflicted huge financial loss and damage of 14 crude oil wells.

A Cuban televisión report said this week that Argentinean Emilio Enrique Cotter, representative of the Uruguayan DFS company was given 10 prison years, while the rest of those involved in the corruption case, all Cubans, were given from 2 to 13 years.

The event dates back to mid 2009 and the defendants were convicted for bribery, acts in the detriment of economic activity or contract processing, failure to meet their duties in economic entities, abuse of authority and falsification of private documents.

Cuban State Security official Eduardo Perez said that the corrupt mentality of the Argentinean Emilio Cotter led him to bribe some of the Cubans, but that there are clues that Cotter´s real aim could have been that of damaging Cuban economy, since he could not justify the source of the money he would give the Cubans or the legal domicile of the DFS company in Uruguay.

 havana-live-BYDHAVANA,  July 3  When Cubans open the flood gates to American tourists, the modern, electric vehicle fleets they see on the roads alongside the tradition cars from the 1950s would have been built in China and not Japan, not the U.S.

On Friday, Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD (Build Your Dreams) said it will supply Cuba’s tourism industry with something like 719 EV sedans. The order was signed in Havana on July 3 between Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Wang Chuanfu, BYD CEO, and Xu Qin, Mayor of Shenzhen where BYD is located.

Cuba is buying a fleet of fuel efficient cars to support its growing tourist industry. The order for its first 719 vehicles will be Cuba’s first fleet of tourist rental vehicles and BYD’s largest vehicle order in the Cuban market.
BYD said in a statement that all vehicles in the fleet will be BYD models, namely the sedans Suri, L3 and G6, the SUV S6, and the MPV M6.

BYD’s press office could not be reached for further comment.

BYD first appeared in the Cuban market last November with its F3 sedan and S6 SUV during the Havana International Expo. The S6 model won the Exhibition’s Design Award.
The Cuban government purchased 40 BYD passenger cars last year for tourism, but the Diaz said Cuba might eventually expand its order for government official vehicles. The retail market has not been developed.
BYD said it will build an after-sales service center in Cuba at some point in the near-future.

BYD’s claim to fame began when Warren Buffet announced he acquired a 10% stake in the company through his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway in September 2008. Since then, the stock listed on the Hong Kong exchange is up 355.05%. It’s up 33.3% year-to-date, beating Toyota and Tesla.

BYD got its start in the 1990s as a mobile phone battery maker. It has since evolved into producing hybrid and electric vehicles, with most of its bus line products being acquired by northern European governments.

The group plans to take on Tesla in the electronic car and EV battery market, backed by the smarts and the financial muscle of Buffet to make it happen.

Beyond Cuba, China’s recent green initiatives, including higher taxation on polluting industries, bodes especially well for BYDs future. Shanghai police recently placed orders for BYD sedans.
At a simple stroke of the Chinese government’s pen, BYD could be firing on all four cylinders if state and municipal governments opted to replace taxis or diesel fuel burning busses with BYD vehicles.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2015/07/03/in-clean-car-race-china-beats-prius-tesla-to-cuba/

HAVANA,  July 3   JetBlue officially began direct flights to Cuba out of New York’s Kennedy Airport Friday, becoming the first major carrier to make the trip after travel restrictions were eased by the White House earlier this year and making passengers who got to be on the virgin flight feel like part of history.


The Queens-based airline announced its plan to offer the weekly direct flights in May, but the first flight, on an Airbus 150-seat A320, was made Friday. It left JFK at noon en route to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.

Carlos Infante, a Cuba native who lives in Brooklyn and was aboard that first flight to Havana, said before he boarded the plane that he felt like he was a part of history.
“This is something we’re gonna talk about for years and years and years; this is an opportunity for American people to go to Cuba,” said a smiling Infante, holding his boarding pass in front of him.Unbenannt

Infante said he treasured the freedom to travel to his country of birth, direct from New York, for the first time in at least 50 years.
“I can’t explain, it’s something that’s in your heart,” Infante said.

“I don’t have words to say how I feel — this is a beautiful day.”
The weekly charter flights will leave JFK at noon each Friday, with a scheduled landing time in Havana at 3:30 p.m. Return flights leave Cuba at 4:30 p.m. and land in New York around 8 p.m.

While operated by JetBlue, the flight is being offered by Cuba Travel Services, and travelers should make arrangements directly with the carrier service provider at cubatravelservices.com.

havana-live-WPP HAVANA,  July 3  WPP, the world’s biggest advertising group, is to appoint an executive in Cuba, saying yesterday it would be the first major international communications services group to conduct business in Cuba.

The move comes a day after the US and Cuba formally agreed to restore diplomatic relations on July 20.

WPP, parent to the Ogilvy & Mather and J Walter Thomson advertising networks and which already generates group revenue of $1.6-billion in Latin America, signed a contract with state-owned advertising firm Palco Group under which it will base an executive in the Cuban capital, Havana.

The company said it had been in contact with Cuban agencies and enterprises since February and had maintained contacts with Cuban and internationalfirms to provide its services from a local base in the near future.

“WPP is working to provide its international clients with strategic counsel on the institutional and economic environment in Cuba, as well as advice and guidance in planning for eventual Cuba market entry and brand visibility on the island nation.”

http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2015/07/03/Advertising-giant-reaches-out-to-Cuba

Flanked by her nephew Nelson Suarez, left, and friend Ana Maria Beltran, Laura Martinez communicates with her son in Canada using the first public Wi-Fi hotspot in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, July 2, 2015. Cuban authorities have launched public Wi-Fi hotspots along a main avenue that is the heart of the capital's cultural and social life. Its the first step in government promises to gradually roll out such connectivity options on an island that the internet revolution has largely passed by.

Flanked by her nephew Nelson Suarez, left, and friend Ana Maria Beltran, Laura Martinez communicates with her son in Canada using the first public Wi-Fi hotspot in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, July 2, 2015. Cuban authorities have launched public Wi-Fi hotspots along a main avenue that is the heart of the capital’s cultural and social life. Its the first step in government promises to gradually roll out such connectivity options on an island that the internet revolution has largely passed by.Photo: Desmond Boylan, AP

HAVANA, July 2  (AP)    Cuban authorities have launched public Wi-Fi hotspots along an avenue that is the heart of the capital’s cultural and social life.

It’s the first step in government promises to gradually roll out such connectivity options on an island that the Internet revolution has largely passed by.
Authorities have been installing the hotspots along 23rd Street in the Vedado neighborhood in recent weeks, and they apparently went live Wednesday night.

Dozens of people, many of them young, were checking out the service Thursday morning with smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Sixteen-year-old Angel Padron called the signal speed “acceptable,” robust enough to view videos on YouTube.

Users need to have an account registered with state telecom monopoly Etecsa. The service costs $2 an hour.

 

 

havana-live-view-havana-airHAVANA,  July 1 (Miami Herold)   Air service between the Southernmost City and Cuba is off to a strong start after restarting in March and more flights might be added.

Havana Air Chief Executive Officer David Nesslein said this week that the eventual goal is to provide daily service between Key West International Airport and Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. The Miami-based company is a government-licensed charter operator behind the flights.

“In most cases, we’ve been full,” Nesslein said.

After adding a Monday morning flight to Havana about three weeks ago, Havana Air now leaves Mondays and Fridays at 10 a.m. from Key West to Havana. The 90-mile flight, which lasts about 45 minutes, costs $525 roundtrip. Return flights are Mondays and Fridays.

Havana Air uses commercial carrier Air Key West and its nine-passenger BN-2T Turbine Islander. Miami travel company Mambi International Group sells tickets out of its North Roosevelt Boulevard office, which opened in December

Air Key West President Robert Valle said the addition of the Monday flight was partially due to customers not wanting to stay a whole week in Cuba. Havana Air may add a Wednesday flight if demand continues.

“It just kind of depends on the [passenger] loads,” Nesslein said. “We like Key West; I think it’s a great market for us.”

Havana Air is also working on letting customers buy tickets online, like they would for any other commercial flight. Nesslein said that may happen later this year.

The steady influx of planes to the communist country from Key West comes after last December’s announcement by President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro of eased travel restrictions on U.S. residents going to Cuba following half a century of not allowing Americans to travel there.

Those who want to travel to Cuba no longer need a specific license as long as they meet criteria under one of 12 federal categories, including family visits, humanitarian projects and religious activities.

Traveling there for tourism remains banned but the government really has to way to enforce that since travelers could maintain they went to Cuba under one of the 12 reasons allowed.

Designating Key West International Airport as an international point of entry from the U.S. began in 2009 with a request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A three-phase, $2.25 million project reclassification process ensued, with federal officials signing off on the upgrades in October 2011.

Last year, another operator tried Key West to Cuba flights but the venture last only about six weeks.

obamaHAVANA, July 1 President Obama on Wednesday announced his plans to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, declaring that the two nations were ready to reopen embassies in each other’s capitals and to start a “new chapter” of engagement after more than a half-century of estrangement.“Our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people, but there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things,” Mr. Obama said in the Rose Garden at the White House, taking note of the decades of hostility born of the Cold War that prompted the United States to isolate its neighbor to the south, a strategy he said had failed.

The diplomatic breakthrough is the most concrete progress to date in Mr. Obama’s push, announced in December after months of secret talks, for an official rapprochement with Cuba.

He also renewed calls on Wednesday for the lifting of a trade embargo with Cuba that has grown stricter over the years as Republicans in Congress, some of them Cuban-Americans, have pressed for a hard line against Havana.

“We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” the president said. “When something isn’t working, we can and should change.”

Mr. Obama said that Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Havana this summer “to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.”

Mr. Kerry, who is in Vienna for talks with Iranian officials on a potential nuclear accord, said that he would travel to Havana for the reopening of the United States Embassy. It would be the first visit to Cuba by a secretary of state since 1945, he said.

Acknowledging that the United States and Cuba continued to have “sharp differences” over human rights, Mr. Kerry said reopening the embassy would enable American officials to “engage the Cuban government more often and at a higher level.”

“This step has been long overdue,” Mr. Kerry added, declining to take questions.

Asked if the American diplomats in Cuba would have free access to talk to Cuban citizens, he said: “We’ll talk about all those details later.”

The United States already has a limited diplomatic outpost in Havana, called an interests section, in the same seven-story building on the Malecón waterfront that served as the embassy until 1961, the year President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in response to tensions with the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro.

Republicans who oppose the thaw with Cuba have vowed to block funding for an embassy and the confirmation of a new ambassador. But senior administration officials said on Wednesday that they did not believe they needed Congress to approve new money for the building and that they were in no rush to install a new ambassador to replace the career diplomat currently running the interests section.

The diplomat, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, was selected expressly because he is seen as someone who could serve as the acting ambassador pending a permanent appointment, one of the officials said on Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity ahead of the release of details by the State Department.

Mr. DeLaurentis, who holds the rank of ambassador, has served at the United Nations, as a deputy assistant secretary of state and in Havana as the political-economic section chief.

Cuba has an interests section in a stately manor in the Adams Morgan section of Washington that could be upgraded. In May, Cuba announced that its banking services for that office had been restored, a precondition to reopening a full embassy. In recent weeks, Cuba also repaved the driveway, repainted the fence and erected a large flagpole on the front lawn to await the formal raising of its flag.

The official said that would happen on July 20, but it was not yet clear when Mr. Kerry would make the trip to Havana to cut the ribbon on the American Embassy there.