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HAVANA, May 28th (Reuters) The United States will impose a cap on charter flights to Cuba at 3,600 per year, Read more

HAVANA, April 19th  Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez affirmed this Friday that the U.S. government Read more

HAVANA, Nov. 16th The U.S. State Department late Friday announced it was adding five sub-entities owned by the Cuban military to its Restricted List, which prohibits direct financial transactions.

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HAVANA, Oct 26th  (Nytimes) The Transportation Department announced Friday that it would suspend flights from the United States to nine airports in Cuba beginning in December.

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havana-live-united nationU.S. weighs unprecedented abstention on U.N. vote condemning Cuba embargo.

HAVANA, 22 Sept.  (AP)  For the first time, the United States may accept a United Nations condemnation of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba without a fight, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. officials tell the AP that the Obama administration is weighing abstaining from the annual U.N. General Assembly vote on a Cuban-backed resolution demanding that the embargo be lifted. The vote could come next month.

No decision has yet been made, said four administration officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on sensitive internal deliberations and demanded anonymity. But merely considering an abstention is unprecedented. Following through on the idea would send shock waves through both the United Nations and Congress.

It is unheard of for a U.N. member state not to oppose resolutions critical of its own laws.

By not actively opposing the resolution, the administration would be effectively siding with the world body against Congress, which has refused to repeal the embargo despite calls from President Barack Obama to do so.

Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American, said that by abstaining, Obama would be “putting international popularity ahead of the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.” The embargo, he said, denies money to a dictatorship that can be used to further oppression.

General Assembly resolutions are unenforceable. But the annual exercise has given Cuba a stage to demonstrate America’s isolation on the embargo, and it has underscored the sense internationally that the U.S. restrictions are illegitimate.

The United States has lost each vote by increasingly overwhelming and embarrassing margins. Last year’s tally was 188-2 in favor of Cuba with only Israel siding with the U.S. This year’s vote will be the first since the U.S. shift in policy toward Cuba. Israel would be expected to vote whichever way the U.S. decides.

The American officials said that at the moment the U.S. is still more likely to vote against the resolution than abstain. However, they said the U.S. will consider abstaining if the wording of the resolution is significantly different from previous years. The administration is open to discussing revisions with the Cubans and others, they added, something American diplomats have never done before.

Obama has urged Congress to scrap the 54-year-old embargo since December, when he announced that Washington and Havana would normalize diplomatic relations. The two countries re-opened embassies last month, and Obama has chipped away at U.S. restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba, using executive authorities. But the embargo stands.

The latest U.S. easing of sanctions occurred Friday and was followed by a rare phone call between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. Pope Francis, who has played a key role in the rapprochement between Havana and Washington, arrived in Havana a day later. He travels to the U.S. this week.

The White House said Obama and Castro discussed “steps that the United States and Cuba can take, together and individually, to advance bilateral cooperation.” The Cuban government said Castro “emphasized the need to expand their scope and abrogate, once and for all, the blockade policy for the benefit of both peoples.”

Neither statement mentioned the U.N. vote. Yet, as it has for the last 23 years, Cuba will introduce a resolution at the upcoming General Assembly criticizing the embargo and demanding its end.

Cuba’s government had no immediate reaction to the report of the administration’s new consideration.

An abstention could have political ramifications in the United States, beyond the presidential race.

In Congress, where top GOP lawmakers have refused to entertain legislation to end the embargo, any action perceived as endorsing U.N. criticism of the United States could provoke anger — even among supporters of the administration’s position.

As White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted last week, the embargo remains the law of the land. “We still want Congress to take action to remove the embargo,” he said.

The U.S. officials, however, said the administration believes an abstention could send a powerful signal to Congress and the world of Obama’s commitment to end the embargo. Obama says the policy failed over more than five decades to spur democratic change and left the U.S. isolated among its Latin American neighbors.

It’s unclear what changes would be necessary to prompt a U.S. abstention.

11011300_10204679387677844_9036447984397426693_nHAVANA,  August 43   It will be the largest number of American tourists to arrive in Cuba since the 1959 Revolution. The increase is expected to exceed the 50% of visitors who have already made their bookings.

While authorizations for all kinds of travel and transportation companies are multiplying in the U.S., moving beyond the tourist blockade of the island, Cuba is declaring that the last quarter of 2015 could beat all records in U.S. tourism since the Revolution given that so far and despite visa restrictions American tourist presence has increased by 50%.

An absolutely clear signal is that hotel chains have started to work out agreements with the almost 20,000 private rooms that provide cheap accommodation in Cuba, by hiring beds to which tourists will be redirected when they have no space.

These agreements are quite unprecedented since private rooms for rent are – at least in theory – illegal and up to this point the big chains had never dealt with the issue except to criticize these accommodations where necessary. 70% of these unofficial rooms are located in Havana.

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved the lifting of the ban on travel to Cuba, which is only the first step in a series of legislative guarantees that Democrats and a section of the Republicans are willing to approve in its totality, which would authorize all types of travel before the year end.

With seven companies already authorized to start ferry trips between Florida and Havana in September (Havana Ferry Partners, Baja Ferries, United Caribbean Lines, Airline Brokers Co., International Port Corp, America Cruise Ferries from Puerto Rico and the Spanish Balearia), everything is pointing towards the first part of the high season in Cuba being successful.

With relations having become more flexible – and even before the opening of the embassies – Americans increased visits to the island by 55% compared with 2014, making 2015 the year of most American visits since the revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.

Meanwhile operators are facing an upsurge of queries in Florida and increasing difficulty in booking accommodations. However, plans are underway and while the state hotel agency – Gaviota – has announced an agreement with Bouygues, the French construction company, to build three new hotels in the historic centre of Old Havana, Marriott International has reached an agreement with the government on business possibilities as soon as conditions are right for investment.

The United States officially reopened its embassy in Havana and the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry made an official visit to Cuba. The seven-story building was built in 1953 and closed in 1961 when the United States broke off ties with Havana. Months later it declared a blockade that has lasted until today, half a century later, and is considered the longest in history.

In his official speech, Kerry said: “Friends, we are gathered here today because our leaders, President Barack Obama and President Castro took a courageous decision: to stop being prisoners of history, focusing instead on opportunities for today and tomorrow.”
http://www.tourism-review.com/cuba-is-getting-ready-for-american-tourists-news4687#rUe9LqwAPKY22UPY.99

havana-live-hillary-clintonHAVANA,  July 30  Hillary Clinton will declare her support on Friday for lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba, her campaign said, allying herself with President Obama’s open stance toward the long-isolated island nation.

Speaking at Florida International University Friday morning, Clinton will also criticize Republicans’ opposition to normalizing relations with the country, saying that the right’s arguments against increased engagement are part of a legacy of failed strategies for addressing Cuban relations.

“She will highlight that Republican arguments against increased engagement are part of failed policies of the past and contend that we must look to the future in order to advance a core set of values and interests to engage with Cubans and address human rights abuses,” the Clinton campaign said in a statement.

Clinton will hold her speech in the state that Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio call home. Bush, the former governor, has called Obama’s opening relations with Cuba a “policy misstep” and a “dramatic overreach of his executive authority.” Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, has also strongly criticized Obama, calling the decision “a terrible one, but not surprising unfortunately.”

The United States has maintained various embargoes on Cuba since 1960, and continues to block trade with the country despite having opened up diplomatic relations with the island nation. Republican Rep. Tom Emmer filed a bill on Tuesday to remove the restrictions on American businesses from trading with Cuba.

Clinton has long supported normalizing relations with Cuba, and as secretary of state pushed Obama to normalize relations with the Communist nation. A February Gallup poll showed that 59% of Americans support reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

http://time.com/3977216/hillary-clinton-cuba-embargo/

havana-live- Classic CarsHAVANA.  July  22 There are reportedly over 2,000 active Airbnb listings in Cuba.

With the Cuban Embassy reopening in Washington, D.C., this week, room-sharing service Airbnb says it will cover the cost for U.S. travelers booked to stay in the country.

The Cuba refund will apply to trips booked prior to July 20 for travel between July 19 and July 26.

A trade embargo was lifted and travel to Cuba has been allowed once again after President Barack Obama enacted policy changes at the end of last year.

“In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” the White House said at the time. “Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”

Nathan Blecharczyk, a co-founder and CTO of Airbnb, recently wrote for Fortune about Cuba’s economy. He said that since Airbnb started allowing listings in Cuba in April, there are over 2,000 rentals available.

“For the first time in decades, authorized U.S. travelers will have the chance to experience authentic Cuban hospitality at homes across the island,” an Airbnb blog post announced at the time. “Despite its proximity to the U.S., Cuba has been off limits to most Americans for over 50 years. Part of Cuba’s appeal to visitors is that it offers an experience unlike anything else.”

Airbnb announced its plan to pay for guests’ stays via Twitter.

http://fortune.com/2015/07/22/airbnb-cuba-free/