HAVANA, April 15th (Reuters) – Retiring Cuban Communist Party leader Raul Castro promised a decade ago he would transform the Soviet-style Read more
HAVANA, March 17th (AFP) Cuba will emerge from the April congress of its all-powerful Communist Party without a Castro at the helm for the first time in over 60 years. Read more
HAVANA, June 3th The re-normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, one of the signature accomplishments of Barack Obama, could be reversed by President Donald Trump in a matter of weeks. Read more
HAVANA,Nov. 16th – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Cuba on Tuesday evening, where the country’s president told him the island nation will not progress any faster than it already is.
Cuban President Raul Castro, the younger brother of legendary Cuban leader Fidel Castro, warned that others have gone through reforms too quickly without regard to the needs of the people, leaving their citizens jobless.
“Even though I have said we have to move slowly, you can go too fast. I have said slowly, but steady,” Raul Castro said through an interpreter.
The message to the Canadian prime minister in a grand room in the Revolutionary Palace in Havana came as Trudeau tries to open up trade opportunities for Canadian companies who want to cash in on the Cuban government’s decision to loosen restrictions on foreign investment.
And to the north is the shadow of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and his tough talk about rolling back a thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba that has sent a Cold War chill through the island.
Touting Canada, Trudeau said Canadians can be pleased that they have played a positive role in Cuba through the years.
Trudeau tried to strike a more personal note just before media were ushered out of the room where the meeting took place.
“The friendship between your family and mine is long and deep, but it’s nothing compared to the true friendship between all Canadians and all Cubans and I look forward to continuing to build on that,” Trudeau said.
The official meeting came hours after Trudeau landed in Havana, the first visit by a Canadian prime minister in two decades.
On Wednesday, state diplomacy turns to soft diplomacy when Trudeau meets with students at the University of Havana.
“It’s in the people-to-people world … where Canadian-Cuban relationships are the most significant,” said Karen Dubinsky, who teaches in a joint Queen’s University-University of Havana course that brings Cuban students to Canada and sends Canadian students to Cuba.
“Cuba is good at that, at using soft diplomacy, and I think what I’ve learned from our experiences working with Cuba is they only want to do more of that.”
Cuban graduate student Freddy Monasterio, who studies Canadian-Cuban relations, said the excitement of the December 2014 announcement of renewed ties with the United States has started to fade. The prime minister’s visit could make Canada an alternative for Cubans leery about the style of capitalism the United States wants to export, he says.
“Usually when people talk about different ways for Cuba to get out of a crisis and open up a little bit, people immediately associate the U.S. as the logical, and only alternative,” Monasterio says. “We want to show that there are other alternatives and Canada for me is one of them.”
Statistics Canada says about 1.3 million Canadian tourists visited Cuba in 2015.
Cuba’s national statistics office reported last month that of the 2.1 million tourists during the first half of the year, more than 777,000 – just over a third – were from Canada. That put Canada at the top of the visitors’ list, with the United States sitting in third with 187,073 travellers.
The Terry Fox Run in Cuba is the largest held outside of Canada.
HAVANA, April 19th On Monday, Cuban’s top leaders and officials have criticized the squeaking inefficiency of the state-controlled economy. They also took note of the vibrant private sector as potential source of US subversion.
According to News Journal Online, the Cuban government comments illustrated the commotion it is facing as it tries to modernize and maintain control of things now thatit’s in a new era with Washington. The Cuban Communist Party has ended the third day of its twice-a-decade congress with vote for a 114- member Central Committee. The vote turned to select the 15- member Political Bureau. The vote, just like Congress, was open only to 1,000 delegates, 280 selected guests and state journalists.
ABC News reported that Cuban President and First Party Secretary, Raul Castro, opened the meeting with evaluation of the state reforms he introduced after taking over in 2008. Castro blamed the ‘obsolete mentality’ and ‘attitude of inertia’ for the state’s failure to impose reforms meant to increase productivity.
To follow, Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel also repeated the criticism of the bureaucracy in his speech. He added that ‘lack of confidence in the future’ is the consequence of what Castro said. Diaz-Canel added that “Along with other deficiencies, there’s a lack of readiness, high standards and control, and little foresight or initiative from sectors and bureaucrats in charge of making these goals a reality.”
However, Yahoo published that state media focuses more on the need to protect Cuba’s socialist system from global capitalism and US influence in particular. It is notable that US President Barack Obama visited Havana, the first in over 90 years, and the move was interpreted as an attempt to seduce ordinary Cubans into abandoning the country’s socialist views.
Even Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez went to say that the visit of Obama is ‘an attack on the foundation of the history, culture and symbols of Cuba.’ Meanwhile, Rene Gonzales, former intelligence agent held in US and resolved by détente with Washington, said there should be consideration on the political reform in Cuba.
Read more at http://www.lawyerherald.com/articles/43087/20160419/cuban-leaders-criticize-ways-bureaucracy-private-sector.htm#UfyGtQSy5QRL3YX7.99
HAVANA, March 10th (REUTERS) President Barack Obama’s administration will announce further measures to ease travel and trade restrictions on Cuba on March 17, ahead of his historic visit to the Communist-ruled island this month, U.S. congressional sources said on Tuesday.
The new rules will mark the latest effort by Obama to use his executive powers to sidestep the U.S. Congress and chip away at the more than half-century-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.
The anticipated announcement appears timed as a gesture toward Cuba just days before Obama flies to Havana for a March 21-22 visit in another step aimed at ending decades of animosity between the former Cold War foes. It will be the first visit to Cuba by a sitting U.S. president since 1928.
The measures are expected to include changes to make it easier for individual Americans to visit Cuba if they qualify under 12 authorized categories of travel such as educational or cultural visits, as well as further loosening of trade and banking rules, said the sources, who were briefed on the matter by administration officials.
Though details were still being finalized, the package could also include revised regulations on how the U.S. dollar can be used in trade with Cuba, a person familiar with the discussions said. U.S. regulations restrict or prohibit the Cuban government from using the dollar for international transactions.
“The White House wants to make a splash on the economic front before Obama gets to Havana, and this is one way to do it,” according to the source, who was consulted by Obama aides ahead of the visit. “It will come a couple of days before he leaves.”
Obama plans to hold talks with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana but also intends to meet dissidents to show that Washington remains committed to promoting human rights on the island, a source of tension with the Cuban government.
RESISTANCE FROM SOME LAWMAKERS
The White House has invited members of Congress to accompany the president, and congressional aides told Reuters about 20, mostly Obama’s fellow Democrats, were expected to go.
Obama’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba have encountered stiff resistance from some lawmakers, mostly Republicans but also some Democrats, since the policy shift was first announced on Dec. 17, 2014.
They feel the White House is not getting enough back from Castro’s government in exchange for the eased regulations. The administration believes that moves to loosen the embargo would help meet its goal of benefiting the Cuban people.
But even some Democratic aides said they were taken aback by news there would be further moves by the White House without concessions from Havana. “Shouldn’t we get something from the Cubans in return?” one asked.
The mainstay of the new regulatory package is expected to be further easing of limits on travel by Americans to Cuba at a time when U.S. airlines are rushing to apply for routes to the island following the recent signing of a bilateral agreement for regular scheduled flights.
The rules changes are likely to allow more people to go on self-directed “people to people” and cultural trips without having to rely on group tours or be sponsored by an organization, two people familiar with the discussions said.
But a ban on general tourism to Cuba will remain in force. It is part of the broader U.S. embargo and can only be lifted by Congress. Obama has called for an end to the embargo but Republicans say that will not happen during his presidency, which ends in January 2017.
“We continue to look at additional regulatory changes that could be made as part of the administration’s efforts to further normalize relations with Cuba,” an Obama administration official said. But the official declined to provide specifics.
HAVANA, Feb.1th Cuba’s Communist President Raul Castro starts his official trip to Paris on Monday, his first-ever state visit to Europe, seen as a key step in rebuilding his island nation’s ties with the West.
The Cuban leader is due to receive a grand welcome by President Francois Hollande under the Arc de Triomphe, decked out in Cuban colours, at the top of the Champs Elysees avenue.
The 84-year-old Castro is on his first official trip to the European Union since taking over from his elder brother Fidel in 2006, and has been in the French capital since Saturday for a private visit. France has led the way in welcoming Cuba back into the diplomatic fold since it restored relations last year with its longtime foe, the United States.
Hollande has described the visit as “a new stage in the strengthening of relations between the two countries”, building on his own state visit to Cuba last May, the first by a Western head of state in more than half a century.
Castro is the second former pariah to be welcomed to Paris in a matter of days, after Hollande hosted Iranian President Hassan Rohani last week. “This visit is important for Cuba’s image,” said Eduardo Perera, an international relations expert at Havana University. “It will undeniably make Cuba shine on the international stage.”
Havana hopes the visit will allow Cuba to “widen and diversify its relations with France in all possible areas — politics, economics, trade, finance, investment, culture and cooperation,” said Rogelio Sierra, Cuban deputy foreign minister.
Although Washington has yet to lift its half-century trade embargo on Cuba, US and European businesses are jockeying for a place in the market as the island’s economy gradually opens up. Hollande urged an end to the blockade, which was imposed in 1962, on his Havana visit.
Trade delegations have been flocking to Cuba, hoping to cash in on its highly trained workforce and natural assets such as its sun-drenched Caribbean beaches, a draw for tourists.
Cuba, meanwhile, needs to tap new sources of income as its main ally and financial backer, Venezuela, is mired in economic and political crisis. Castro is expected to sign an “economic roadmap” with France, according to officials in Paris, as well as deals on transport and tourism.
Trade between the two countries currently adds up to around $195 million (180 million euros), which is “not in line with our ambitions,” France’s minister of state for foreign trade Matthias Fekl told L’Humanite newspaper.
The French trip is the first by a Cuban head of state since Fidel Castro visited then president Francois Mitterrand in 1995. Raul Castro will hold talks with Hollande at the Elysee presidential palace and attend a state dinner before meeting various French officials on Tuesday.
France recently engineered an agreement among the Paris Club of international creditors to write off $8.5 billion of Cuba’s debt. It could now agree to further debt relief, potentially widening Cuba’s access to international financial markets.
Paris is also taking a leading role in strengthening Cuba’s political ties with Europe as a whole. Human rights remains a sensitive issue, with international authorities accusing the Castros of repressing and harassing their political opponents.
A diplomatic source in Paris said human rights “will be discussed” during the bilateral talks. Hollande faced criticism from rights groups after meeting with Fidel Castro last year.
There were also demonstrations against Rohani’s visit last week, though Hollande hailing a “new relationship” after sealing a slew of lucrative trade deals drawn up after nuclear sanctions on Iran were lifted.
HAVANA, Jan. 30th — Raul Castro is coming to France for the first-ever state visit of a Cuban president to the land of wine and gastronomy, a trip that could boost French investments and promote stronger economic, cultural and tourist ties between Paris and Havana.
Castro is to arrive Saturday for the private part of his trip ahead of his official visit on Monday and Tuesday, landing only eight months after French Socialist President Francois Hollande’s one-day stop in Havana. The two leaders are to have dinner at the Elysee palace on Monday night.
“This visit marks a new step in the development of a stronger relationship between the two countries,” the French presidency said.
Castro’s visit also comes two months after the Paris Club of creditor countries forgave $8.5 billion of overdue Cuban interest payments in exchange for Cuba’s promise to pay off $2.6 billion in loans from developed countries over the next year and a half.
France, to which Cuba owed $4 billion in overdue loans, led the creditors’ negotiations. The deal was hailed by both sides as an essential step in clearing the path for Cuba to regain access to international credit that had been long unavailable due to the overdue loans.
The U.S. maintains an economic embargo against Cuba and is not among the creditor nations.
France hopes to see some business partnerships flourish in Cuba in tourism, transport and environmental industries in the wake of the normalization of the country’s ties with the U.S.
“The agreement at the Paris Club is paving the way for a bilateral agreement with France” to be signed Monday, a top French official said Friday.
Cuba’s remaining debt to France amounts to $390 million (360 million euros). With this new bilateral deal, part of the money would be reinvested in development projects on the island, another French diplomat said.
The two countries are expected to announce the opening of the French Agency of Development’s office in Havana. The agency is a specialized financial institution that can make loans to public and private actors to support bilateral development projects.
The two French officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose any details ahead of the visit.
Cuba’s debt to France has not been honored since the 1980s, when Socialist President Francois Mitterrand and his wife Danielle openly supported the Cuban government.
France has called for the lifting of the U.S. embargo since 1991. Former Cuba President Fidel Castro, brother of Raul, came to Paris on private visit in 1995 and met with Mitterrand at the Elysee palace.
Some commercial deals are expected to be signed on the sidelines of Raul Castro’s visit.
French companies already working with Cuba — such as Pernod Ricard beverages, the hotel company Accor, the Bouygues construction group and the shipping group CMA CGM — could get new development opportunities.
Castro’s trip to Paris comes only few days after the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — another effort by French government to boost investments in an economy crippled by decades of sanctions until the Tehran nuclear deal last year.
HAVANA, Sept. 21 (AP) Pope Francis met with Fidel Castro today after urging thousands of Cubans to serve one another and not an ideology during a Mass celebrated in Havana’s iconic Revolution Plaza. The Vatican described the 40-minute meeting at Castro’s residence as informal.
Francis is hailing detente between the United States and Cuba as a model of reconciliation. He urges Presidents Barack Obama and Castro to continue working to build normal ties as the pontiff begins a 10-day tour of the former Cold War foes.
Francis served as mediator for the resumption of diplomatic relations this year. He says, “I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities.”
Francis calls the negotiations that led to the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington “an example of reconciliation for the entire world.”
Francis presided over a vespers service in Havana’s 18th century Immaculate Conception and San Cristobal cathedral on Sunday.
Bells rang out and a few hundred excited and sweaty priests and sisters clapped and shouted “Francisco!” as the pope arrived. An organ broke into a celebratory hymn.
The cathedral was first started by priests of Francis’ Jesuit order and the facade was designed by the Italian architect Borromini. It boasts a large bronze statue of St. John Paul II, who became the first pope to visit Cuba in 1998, as well as a replica of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint.
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