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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Standing Water Causes Dengue Fever Outbreaks In Arroyo Naranjo

Standing Water Causes Dengue Fever Outbreaks In Arroyo Naranjo /
14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta
Posted on February 11, 2016

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta, Havana, 10 February 2016 — Unexpected rains
earlier this year have required the strengthening of anti-vector
campaigns against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In several areas of the
Arroyo Naranjo district, in Havana, standing water has caused an
increase in cases of dengue fever, according to public health sources.

Maria Mendoza, a doctor with the Mantilla Polyclinic, said that in
recent weeks more than twenty people with fevers have been reported in
the area, and others have gone to the doctor with symptoms
characteristic of dengue fever. "The situation is quite serious," the
specialist added.

A doctor at Julio Trigo Hospital details that rooms for people with
dengue fever remain full because "this municipality has several
unhealthy neighborhoods and slums, many streets are unpaved and the
sewers are not working." The doctor fears that under such conditions
"zika will come to the country and we'll have a situation favorable to
its propagation."

The problem is worsened by the shortage of repellents and mosquito nets
in the stores in the city. A search conducted by this newspaper in shops
and markets in Havana, including pharmacies that sell products both in
local currency and in convertible pesos, confirms the scarce supply of
these products.

Only in the centrally located Carlos III market, in Central Havana, was
it possible to find a bottle with less than 3.5 ounces of repellent, and
the price was 1.65 convertible pesos (CUC), equivalent to two days'
wages. Mosquito nets, meanwhile, are only for sale in departments for
newborns, at small sizes and prices that exceed 15 CUC (more than $15 US).

Cases of patients who are not reported to any health center are also
increasing. Many prefer to endure the illness at home rather than in a
hospital, where hygienic and supply problems abound. In the case of
Lucia, who had "fever, headache, red spots all over my skin," she
declined to be admitted. ""I didn't even tell my family doctor," she said.

TV ads warn that when a person is infected with dengue and is bitten by
the Aedes aegypti mosquito it acts as a bridge to transmit the virus to
others. If the patient does not remain isolated under a net, the chances
of infecting family members and neighbors increases significantly.

As a part of urgent measures to eradicate the infestation in the most
affected areas of Arroyo Naranjo, family physicians have developed plans
for educational talks in the neighborhoods with the highest rate of
infestation. In Las Manzanas, with an increased number of identified
cases, they have also increased fumigation and inspections for breeding
sites and larvae.

Jorge, a vector campaign worker in the Fraternidad neighborhood,
explains that "with these rains, the mosquito lays her eggs anywhere
water collects and this is how the epidemic grows." He also warns,
"Another danger is the accumulated garbage on street corners and
makeshift dumps that trigger outbreaks."

For many residents in the district, the greatest danger in the area is
no longer badly lit streets or the frequent robberies, rather it takes
the form of a small mosquito that spreads the dreaded "Breakbone Fever."

Source: Standing Water Causes Dengue Fever Outbreaks In Arroyo Naranjo /
14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/standing-water-causes-dengue-fever-outbreaks-in-arroyo-naranjo-14ymedio-yosmany-mayeta/

El Templete’s Ceiba Says Goodbye To Havana

El Templete's Ceiba Says Goodbye To Havana / 14ymedio
Posted on February 10, 2016

14ymedio, Havana, 10 February 2016 – The most-visited ceiba tree in
Havana is no more. It was sick and yesterday, Tuesday, it was cut into
pieces and removed from El Templete – a monument in Havana to the
foundation of the original town in 1519 – by a brigade from the Puerto
Carenas construction company of the Office of the Historian of Havana.
The workers spent the morning on the task, helped by a crane that
allowed them to move the largest pieces of the tree.

Curious neighbors watched the extraction of this symbol of Havana, a
tree with deep meaning for the syncretic cults of African origin
practiced in Cuba. There was no lack of prayers and bad omens among
those who watched the felling of the tree. Among other reasons, because
this ceiba, located at the site of the founding of the city, was
associated in the popular imagination with the good luck and prosperity
of the Cuban capital.

For more than five decades, the tree that was removed yesterday was the
center of the supplications of many who would walk three times around
its trunk on the anniversary of the founding of the city, 16 November.
Tradition said that the circuits should be silent, touching the wood and
then dropping a coin among its roots and at the end and making three wishes.

But for quite some time the cieba has shown signs of disease due to
termites. It began to lose foliage months ago and its branches appeared
dry. The grayness of the trunk also announced the end of a tree that, in
nature, can have a much longer life.

The original ceiba was removed by a decision of General Captain Juan
Manuel Cagigal y Martinez, who served between 1819 and 1821. The other
trees that came later also appeared not to have experienced natural
deaths. Diverse theories about the saltiness of the area contribute to
hypotheses about the trees' early demise.

A few steps from the Plaza de Armas, the recently removed ceiba was
visited every day by hundreds of tourists and passers-by who, yesterday
morning, were stunned by the removal of the imposing tree. The official
newspaper Granma published a brief note Wednesday on the incident, but
had previously not reported on the tree's disease or slow decline.

A lady who works as a custodian in El Templete said yestersay that
everyone who passed by wanted to take a piece of the ceiba home. She
added that it was "an event" and "a lot of people were filming it and
taking photos." The woman also said that the tree that will be planted
to replace it is already "in quarantine."

Some of the curious said that the replacement should be planted quickly,
because they cannot conceive of El Templete "without its ceiba."

Source: El Templete's Ceiba Says Goodbye To Havana / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/el-templetes-ceiba-says-goodbye-to-havana-14ymedio/

US Department Of Agriculture Anticipates End of Cuban Embargo

US Department Of Agriculture Anticipates End of Cuban Embargo / 14ymedio
Posted on February 10, 2016

14ymedio, Havana, 10 February 2016 — In anticipation of a future lifting
of the embargo, the US Department of Agriculture has asked Congress for
1.5 million dollars to send five officials to Cuban to work on the
logistics that will support increases in trade when Congress authorizes
it, according to the Associated Press.

Commerce Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that this trip is "really
important" and admitted that lifting the embargo will not be easy,
especially in an election year. But, the secretary added, "at some point
it has to end."

The president of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), Devry
Boughner Vorwerk, also considers the presence of US officials on the
island a priority. "We need to be there permanently to start a dialogue
with the Cuban government and with our counterparts on the technical
aspects of trade and investment," he said.

Vorwerk announced that the organization will send a mission to Cuba in
April to establish an ongoing dialogue with their Cuban colleagues in
the areas of bilateral trade, production, sustainability, distribution
chains, investment and research.

The president of the organization – made up of thirty US agricultural
and food companies in favor of ending the embargo – expressed
disappointment at the continuation of the embargo but said he was
"hopeful" for the creation of a bipartisan working group in the House of
Representatives and the presentation of several bills when his group
held a similar event in January 2015.

Despite the relaxations introduced by the White House since the
announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations in December
2014, US farmers are still faced with a prohibition on extending credit
to Cuban government entities who want to import US products.

Last April Heidi Heitkamp, Democratic senator from North Dakota, and
Arkansas Republican John Boozman presented a bill to allow American
farmers access to financing for exports to Cuba.

Source: US Department Of Agriculture Anticipates End of Cuban Embargo /
14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/us-department-of-agriculture-anticipates-end-of-cuban-embargo-14ymedio/

Lawmakers Question U.S. Decision to Give Rum Trademark to Cuba

Lawmakers Question U.S. Decision to Give Rum Trademark to Cuba
February 10, 2016, 06:52:00 PM EDT By Dow Jones Business News Comment
By Felicia Schwartz

WASHINGTON--A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers said they are concerned
about the Obama administration's decision last month to award a
trademark for Havana Club rum to the Cuban government.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary
Jacob Lew on Tuesday, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) and Debbie
Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), along with 23 other lawmakers, said they
feared granting the trademark could undermine protections for American
intellectual property rights holders.


Of the Democrats who signed on, eight of 11 are from Florida. Ms.
Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee,
hasn't enthusiastically embraced Mr. Obama's policy shift with Cuba. She
has said previously that she is considering the policy shift and hopes
Mr. Obama will use it to press Cuba to improve human rights.

"I've been firmly committed to protecting the intellectual property
rights of American companies, and I was pleased to join this letter with
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and many of my Florida colleagues," she said in a
separate statement, without singling out Cuba.

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said the U.S. decision to grant the trademark to Cuba
was "politically motivated" by the Obama administration's move to
normalize ties with Cuba.

"This original family's factories and trademarks were confiscated by the
Castro regime and the U.S. government should not take any action which
would embolden any foreign entity that could confiscate U.S. trademarks
and intellectual property," she said.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control decided last month to grant a
license to state-run Cubaexport to renew an expired trademark
registration for Havana Club rum in a move that has reignited a
decadeslong battle tension between Bacardi Ltd. and the Cuban government
over the use of the Havana Club trademark in the U.S.

Bacardi left Cuba after the 1959 revolution and later acquired the
rights to the Havana Club trademark from its prerevolutionary owner,
whose distillery was nationalized. The U.S. previously had recognized
Bacardi's claim to the Havana Club name under a law that aims to protect
owners of Cuban companies that were nationalized after the Cuban revolution.

The decision to grant Cubaexport the trademark would allow the Cuban
government to sell Cuban-made Havana Club in the U.S. for the first time
in decades once the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba is lifted.

That is unlikely to happen before President Barack Obama leaves office
in 2017, but experts, lobbyists and lawmakers in favor of the shift have
said they expect it will in the next five years.

Bacardi had been selling Havana Club-branded rum in the U.S. since 1994.
That rum is made in Puerto Rico because of the economic embargo. Pernod
Richard SA, which has a joint venture with the Cuban government, has
been selling a Cuban- made version of the rum outside of the U.S.

Amy Federman, a Bacardi spokeswoman, said, "Bacardi is pleased to see
that members of Congress are standing up for property rights and looking
into this issue."

The company has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking
records to explain why the U.S. decided to return the rights to use the
name Havana Club back to the Cuban state company, which runs a joint
venture with a global rival liquor company.

On Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), a signatory to the letter,
will chair a hearing on the Havana Club trademark battle and property
claims. U.S. and Cuban officials met to talk about billions of dollars
of competing property claims for the first time last December.

The claims, valued on the U.S. side to be between $7 billion and $8
billion, are among the most contentious issues the two sides will
address as they push for full normalization. Cuba, for its part, said at
the United Nations this year it is owed about $121 billion for damages
from the economic embargo.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires
02-10-161852ET
Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Source: Lawmakers Question U.S. Decision to Give Rum Trademark to Cuba -
NASDAQ.com -
http://www.nasdaq.com/article/lawmakers-question-us-decision-to-give-rum-trademark-to-cuba-20160210-01287

Switzerland donates 150 tons of powdered milk to Cuba

Switzerland donates 150 tons of powdered milk to Cuba
Published February 10, 2016 EFE

Switzerland donated 150 tons of powdered milk for social programs
serving children, the elderly and pregnant women in Cuba, state
television reported.

Donations of milk "have been going on for more than 20 years" as part of
Switzerland's humanitarian assistance programs, with most of the
donations being made in emergency situations and the aftermath of
natural disasters, Swiss Ambassador to Cuba Anne Pascale Krauer Müller said.

The powdered milk will be distributed to households, nursing homes,
boarding schools and people enrolled in the family assistance programs
in five eastern provinces, as well as in Pinar del Rio and Matanzas
provinces in the west.

Laura Melo, the World Food Program's representative in Cuba, said the
U.N. agency "supports efforts by the Cuban government to provide food
security for the most vulnerable people on the island who, many times,
are the elderly, children and pregnant women."

The ceremony marking the delivery of the donated Swiss powdered milk was
held at the comprehensive day care center for the elderly in Old Havana. EFE

Source: Switzerland donates 150 tons of powdered milk to Cuba | Fox News
Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2016/02/10/switzerland-donates-150-tons-powdered-milk-to-cuba/

Cuba is opening, but not yet open, for business

Another Voice: Cuba is opening, but not yet open, for business
on February 11, 2016 - 12:01 AM
By Damon Piatek

The U.S.-Cuba trade relationship is beginning to become more clear, but
without question since President Obama's announcement in December 2014
that the United States would be strengthening that relationship, the
hype has far superseded actual progress. While some barriers to trade
have been eased in recent months, there remain many challenges to
overcome before the opportunity will become fruitful for U.S. exporters.

Since the Obama administration's announcement, many steps have been
taken toward opening and strengthening the trade relationship, including
just at the end of January when the federal government announced
critical changes to financing and travel restrictions that were
significant roadblocks. Nevertheless, an embargo is still in place on
most exports from the United States to Cuba (with some exceptions). Any
interest in entering the Cuban market should not be taken lightly, and
should be done with professional guidance. The bottom line is that trade
with Cuba is opening, but not open.

It is important to remember that Cuba is still a Communist country, so
any business dealing with Cuba is dealing with the Cuban government.
Despite some of the rhetoric that is in the public dialogue about how
trade with the United States will help Cuba, the Cuban government is not
necessarily seeking U.S. help in opening its doors to commerce. Business
and business opportunity are still highly regulated in Cuba, and any
company negotiating with Cuba to export must understand that there are
governmental and political factors involved that you won't encounter
domestically and in most other countries. Cuba also maintains trade
relationships with many other nations, so while there are American-made
products that would be attractive to the Cuban market, the country is
not isolated and has existing commerce.

Cuba's culture, itself, is a huge factor in the potential success of
Cuba-U.S. trade. Cuba is not a wealthy country – Cuban workers make an
average of $20 a month – and people's lives are not only taken care of,
but monitored, by the government. Companies looking to export to Cuba
must understand the realities of the market they want to approach,
because it is a market that is largely not yearning for the American way
of life.

Despite the many challenges and the time it will actually take to
overcome even just the political and regulatory pieces of the puzzle,
companies should remain positive about future opportunity for U.S. trade
with Cuba.

Certainly Western New York companies with interest in Cuba should be
doing their homework now for when the opportunities begin to manifest
themselves, and putting themselves in the best position to take advantage.

Damon Piatek is president of Welke Customs Brokers USA in the City of
Tonawanda.

Source: Another Voice: Cuba is opening, but not yet open, for business -
Opinion - The Buffalo News -
http://www.buffalonews.com/opinion/another-voice/another-voice-cuba-is-opening-but-not-yet-open-for-business-20160211

Miami is for you, Yulieski, let’s play ball!

Miami is for you, Yulieski, let's play ball!

Cuban prince of baseball, brother defect in Santo Domingo
They foil Cuban government deal-making with Major Leagues
Case speaks volumes of what Cubans think of U.S.-Cuba relations
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
fsantiago@miamiherald.com

Like their contemporaries are doing, the Cuban prince of baseball and
his younger brother voted with their feet on the false promises of a
reformed Cuba in the age of rapprochement — and they're out of there.

Learn their names: sluggers Yulieski Gourriel, 31, and Lourdes Gourriel
Jr., 22. You could see them soon in your baseball team, not as the
subcontracted players of a Cuba-U.S. alliance, but as free young men.

The baseball players defected in the Dominican Republic, fleeing from
the hotel where the Cuban delegation was staying at 2 a.m. Monday in a
black pickup truck, dreams of Major League baseball in their hearts.
Like in a scene from a Cold War movie, a Cuban security operative tried
to stop them but failed, El Nuevo Herald sports writer Jorge Ebro
reported. The Cuban ambassador in Santo Domingo and one of his flunkies
rushed to the hotel angry as hell, bemoaning how the players had foiled
a deal on which they were "so close."

Good for them — the players get to keep their millions now.

Good for us — we get energized baseball.

The Cuban Baseball Federation, a government entity acting as agents,
planned to use the brothers to make a deal with Major League Baseball:
Players for dollars. Now we know what MLB — all too happy at the
prospect of harvesting mango bajito, cheaper labor — was so eagerly
doing in Cuba. Looks like the Gourriels declined to live and work under
what amounts to volunteer slavery, and Havana didn't hesitate to vilify
their heroes as "traitors" and sell-outs to "the mercenaries" of baseball.

Their defection speaks volumes about what the Cubans think of U.S.-Cuba
deals in which the winner is the coffers of the Castros: Adiós! And it's
a throwback to the days of détente, when Cuba's constant bleed of great
players became American baseball's gain. How else could the then-newbie
Florida Marlins clinch the World Series title in 1997 but for the arm of
MVP pitcher Liván "I Love You, Miami" Hernández?

Miami is ready for you, Yulieski.

Will the Gourriels end up playing for the Miami Marlins?

We sure could use them.

After greedy owners bamboozled elected officials into building a
striking stadium, then tore apart the expensive team, it's been dull
around here. Baseball has been so boring we almost miss fired manager
Ozzie Guillén, who suffered from the unforgivable ailment of being a
left-wing loud-mouth.

Politics still being what they are, the Gourriel brothers may feel more
comfortable in Cuba-crazed Tampa, which is begging Washington for a
Cuban consulate — while Miami says no way — and where you don't have to
clarify where you stand on the Castro brothers, which makes it easier to
go home again some day.

But I say, no way, they belong in Liván's Miami.

With the 40,000 Cubans who've arrived in the last year since the change
in U.S.-Cuba relations and another 8,000 on their way from Costa Rica,
the Gourriels have a ready-made audience — and we have a retractable
roof to pay for.

Until the Cuban government turns over a new leaf and deeds its people
the freedom and dignity they deserve, there will be middle-of-the-night
defections — and maybe better baseball in Miami.

Fabiola Santiago: 305-376-3469, fsantiago@miamiherald.com, @fabiolasantiago

Source: Miami is for you, Yulieski, let's play ball! | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article59547411.html

Caterpillar names a Cuba distributor for its equipment

Caterpillar names a Cuba distributor for its equipment

The company says it wants to be quick off the blocks when embargo is lifted
Rimco, a Puerto Rican company, chosen as Cuban Cat dealer
Caterpillar has been in forefront of efforts to end embargo
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

Caterpillar Inc., the heavy equipment manufacturer based in Peoria,
Illinois, said Wednesday that it has named a Puerto Rican company to be
its Cat dealer in Cuba in preparation for the day when the embargo is
lifted.

"Think of it as a track meet. This puts us in the starting block and
lets policymakers know we're ready to go as soon as the embargo is
lifted," said Matt Lavoie, the company's global government and corporate
affairs officer.

Caterpillar named Rimco, a private company that is already the Cat
dealer in Puerto Rico and the Eastern Caribbean, as its Cuba distributor.

The Obama administration eased some restrictions on commerce with Cuba
last month, allowing financing of authorized exports and re-exports to
Cuba, but Lavoie said the new rules don't really apply to the type of
equipment made by Caterpillar. Its product lines include construction
and mining equipment, power systems, and marine and industrial engines.

But in the future, Caterpillar sees good opportunity in Cuba, which
needs a massive overhaul of its highway system and other aging
infrastructure.

"Cuba needs access to the types of products that Caterpillar makes and,
upon easing of trade restrictions, we look forward to providing the
equipment needed to contribute to the building of Cuba's
infrastructure," said Philip Kelliher, a Caterpillar vice president who
oversees distribution in the Americas and Europe.

Richard F. McConnie, president of Rimco, said the Puerto Rican company
has a 34-year relationship with Caterpillar and looks forward to serving
the Cuban market. "There is great affinity between Cuba and Puerto Rico
as a result of our shared language, culture and traditions," he said.

Lavoie said that Caterpillar has been "the absolute leader in the
business community" since 1998 in pushing for lifting the embargo.
Caterpillar lobbyists, talking with legislators on both sides of the
aisle in Congress about legislation to lift the embargo, "have not been
hearing significant opposition to the idea," he said. "They are hearing
from their constituents, farmers and businesses that they want to go to
Cuba."

The electoral cycle, he said, might present a timing issue in terms of
taking up a bill to lift the embargo, "but there's certainly hope that
this could happen this year."

Source: Caterpillar names a Cuba distributor for its equipment | Miami
Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/international-business/article59650556.html

Tobacco In Cuba, Between Pests And Mud

Tobacco In Cuba, Between Pests And Mud / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez
Posted on February 9, 2016

14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 9 February 2016 – The
sun has barely risen and boots are sinking into land that is pure mud.
In the furrows, a group of men is trying to revive the planted tobacco,
but nature is working against them. Hundreds of producers in Pinar del
Rio are struggling against the rain and the pests to save a tobacco crop
which promises to be among the lowest in decades.

Prior to 20 January, 42,000 acres of land were planted throughout the
province of Pinar del Rio, but only some 34,000 have managed to survive,
and of these, some 5,000 are seriously affected. The excess moisture has
also encouraged the emergence of the dreaded blue mold disease that
devastates the crop.

A descendant from immigrants who came from the Canary Islands, Justo
Garcia Hernandez hasn't quit working, even at 73. He moves between the
plantations and the tobacco house where the women of the family are busy
hanging the leaves. In the five acres this farmer has leased under
usufruct, he experiences the failed harvest with special intensity.

This year "the climate is a disaster," complains Justo. The continuous
rains in recent weeks have ruined countless fields like his. "The
current weather conditions favor the appearance of fungi, bacteria,
viruses and other diseases," declared the provincial director of Plant
Protection, Ariel Castillo Rodriguez.

The land that Justo and his family work belongs to the Carlos Hidalgo
Credit and Services Cooperative, at Kilometer 5 on the San Juan Highway.
The space allows him to plant up to 80,000 tobacco plants, but this year
many of the plants will have died "having barely emerged from the
ground," says the farmer.

Still, he says he feels fortunate because his land "has not been
affected by black shank or blue mold," thanks to his having fumigated.
The situation has been most difficult for the farmers in Vueltabajo
region of Pinar del Rio, particularly in the towns of Con­solación del
Sur, Pinar del Río, San Juan y Martínez and San Luis.

The problems started right at the beginning of the harvest. Virginio
Morales, acting director of the Provincial Tobacco Group, reported to
the local press last week that the combination of high temperatures and
the excessive rainfall associated with the El Niño phenomenon, has
caused the loss of "83,500 seedling beds, and another 27,000 have been
affected."

The constant rains have greatly affected Justo's plantings. "It's the
greatest damage my harvest has had, the tobacco is drunk, the plants
remain tiny, it doesn't grow because of the excessive rain." More than
40% of the harvest has been lost for this reason and the only solution
is "replant, even though it is not the season."

The optimum time for planting is already over, but hundreds of producers
are going to plant tobacco, even to the end of March, to make up for the
damage the rain has caused to the crop. The bad news is that it is still
raining and the new shoots are also starting to be damaged.

The downpours "leave the leaves without their natural fatness," comments
Justo, a man who has lived his whole life around the tobacco fields. As
an example, he tells how he has harvested tobacco from very early in the
morning, and "it's four in the afternoon and I have clean hands, if the
tobacco was good, I would have had to wash my hands ten times."

Justo, like many tobacco growers in the area, does not believe that the
crop insurance will repay for what was damaged. Last year he lost 16,000
plantings and they only paid him 2,200 Cuban pesos (less than $100 US).

In the Hoyo de Monterrey in San Juan y Martinez, a place where many say
the best tobacco in the world is grown, Luis Brito Ajete concludes, "The
tobacco is bad." In the five acres he cultivates with his son, "the
plants have leaves like tissue paper," he complains.

The same thing is happening in Rio Feo, in the town of San Luis. William
Delgado Rodriguez plants tobacco on 7 acres and, although he says he's
had a "good harvest" in other years, this one "is bad, bad." On his land
he planted 100,000 sets. "But between the water and the black shank
disease, it's making me crazy."

To demonstrate the situation, William pulls up a fragile-looking plant
and shows the damage caused by the disease on the lower stem. In the
area where his farm is nestled, in the Ormani Arenado Cooperative, the
plantings have stood up a little better, but in other areas "the farmers
have had to pull up the entire harvest for replanting."

The young man noted that, right now, he has very little tobacco in the
drying house and knows cases of other peasants whose tobacco has rotted
after harvesting because of the dampness, so he is not expecting big
profits from the current harvest. "For a 220 pounds, we are paid 1,950
Cuban pesos, and the quality of the leaf here will be very low," he
predicts.

From a small battery-powered radio comes the contagious rhythm of Bob
Marley singing "No Woman No Cry" and the farmer takes advantage of it to
say, "well, this is the harvest of tears."

Source: Tobacco In Cuba, Between Pests And Mud / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos
Fernandez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/tobacco-in-cuba-between-pests-and-mud-14ymedio-juan-carlos-fernandez/

US Announces Plans To Replace The Office Of Cuba Broadcasting

US Announces Plans To Replace The Office Of Cuba Broadcasting / 14ymedio
Posted on February 9, 2016

14ymedio, Havana, 9 February 2016 — The United States government on
Tuesday announced plans to replace the Office of Cuba Broadcasting
(OCB), which runs Radio and TV Martí, with a "Spanish language
concessionaire." The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) did not
elaborate on the proposal.

"The BBG requested authority to establish a new non-federal
Spanish-language media organization, which will receive a grant from the
BBG and perform the functions of the current Office of Cuba
Broadcasting," the document explained.

The closing of the operations of Radio and TV Marti is among the
requests of the Government of Cuba in the process of the thaw between
the two countries that began in December 2014.

The broadcasts to Cuba started under the administration of President
Ronald Reagan in the eighties, to offer information different from that
offered by the Cuban media controlled by the Havana government, and so
contribute to eroding Fidel Castro's regime.

Last December a new OCB direction was named; the Puerto Rican lawyer
Maria Malule Gonzalez replaced Carlos Garcia-Perez, who had led the
agency since 2010.

No changes in the content of the programming or the operating budget –
amounting to over 27 million dollars annually – were announced at that time.

The news on Tuesday has provoked alarm among the more than 100 employees
of Radio and Television Martí, whose studios are in Miami, according to
a report in El Nuevo Herald. The newspaper reported that an employee,
who requested anonymity, said he was concerned about "losing federal
benefits" with the "privatization of operations."

BBG's executive director John F. Lansing said in a conference call that
the change seeks primarily to save on operating costs and increase the
"flexibility" of the office.

"Nothing in this proposal changes the mission of OCB which will remain
as it is now, dynamic, important and crucial," said Lansing, who does
not predict big changes immediately and warns that any transformation
must go through Congress.

"The mission of OCB would not be affected, it would be exactly the same
mission at the same level of funding, nothing would change that," he
said. "Secondly, any change, any defederalization of OCB, would still be
subject to a legislative process, where it may or may not occur, and
thirdly, the effect would depend on whether it takes place, and if,
indeed, it does takes place, how it would be designed at some point in
the future."

Source: US Announces Plans To Replace The Office Of Cuba Broadcasting /
14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/us-announces-plans-to-replace-the-office-of-cuba-broadcasting-14ymedio/

Castro Regime Censors Blog Calling Raul Castro Responsible For UMAP

Castro Regime Censors Blog Calling Raul Castro Responsible For UMAP* /
Diario de Cuba
Posted on February 9, 2016

Diario de Cuba, Havana, 9 February 2016 — A blog on sexual diversity,
Proyecto Arcoiris (Rainbow Project), housed in the government-run
blogging platform Reflections, has been censored by the regime after
addressing UMAP and publishing a text attributing the responsibility for
it to Raul Castro, according to the Global Voices international network
of bloggers.

Those responsible for censorship alleged that the blog broke the rules
for participation on the site and that the text "defamed the
Revolution," explained blog author Yasmine Silvia Portales Machado to
Global Voices .

The censored paragraph from the Rainbow Project blog that refers to the
Military Units to Aid to the Population (UMAP) is hosted here; but
currently readers get a message that says "This site has been archived
or suspended."

The fragment is part of the text "Cuba's Mariela Castro and Historical
Reparations," published in December in Havana Times by activist and
member of the Rainbow Arc Jimmy Roque Martinez.

Roque called on the General Raul Castro to apologize and accept
responsibility for the internment of homosexuals in the UMAP camps.

From his point of view, not accepting responsibility and not
apologizing for such acts "are proof of the homophobia" of the current
leaders of the island and a sign that they are not repentant.

In the article, the activist says the General and others who are "still
alive" as "those maximally" responsible for the camps where dissidents,
religious and gay people were defined.

"It's been 50 years since the creation of UMAP said Roque and not a
single official has apologized to the people."

He also said that "the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR)
from that time is now the country's president," referring to Raul Castro.

"It is now time for them to apologize for that act of penalization,
exclusion and punishment to which they subjected thousands of
homosexuals and Cubans with 'improper conduct'," said the activist.

Roque demanded that "those responsible, every single one of them, must
recognize their error, and ask for a real apology directly to the
victims and their families, as the only way of historical reparation."

The state platform Reflections groups blogs written from the island and
is the only one from the island that provides this service. It is
managed by the Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs (JCCE), under the
Ministry of Communications.

Reflections is accessible from abroad, although it is not possible to
create a blog from outside the island, nor to manage it from abroad even
if it was created in Cuba. Operating a blog on Reflections requires that
the blogger access the blog from a JCCE site.

Source: Castro Regime Censors Blog Calling Raul Castro Responsible For
UMAP* / Diario de Cuba | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/castro-regime-censors-blog-calling-raul-castro-responsible-for-umap-diario-de-cuba/

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Church destroyed and 200 hundred members detained in Cuba

Church destroyed and 200 hundred members detained in Cuba
Florence Taylor JUNIOR STAFF WRITER 09 February 2016

Cuban authorities demolished a large church on 5 February while hundreds
of church members were detained, according to Christian Solidarity
Worldwide (CSW).

Emanuel Church in eastern Cuba, affiliated to the Apostolic Movement –
an unregistered Protestant denomination – was surrounded by officials
including police, state security and the military at 5am last Friday.

They detained Rev Alain Toledano's wife before demolishing both the
church and the pastor's home. Property found inside the church including
pews, chairs and a piano were confiscated. Toledano was in the United
States at the time of the incident.

Approximately 200 leaders and members of the church were also detained.
Around forty were held in a local school and the rest were taken to
police stations, apparently to ensure there were no protests against the
demolition.

CSW says church leaders reported that many were beaten during their
detention.

Despite the existance of legal documents proving rightful ownership,
over 1,000 blocks of cement were also confiscated by the government,
according to CSW.

The church building and home were privately owned by Toledano and
Toledano told CSW that he believes the timing of the demolition
coinciding with his trip to the US was not a coincidence, but tactical.

He said he had received numerous threats of church eviction and closure
throughout 2015.

This is the second time the family has experienced the destruction of
both church and home, and Toledano expressed concern about the impact
these events would have on his daughters – aged 11 and 12 – who he said
were screaming as they witnessed their mother being detained.

"This series of demolitions since the New Year indicates a worrying
escalation in terms of violations of freedom of religion or belief in
Cuba," said Mervyn Thomas, CSW's chief executive.

The Cuban government has repeatedly refused to register Apostolic
Movement churches and Friday's destruction comes in the wake of similar
demolitions in Camaguey and Las Tunas provinces on 8 January.

Source: Church destroyed and 200 hundred members detained in Cuba |
Christian News on Christian Today -
http://www.christiantoday.com/article/church.destroyed.and.200.hundred.members.detained.in.cuba/79144.htm

Cubans to rush to US amid a swirl of island rumors

Cubans to rush to US amid a swirl of island rumors
Lenore Fedow

A rising number of Cubans are fleeing for the United States as relations
thaw between the two countries — not because they think it's easier, but
because they're afraid that it will soon get a lot harder.

Rumors are spreading across the island that the special immigration
status the United States has afforded to Cuban refugees for decades may
soon come to an end, prompting a flood of migrants into Latin American
countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica in a bid to get to the U.S. by land.

A major influx of Cuban immigrants is real, says Ted Henken, co-author
of "Entrepreneurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape." "If you look
at the numbers, it's already happening. A record number of people are
leaving Cuba — record by even Mariel Boatlift standards. It's ironic
because those people worried about the end of the Cuban Adjustment Act
and leaving in large numbers are going to make it more likely that the
Cuban Adjustment Act ends."

The act, informally known as the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, is a law
passed during the Johnson administration in 1966 under which Cuban
migrants heading to the United States who are intercepted at sea ("wet
feet") are sent back to Cuba or to another country, while those who make
it to land ("dry feet") are allowed to remain in the United States. In
effect, the law gives Cubans a special status that makes migration to
the United States easier for them than it is for other nationals.

In the 12-month period ending Sept. 20, around 45,000 Cubans had reached
the U.S.-Mexico border, with numbers still on the rise, according to
reports in the Miami Herald and elsewhere. By comparison, the total
number of Cubans seeking lawful permanent resident status in the United
States from all points in 2013 was 32,219, according to the Department
of Homeland Security.

The influx of Cubans prompted Ecuador to end its own no-visa policy in
November, preventing Cubans from using the country as a springboard to
the United States. Nicaragua followed suit, blocking Cubans traveling
north from Costa Rica. The travel limitations have resulted in a
humanitarian crisis,adding fuel to the fire of an existing tense
diplomatic relationship between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The White House has never announced any plans to end the special
treatment of Cuban refugees. However, the rumor persists, due in part to
the secretive manner in which U.S.-Cuban relations have been conducted
recently.
"When the U.S. announced its deal with Cuba, it had been after a
year-and-a-half of secret negotiation. They could be very well preparing
to change the law," Henken said. "They just announce it one morning that
the law is changed. Now it's too late for you to try to get out."

Henken, who is president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban
Economy, blames the country's long history of economic and political
discourse for pushing people out of Cuba and credits the Cuban
Adjustment Act for pulling Cubans to the United States. The number of
people born in Cuba and living in the U.S. grew by 78 percent, up from
636,000 in 1980 to 1.1 million in 2013, according to the Pew Research
Center.

"There's a whole other Cuba in the United States. They can get to South
Florida and they're in the capitalist version of Cuba, Miami. Within six
months, someone can have a job, a car, an apartment. They can have all
the stuff they can't get in Cuba, even if they work for 30 or 40 years,"
said Henken.
Cubans are the most geographically concentrated of all Hispanic origin
groups in the United States, with 68 percent of them living in Florida,
according to the Pew Research Center.

Jose Azel, a political exile from Cuba and a senior scholar at the
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of
Miami, feels it is crucial that South Florida find a balance between
welcoming newcomers and maintaining orderly immigration.

There is a growing concern in South Florida that the Cuban Adjustment
Act is being abused. Some Cuban expats have started criminal
enterprises, including Medicaid scams, and used the law to escape
justice and go back to Cuba, according to Henken, who fears the trend
will continue if the policy goes unchanged.

"I think what we want is to certainly maintain the possibility to
welcome those that are escaping from a totalitarian regime. And as
American citizens, we want to curtail the abuses within the community.
There is good reason to call for modification," said Azel.

Lillian Guerra, author of "Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution,
Redemption and Resistance," grew up in Miami in the 1980s and was joined
by close to 40 of her Cuban-born relatives. While Guerra has seen her
relatives benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act, she views it with a
critical eye and believes it should have been eliminated a long time ago.

"It offers the Cuban government a safety valve for discontent and the
opportunity for a brain drain," said Guerra, a professor at the
University of Florida. "The brain drain helps the communist state in
Cuba maintain itself."

Guerra said she feels that the broad policy, which grants refugee status
to all Cubans, is unfair and opens the door to abuse of the system.
Treating Cuban refugees the way all refugees are treated — requiring
them to show proof that they are subject to political oppression — would
be a more fair path to citizenship, she said.

Lenore Fedow
Special to CNBC.com

Source: Cubans to rush to US amid a swirl of island rumors -
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/09/cubans-to-rush-to-us-amid-a-swirl-of-island-rumors.html

Vietnam vet living in Cuba sues VA to get benefits

Vietnam vet living in Cuba sues VA to get benefits
By Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press 12:30 p.m. EST February 9,
2016

HAVANA — Otto Macias was 19 when he left Cuba in the throes of a
socialist revolution, enlisted in the U.S. Army and went to fight
communists as a machine-gunner in Vietnam.

He returned from battle in 1969 — broken and suffering from
post-traumatic stress and schizophrenia, his family says. After years of
hospitalization in New York, Macias, then a U.S. citizen, was well
enough in 1980 to fly to Cuba to visit relatives he hadn't seen in
decades. He never returned.

As he stayed with family in Havana, Macias' hallucinations became so bad
he required hospitalization and constant care from doctors or loved
ones, his relatives say. Less than a year later, the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs cut off his monthly pension of $60 — a large sum for
Cuba, where salaries today average about $25 a month. The U.S. agency
never explained the cutoff, but the family's American lawyer says he's
certain it was because of the Unite States' trade embargo on Cuba.

Now, Macias' family is suing the U.S. government seeking to reinstate
the pension. They say President Obama's loosening of the embargo offers
the ailing 75-year-old a final chance to regain his benefits and win the
recognition of the military service that his adopted country has denied
him for 35 years.

"It's about justice," said Macias' niece, Anitica. "He was on the
battlefield ... he dedicated his life to that. He mutilated his life. He
didn't have a family because of it. They need to pay attention to him;
they owe him an explanation. They need to recognize him."

While Macias' situation is highly unusual, even unique, it could take on
wider ramifications if the year-old detente between Washington and
Havana leads to more Cuban-Americans returning to live on the island,
some of them receiving U.S. government benefits.

Macias lives with his brother in a modest apartment in a high-rise in
east Havana. Psychologically stable after years of treatment but
suffering from skin cancer, he spends his days running small errands
like buying bread, then watching television or petting the family's
graying dachshund.

Macias declined to speak about his time in Vietnam. He said in Spanish
that even though he feels more Cuban than American now, he remembers
much of his time in the United States fondly and would enjoy visiting
New York again if he were physically able.

"I'd like to go back," he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs said he couldn't
comment on pending litigation but noted the Treasury Department
regulates payment of U.S. funds to other countries. The Treasury
Department did not respond to a request for comment on Macias' case.

Macias' lawyer, New Mexico-based Jason Flores-Williams, said the
veteran's pension was clearly cut off because the U.S. embargo prohibits
paying government benefits to anyone living on the island. But the
lawyer said he believes legal changes stemming from Obama's 2014
declaration of detente with Cuba mean Macias has a good chance at
winning his case.

The Obama administration has allowed U.S. companies to do limited
business with the Cuban government and lets Americans send virtually
unlimited sums of money to Cubans for purposes ranging from helping
relatives to supporting a private business.

"We would expect the Obama administration to support this litigation,"
Flores-Williams said. "It would be recognizing what (Macias) has done
for the United States and bringing this man dignity in the last years of
his life."

A court win for Macias could create a precedent for other
Cuban-Americans who move back to Cuba in the coming years and want to
receive U.S. government benefits like Social Security payments. While
the number of Cuban-Americans reclaiming Cuban citizenship remains
small, it is likely to grow as travel and trade between the U.S. and
Cuba become easier.

Moving back to the island may appeal especially to some Cuban-American
retirees because of Cuba's free health care and relatively low cost of
living, meaning that any cases with legal issues such as Macias' could
eventually become more common.

"The second you cross that 90 miles your benefits are terminated because
you couldn't receive a check due to Treasury Department regulations,"
Flores-Williams said. "This is an opportunity for the Obama
administration to show the Cubans that it's serious about human rights
and change."

Source: Vietnam vet living in Cuba sues VA to get benefits -
http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/02/09/vietnam-vet-living-cuba-sues-va-get-benefits/80057860/

Times Are Changing in Havana, Cuba

Times Are Changing in Havana, Cuba
02/08/2016

Time seems to stand still in Havana, Cuba's capital city.

Old men in fedoras smoke cigars and play dominos. Colorful American cars
from the 1950s share the road with rusty bicycles. Laundry hangs from
the balconies of crumbling mansions. Children who have never used the
Internet play soccer on cobblestone streets. The sound of traditional
Cuban music drifts from a corner café.

This is the Havana that American tourists dream of—romantic, mysterious,
and forbidden.

A troubled past

American citizens cannot legally travel to Cuba as tourists. The tourism
ban goes back to the early 1960s, when tensions between the U.S. and
Cuba were high. Cuba's communist government had formed a close
relationship with Russia, formerly known as the Soviet Union. In 1962,
the Soviet Union placed nuclear missile silos in Cuba.

For 13 tense days, it looked like the U.S. and the Soviet Union would go
to war over the missiles in Cuba. Fortunately, the countries reached a
diplomatic solution. The event is known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. It
is the closest the world has come to a thermonuclear war.

The tourism ban is part of a trade embargo on Cuba started by President
John F. Kennedy. The ban on trade was an effort to isolate Cuba's
communist government.

American cars

One legacy of the embargo is the large number of old American cars on
the streets of Cuba. After 1961, Cubans could no longer import American
cars. Some of these pre-revolutionary cars have more than a million
miles on them, or about 1.6 million kilometers.

Cubans show incredible creativity in keeping these old cars running.
Raul, who only gave his first name, is a taxi driver in Havana.

"This car is a 1953 Chevrolet. It is the only one in the family. It came
from my grandfather, to my father, and then to me. Except for the
transmission, everything else is original.

Improving relations

The Kennedy-era embargo is still in effect. Over the past year, the
Obama administration has eased some parts of the embargo. Relations
between the U.S. and Cuba have improved. The U.S. Embassy in Cuba
reopened after 54 years, and Cuba has reopened its embassy in
Washington, D.C.

Americans can now legally travel to Cuba for 12 different types of
"people-to-people" exchanges. However, a trip to an all-inclusive beach
resort is still illegal under American law.

Kate Burrill lives in New York City. In January, she visited Cuba with
Friendly Planet, an educational tour company.

"What surprised me was that it was really as beautiful as all those
clichéd photos that you in travel brochures—lots of beautiful old cars
and the buildings in the old town were gorgeous."

But it can be difficult for Americans to meet with ordinary Cubans on
organized tours.

"The main drawback was that I didn't spend any time with the locals. I
only got to interact with the tour guides."

A new openness

Scenes of a more open Cuba can be seen on the streets of Havana. The
American flag is a common sight – on T-shirts, hanging from balconies,
flying on top of taxis. Such displays seemed impossible just a few years
ago.

In the winter, waves from the Caribbean crash over Havana's sea wall,
flooding the Malecón. The Malecón is a famous road that runs along
Havana's north coast. Every day at sunset, thousands of Cubans gather
here to chat, fish, swim, and play music.

These days, you can see young people on the Malecón with smartphones
using wireless Internet. Until last summer, the Internet was only
available in a few universities and luxury hotels.

Access to the wireless zone costs about $3 an hour. That is a lot of
money in a place where the average state salary is around $25 per month.
There are now about 30 public wireless "hotspots" in Havana. Slowly but
surely, Cubans are connecting online.

High demand for English

Young Cubans are eager to learn English. But there are not enough
qualified English teachers on the island. Some of the best English
teachers go to work in tourism and private restaurants, where they can
make more money. English also allows Cubans to make friends and contacts
outside of the Spanish-speaking world.

Juan Carlos Dominguez is the head of the English Department of a medical
school in Havana. He says Cubans prefer to learn American English.

"We are neighbors…very close, 90 miles away only. We have some kind of
identification. You can see on the streets, on the cars, people on the
streets with American flags. We respect that."

A flood of Americans

The number of Americans visiting Cuba has risen sharply in the past
year. Havana no longer has enough hotel rooms to keep up with demand.
The government now allows Cubans to rent their homes to travelers.

Recent developments will send even more Americans to Cuba. Americans no
longer have to apply for a license from the U.S. government before
coming to Cuba. Regular commercial flights from the United States are
expected to start this year.

Some people are worried that a flood of American tourists will hurt
Cuba's unique culture. They worry that Old Havana will become like a
Disney theme park. Will Cuba remain one of the few places in the world
without a Starbucks or a McDonald's?

Juan Carlos Dominguez is not worried about American tourism. He says
Cubans have a strong sense of cultural identity, or "Cubanismo."

"If Americans are permitted to come to Cuba as tourists, it could be
great… We are going to share with you what we have...The future is bright."

Will it last?

The upcoming U.S. presidential election could have a major impact on
U.S.-Cuba relations.

Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said that
they support lifting the embargo.

Two Republican presidential candidates have family ties to Cuba. Ted
Cruz is the son of a Cuban father and an Anglo mother. Marco Rubio was
born to Cuban immigrants in Miami. Both candidates have criticized
President Barack Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba.

I'm Anne Ball.

And I'm Adam Brock.

Now it's your turn. Would you like to visit Cuba? Leave a comment below.

Adam Brock reported this story for VOA Learning English on a recent trip
to Havana, Cuba.

Source: Times Are Changing in Havana, Cuba -
http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/times-are-changing-in-havana-cuba/3180597.html

Cuba - the untaught lesson on perils of socialism

Cuba: the untaught lesson on perils of socialism
Feb. 9, 2016 Updated 12:59 p.m.
By RON HART / Contributing columnist

I'm Just back from Cuba, where I observed that, while they are realizing
the futility of central command-and-control government, we are embracing
it. Cuba and the U.S. are like ships passing in the night.

Desperate for a positive legacy item, Obama set about normalizing
relations with Cuba. In that island nation, Obama is more popular than
Castro – but so is loading your family members onto a Styrofoam cooler
and floating them to Florida.

We knew Obama was embracing Cuba when, at a summit last April, he shook
Raul Castro's hand. Republicans were outraged to have to watch the
biggest communist dictator in the world shaking hands with Castro.

My main takeaway: Cuba is a political and economics lesson not taught
well enough to our schoolchildren. With the rise in popularity of Bernie
Sanders, who is beating Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic
primary, it's clear that Americans do not understand the dire lessons of
socialism's poisonous ideology and the devastation it brings to every
country that has fallen prey to its hollow temptations. In a Pew
Research Center survey, 43 percent of 18-29-year-olds had a positive
reaction to the word "socialism."

U.S. teachers, who generally lean left, romanticize Marxist
revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Castro. Kids today wear iconic Che
T-shirts, unaware of the 3,000 political murders and economic
devastation he caused.

My trip was educational, and Cuba remains a story educators should teach
kids. Yet they don't. I asked five twentysomething kids what they knew
about Cuba; had they been taught the economic lessons of the devastation
wrought by communism? All said "No." It is not a story the Left wants to
tell, since their narrative promises free stuff for everyone that nobody
has to pay for. It's an easy sell to dopes, but it has never worked and
never will.

Like Obama, Fidel Castro holds grudges. A Yale professor on our trip was
denied his visa at the last minute because he once wrote that Fidel
overstated his baseball prowess.

Just to summarize, Fidel Castro took over this once-economically vibrant
island in 1959 and pretended to be selflessly for the people, just like
Democrats and those ambulance-chasing lawyers who advertise on buses. It
turns out they are just out for themselves. Fidel decided later that
socialism/communism was the way to go; that way he'd be in power
forever. He seized assets from landowners, corporations and Mafia casino
operators. He has lived longer than anyone could have expected for a man
who stole a casino from gangster Meyer Lansky.

After 55 years of rule and a personal net worth stolen from the Cubans
of over $1 billion, he felt like, at 85, he had enough money to get him
to the barn. Just imagine how much Castro would be worth if he were not
a "share the wealth" communist. Upon retirement, out of habit, the New
York Yankees signed him to a five-year deal.

Fidel Castro realized he was not going to live forever; he's not Larry
King. So he appointed his brother Raul to rule. Raul is Cuban for "Jeb."
Fidel said that he was retiring to spend more time repressing his
family. As I have found out, when you say you are going to quit work to
spend more time with your family, you might want to check with your
family first.

The timing was right to normalize relations. Obama felt that Castro had
become the type of weakened strongman dictator that Sony Pictures could
make a comedy about without Castro getting all bent out of shape.

After the pope's visit, Castro told his countrymen – and women – to have
more children because Cuba has the lowest birth rate in Latin America.
Nothing gets oppressed citizens in an amorous mood like a command from a
nearly 90-year-old communist dictator.

Obama then lifted our embargo on certain Cuban goods, including cigars –
yet another confirmation that Obama is still smoking.

Fifty years of Cuban socialist rule have turned a prosperous country
into an impoverished one. Cubans earn $20 a month, but everything is
free! It is just that there is none of it. Store shelves are empty; even
toilet paper is scarce. All the "evil" businesses were run out of Cuba,
and 70 percent of the people work for the government, so there is no one
left to tax.

Havana airport officials are mostly women in short skirts and fishnet
stockings; one can only imagine what it takes to get and hold those jobs
under Castro. When I left, I asked them to frisk me to make sure I
wasn't smuggling out baseball players.

Ron Hart, a libertarian op-ed humorist and award-winning author, is a
frequent guest on CNN. He can be contacted at Ron@RonaldHart.com or
@RonaldHart on Twitter.

Source: Cuba: the untaught lesson on perils of socialism - The Orange
County Register -
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/castro-703438-cuba-obama.html

Cuba's Complex Ethnic Mix

Cuba's Complex Ethnic Mix
02/09/2016 04:24 pm ET | Updated 14 hours ago
Rick Steves
Author of European travel guidebooks and host of travel shows on public
television and public radio

One of the joys of visiting Cuba is meeting the people in this still
remarkably closed society. It's so easy and fun to connect with people
on the streets who are curious about the USA and love to talk. I found
Cubans joyful, relaxed, and smart -- yet isolated and wired differently,
as mainstays of our modern outlook (like the Internet and the
opportunity to work hard to prosper) are still novel to most people
here. I encountered two kinds of people: Rank-and-file Cubans, and those
with relatives in America or with jobs in tourism (which means they have
more money, a broader perspective, and more opportunities).

These students reminded me that Cuba still categorizes its citizens into
three ethnic groups: N (for negro, or black), M (for mestizo, or mixed),
and B (for blanco, or white -- generally meaning Hispanic, of Spanish
decent). It's like American drivers licenses stipulating what color our
eyes are.

Discrimination by race is officially illegal in Cuba. But a complex
history has created social stratification. The white Cubans were
predominantly the ones who supported Batista. Conversely, it was the
black Cubans who felt most oppressed by Batista and American interests,
and supported the Revolution most wholeheartedly.

After the Revolution, an estimated 86 percent of the Cubans who fled to
the USA describe themselves as white (out of a general Cuban population
that's only about 30 percent Hispanic). That's why, of the people in
Cuba who receive foreign remittances (and are therefore local economic
elites today), the vast majority are the white Cubans who chose not to
leave the country. Hispanic Cubans have the most power and contact with
the outside world. The result: In today's Cuba, light-skinned people
tend to be privileged and dark-skinned people are generally disadvantaged.

Follow Rick Steves on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RickSteves

Source: Cuba's Complex Ethnic Mix -
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-steves/cubas-complex-ethnic-mix_b_9196672.html

Aussie oil company gushing over Cuba

Aussie oil company gushing over Cuba
MEO Australia said early groundwork in opening Cuba paying off.
By Daniel J. Graeber | Updated Feb. 9, 2016 at 10:43

MELBOURNE, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The lower cost of operating in the Cuban oil
sector and improving Western diplomatic ties means good things for early
movers, an Australian company said.

Independent oil company MEO Australia said a number of the wells drilled
near the coast of Cuba in so-called Block 9 have recovered oil.
Information gleaned from data from Block 9 gave the company confidence
about the potential for significant prospects onshore Cuba.

CEO Peter Stickland said the area is the company's highest priority
asset. Data received so far suggests the area is rich in petroleum, with
early 2016 representing a watershed moment for onshore Cuba.

"The low operating costs in the Cuba support strong profitability levels
even in depressed oil price conditions and the improving diplomatic
relations with the U.S. is expected to drive substantial foreign
investment over the coming years," he said in a statement.

The Cuban government in 2014 enacted legislation offering corporate tax
credits to encourage foreign investments. The U.S. government the same
year started easing a 54-year trade embargo on Cuba and later reopened
its embassy in Havana.

According to MEO, Cuba produces about 80,000 barrels of oil per day.
Canada's Sherritt International, the only foreign company producing in
Cuba, estimates operating costs of around $9 per barrel.

Estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey last year found there were
about 4.6 billion barrels of crude oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of
natural gas in the form of undiscovered, technically recoverable,
reserves in Cuba. About three quarters of that is said to be located
within 50 miles from shore.

"Interest in investing in the oil industry in Cuba continues to grow,"
Stickland said.

Source: MEO Australia upbeat on Cuban oil prospects - UPI.com -
http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Industry/2016/02/09/Aussie-oil-company-gushing-over-Cuba/5031455025719/

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cuba’s Phone Monopoly - Between Capitalism And Paternalism

Cuba's Phone Monopoly: Between Capitalism And Paternalism / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on February 8, 2016

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 February 2016 — Applying the
toughest rules of the market on the one hand and presenting itself as
paternalistic on the other, is a game well played by the
Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA). While the benefits to its
customers arrive drop by drop, the rates are applied strictly to the
letter, without the least compassion and with no relationship to Cuban
wages.

The new Wifi zones that will be opened this year, along with the timid
beginning of installing internet in private homes, barely silences
customer complaints over the high costs of cellphones and the
deficiencies in the service. The news that five Cuban Convertible Peso
(CUC) recharges will get a bonus of 10 extra minutes and 20 domestic
text messages, does not appease the company's critics. [Ed. note: 5 CUC
is more than $5, while wages for state workers generally don't exceed
$20 a month.]

During a press conference, Tania Valezquez, ETECSA's direction of sales
and marketing, repeated that they are doing nothing "to arbitrarily
lower prices… (without) the infrastructure to support and respond to the
increase in demand that would occur." An affirmation that raises the
question, "And what have you done with all the money you've earned over
the last decades?"

The confessions of this functionary make it clear that the "principles"
that the government appeals to when they ask private sellers to lower
the prices of farm products, do not apply in the case of phone service.
If the state company does not have the real capacity to improve the
levels of traffic, it regulates consumption through high prices.

What the functionary did not say, or was not allowed to say, is that
this service is not intended to benefit workers who earn 500 Cuban pesos
(CUP) a month, because they would have to spend a quarter of their
monthly salary — a full week's wages — to buy the cheapest recharge card.

Nevertheless, the number of cellphone customers in Cuba is increasing,
with more than three million mobile lines in service at the end of 2015,
tangible proof that the amount of money in the hands of the citizenry is
not directly tied to the system of wages. But ETECSA just can't
understand that these are customers, not beneficiaries of a giveaway,
who complain that they do not receive a quality of service that
corresponds to the high rates they are paying for it.

It is time for the country's only telephone company to set aside the
contradictory discourse of presenting itself as a company that is doing
a great favor to Cubans by installing a dozen Wifi zones across the
whole country. Its extortionate prices and its status as a monopoly
place it squarely the worst of savage capitalists that the Cuban
authorities claim to abominate.

Source: Cuba's Phone Monopoly: Between Capitalism And Paternalism /
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-phone-monopoly-between-capitalism-and-paternalism-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/

Four Questions For You, President Obama

Four Questions For You, President Obama / 14ymedio, Yuslier L. Saavedra
Posted on February 8, 2016

14ymedio, Yuslier L. Saavedra, La Salud (Mayabeque Province), 8 February
2016 — Mr. President, I am a young Cuban woman who lives in Cuba and I
do not want to leave. Exile hurts and I lack the courage to miss my
homeland. I want to stay in Cuba and the reality of my people leaves me
with many questions. I think it is up to Cubans alone – all of us
without exception – to resolve our problems; peaceful change toward
democracy is ours and is in us. I dream of a sovereign people, with
self-determination because we have a voice, rights and freedom. I dream
of an independent, democratic and sovereign Cuba, where there is a
genuine Rule of Law and Democracy, the indispensable foundations for
Cubans to be able to achieve prosperity and well-being.

You have said you want to help Cubans to improve our quality of life,
which leads me to ask you some questions:

- What has improved in Cubans' quality of life since 17 December 2014?
- You have called Raul Castro 'president'; does this mean you consider
him your counterpart?
- Can a dictatorship turn itself into a democracy?
- Do you believe that the dignity of the human person, as well as his or
her well-being and quality of life starts with rights?

Source: Four Questions For You, President Obama / 14ymedio, Yuslier L.
Saavedra | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/four-questions-for-you-president-obama-14ymedio-yuslier-l-saavedra/

Gang Warfare In Havana

Gang Warfare In Havana / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila
Posted on February 8, 2016

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 8 February 2016 – A few nights ago my
wife and I arrived in an almendrón [old American car in use as a
shared-taxi] at the Ceiba little park just before the traffic light at
Via Blanca and Lacret, in Havana. We we usually get off there when we
are going home from El Vedado, in a line of collective taxes headed to
La Vibora.

The unwelcome surprise that night was to find ourselves almost in the
middle of a pitched war at 1:00 in the morning. At Bella Vista and Via
Blanca two gangs of children – for the most part; many of them weren't
even teenagers – were facing off with stones, sticks, bottles, and some
carried machetes nearly as big as they were.

Some amorous couples in the park ran away to avoid being hit by the rain
of objects of all kinds from all directions that these little pioneers
were throwing at each other with an eerie chill. In the midst of the
hullabaloo, a voice from Santos Suarez shouted, "I'm done, assholes!"

A boy among those who were "shooting" from the Cerro side apparently
tried to take the other side by assault and fell in the middle of the
street from a stone to the head right in front of a huge truck that
slammed on its brakes so as not to crush him and almost flipped over
with a container on its trailer. Several light trucks had to brake
quickly and honked their horns, but the contenders didn't seem to hear
anything.

The dispute continues and there is already a line of cars waiting,
fearing to pass in the midst of the artillery and lose, at the very
least, a windshield. Two "rescuers" from the Cerro side ventured out to
retrieve the fallen one who was trying to stand up but couldn't. His
companions covered them, raining fire down from a hill of trash next to
the daycare center that was serving as a shield and a park at the same time.

The operation is successful but the counteroffensive is unexpected. From
the Santos Suarez side they take advantage of Cerro's casualty to try to
cross Via Blanca to launch an attack that extends to the intersection of
Bella Vista with San Salvador Avenue. The Cerro side manages to escape
towards the depths of Canal and the invaders don't dare to continue
advancing because they are already deep in hostile territory.

The tallest one, a skinny bare-chested guy with Mohawk-like hair styled
after the singer El Yonki, shouts, "Next time we're gonna kill you,
monkeysssss! Let's go!" The troop retreats with the discipline of a
professional army but not before dispersing through several routes so as
to avoid attracting the attention of the neighbors, who have gotten out
of bed to see what's going and who have almost certainly called the
emergency number, 106.

Indeed, ten minutes later, two police cars appeared, sirens blaring,
tires squealing, looking unsuccessfully for "the brawlers." They
question the neighbors who are cautiously doing damage control, but no
one answers. Better not to risk that an indiscreet cop could reveal the
name of an informant, or that from the shadows someone might see them
giving information and take reprisals.

The next day in the morning, all the talk in the line to buy bead
is about "what happened last night." In the street and along the facades
that was the battleground, are the marks of the impacts of the stones,
glass bottles, and even the broken windows of a Russian-made Lada that
was parked in front of the bakery last night (wrong place, wrong time).

This is a faithful description of what happened that night and what is
happening ever more frequently not only in the Cerro neighborhood, but
in many Havana neighborhoods, where often there is mourning for some
victim who dies.

It is noteworthy that these gangs are made ​​up of children who are
often under 14. These aggressive boys have a very strong sense of
identity with and commitment to their group, which revolves around two
or three older leaders with experience in the art of street fighting. In
our areas we now have gangs that everyone knows, such as the one that
calls itself "The Lawless" and an even more popular gang made up of
girls who identify themselves as "The Apululu."

What would happen if for some reason these groups came to be armed? How
much power could they get? Would we have the self-employed paying them
protection money as happens in other Central American countries?

All this and more can easily come to pass if the already terrible
economic situation and the quality of education continue to deteriorate
and there are no incentives or direction for teenagers and young people;
but especially if it continues to be the priority of the State to invest
its scarce human resources and materials in repressing those of us who
want to confront the real problems and take steps to resolve them.

Source: Gang Warfare In Havana / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/gang-warfare-in-havana-14ymedio-eliecer-avila/

Where to find the best food in Cuba

Where to find the best food in Cuba
Kate Riesenberg, The Blonde Abroad

In late December 2014 President Obama opened relations with Cuba, over
50 years after the embargo that stopped all US imports and meant that
American citizens could not enter the country was first put in place.
This shift has a lot of meaning, one of which directly affects the
ability for Americans to travel into this previously forbidden city.

In April 2015, via a partnership between Yoga For Bad People and Cuba
Educational Travel, I headed there myself under one of the 12 now
government approved categories.

Under a strict Cuban government approved itinerary, we had a detailed
schedule that needed to be mostly followed each day. Though none of the
people in our group were particularly used to traveling in this fashion,
it was what was mandatory in order to be there as a US citizen, plus it
did grant us undeniably incredible access to the fascinating country of
Cuba.

During our week long stay, we had a huge amount of exposure to the
cultural and historical elements that help make Cuba what it is today.

We were given a tour of the Museum of Cuban Art, guided by a Cuban art
historian. We were the fortunate audience to multiple live music
performances in private venues, led by renowned Cuban singers and
songwriters. We were taken to the Nostalgic Cars garage, and spoken to
about what it takes to repair classic cars by the owners themselves (and
then given a surprise by being driven around in them!).

We ventured three hours outside of the city of Havana to Pinar del Rio
and were welcomed into the home of local farmer and tobacco connoisseur
Benito for a lesson in cigars and coffee. We visited La Finca Vigia,
former home of Hemingway. And of course we did yoga, though in this
instance it did fall secondary to the intense days exploring Havana and
beyond.

My adventures in Cuba did involve food as well, though the experience
here was different than most. Up until the early nineties paladares,
privately owned restaurants, existed only illegally, and were somewhat
limited in number.

Nowadays paladares are more plentiful, but the resources able to go into
these are still limited as Cuba of course is a socialist country. Meats
are bought on the "black market" (which here only means bought outside
of government regulation) and spices are brought in by relatives or
friends of the owners who are fortunate enough to go abroad at all.

In my opinion, the venues themselves were more impressive in most cases
than the food, which is not overly surprising given the circumstances.
The spaces were interesting though, and eclectic, artistic and
impressive. They were creative and colorful, and as full of life as the
rest of Cuba was.

The most traditional dish you can find throughout the city is ropa
vieja, which translated means "old clothes." Stewed beef and vegetables
are the main ingredients. Beyond this comes a lot of lobster (this was
a bit hit or miss), fish, yuca, tamales and no shortage of rice and
black beans.

The Spanish influence is prevalent in most dishes, as a direct result of
the colonization of Cuba by this country years ago. Mojitos tend to be
the drink of choice!

Here are my personal food highlights, and where to find the best food in
Cuba:

El Cocinero

El Cocinero is the undertaking of rock, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban fusion
musician X-Alfonso and is set up within an old cooking oil factory in
the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. There is a dining room on the ground
floor and a large, outdoor patio on the roof with more tables for
dining, a bar and impressive city views.

Next door is the Cuban Art Factory (La Fabrica de Arte Cubano) which had
the most NYC like vibe out of anywhere we went. Comprised of dozens of
rooms, this space is a state supported project for blossoming young
artists. There are installations, paintings, poetry, dance and movie
screenings at any given time.

Dona Eutimia

Located right in the center of Old Havana amidst the plazas and the
modest art galleries that line the cobble-stoned streets, Dona Eutimia
is a recent addition paladar wise, but it's history dates back to the
1970s when young artists used to gather near here to do their work.

Drop by for lunch and you'll feel like you dipped into a local's casual
dining room!

La Guarida

La Guarida stood out to me the most out of all visited venues. To get
here you'll go into what feels like an old, abandoned home, climbing
dozens of large, marble stairs until it opens up to a bustling old
Hollywood feeling restaurant on the very top floor.

The walls are adorned with photos of famous past visitors, like Jack
Nicholson, Oliver Stone and Steven Spielberg. Jazz music fills the air
and light curtains wave as a light breeze passes. The food is okay; not
great, but overall La Guardia makes for a really good night out.

Hotel Nacional

Brought to international fame by none other than Anthony Bourdain, Hotel
Nacional is absolutely worth seeing. Located nearby the equally famous
Malecon strip, the combination of the hotel and it's location is a real
jolt into the Cuba many imagine.

Hotel Nacional has a breezy, tropical yet refined feel, with an air
about it that gives off the notion that important things are happening.
Dine outside under the canopies and enjoy and appreciate the fact that
you are doing what many have not.

Finca Paraiso Agroecologico

Located between the Vinales region and the city of Havana, Finca Paraiso
Agroecologica was the exact reprieve we were all looking for. The
restaurant is perched on the hill of a farm, where they churn out
organic food and captivating views.

This was by far the biggest variety of food we encountered, with
everything from tasty anti-stress green juice to grilled okra and
carrots, dozens of salads, homemade soups and marinated meats and fish.

San Cristobal

If it's good enough for Jay-Z and Beyonce, it's good enough for me,
right? San Cristobal offers an incredibly interesting and eclectic
interior, full of old books piled high on chairs, elephant statues
scattered around, clocks, religious artifacts, palm trees and old photos
lining the walls.

There is a huge central dining table in the middle of the restaurant,
and smaller tables in offshoot rooms off of that. After you dine make
sure to grab a local cigar, too.

Hi there! I'm Kate Riesenberg from We Travel We Eat and I have partnered
with The Blonde Abroad to bring you the best places to eat as I explore
cities around the world through food.

Source: Where to find the best food in Cuba - Business Insider -
http://uk.businessinsider.com/where-to-find-the-best-food-in-cuba-2016-2?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=referral?r=US&IR=T

Cuban baseball stars, the Gurriel brothers, abandon team

Cuban baseball stars, the Gurriel brothers, abandon team
By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Two brothers from Cuba's preeminent baseball family
have abandoned a Cuban team traveling in the Dominican Republic,
presumably to defect and later seek professional careers in the United
States, official Cuban media reported on Monday.

Yulieski Gurriel, 31, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 22, left the hotel where
a Cuban team had been staying "in full attitude of surrender to the
merchants of for-profit professional baseball," the report said.

There were a record 150 baseball defections in Cuba last year, according
to Cuban journalist Francys Romero, but the Gurriel brothers would be an
exceptional loss because of their fame and because Yulieski had always
been seen as a loyal player who had shunned potential riches in the
United States.

The Gurriels had just concluded playing in the Caribbean Series
featuring championship teams from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico,
Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Those clubs are reinforced with other players
from their respective leagues.

The Gurriels normally play for the Havana Industriales along with a
third brother, Yunieski, but represented Ciego de Avila as
reinforcements in the Caribbean Series.

They are among the best-known players in Cuba and their father, Lourdes
Gurriel Sr., was also a star player.

Yulieski Gurriel, a third baseman, was dominating the Cuban league this
season with a .500 batting average, .599 on-base percentage and .874
slugging percentage. But his relatively advanced age as he nears 32
could limit his value to a Major League franchise.

Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., at just 22, could be a coveted prospect.
He was hitting .344/.407/.560 for the Industriales.

Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation lack an
agreement on player transfers because of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba.
This leads Cubans with big-league dreams to defect.

MLB has applied for special permission from the U.S. government to allow
teams to sign players in Cuba and is awaiting a response. Approval would
permit MLB to negotiate a player-transfer agreement with the Cuban
Baseball Federation.

Peter Bjarkman, an expert on Cuban baseball and author of the upcoming
book "Cuba's Baseball Defectors," said the Gurriel defections indicate
Cuba is unprepared to reach a deal with MLB.

"If there were any hopes of one, the Gurriel family would have been the
first to know and the brothers would have waited. This would indicate to
me that the Cubans are not yet ready to work any accord with MLB and the
defections will continue," Bjarkman said.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Bernadette Baum)

Source: Cuban baseball stars, the Gurriel brothers, abandon team - Yahoo
Sports -
http://sports.yahoo.com/news/cuban-baseball-stars-gurriel-brothers-abandon-team-192002809--mlb.html;_ylt=AwrC2Q640LlWGjoADcHQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTBydDI5cXVuBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM2BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

Tobacco, rum and other interests lobby on Cuba as restrictions ease

Tobacco, rum and other interests lobby on Cuba as restrictions ease
by Alex Glorioso on February 8, 2016

It may seem a country long in love with cigars has little need for
Swedish Snus dipping tobacco. But Swedish Match, by its own measure the
third-largest manufacturer of the tobacco pouches in the U.S., doesn't
see it that way: Since 2011, the company has lobbied Congress more
heavily than any other on trade with Cuba.
Last week, the Department of Treasury announced it would further
ease certain trade and travel restrictions, removing financing
restrictions for authorized exports and granting export licenses for a
wider range of products.
Those licenses will be issued case-by-case for items that "meet the
needs of the Cuban people," according to Treasury's press release.
Education is a high priority, which is good news for the nine different
educational organizations have lobbied Congress on Cuba since 2011. They
include NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which has over
10,000 members from 3,500 institutions, according to its website. It has
spent almost $1 million dollars on federal lobbying since 2011, not all
of which was dedicated to Cuba issues.
None of these groups, however, has been as loud as those who make the
specialized chewing tobacco. Swedish Match has filed 54 different
reports mentioning Cuba via five different lobbyists since 2011, though
none of them indicated Treasury was a target of its efforts, only
Congress; a spokesman for Swedish Match told OpenSecrets Blog in an
email that the company is not looking for an export license to Cuba.
Still, in 2015, the company lobbied on four different bills that sought
to end the trade embargo with Cuba. None of those measures made it out
of committee.
Bacardi, however, has mentioned Cuba on 47 of its lobbying reports since
2011, CRP data show — the highest number after Swedish Match; it
indicated lobbying Treasury on 18 of those reports.
Every year, Bacardi has danced between trying to end the embargo and
reclaiming its patent rights, which were effectively seized by the Cuban
government when it nationalized the company's operations after Communist
revolutionaries seized power in 1959.
Other companies that may be looking to offer their wares for the benefit
of the Cuban people? Chevron, for one, and two conglomerates, Nestlè and
Colgate-Palmolive, which supply a bulk of life's necessities from the
kitchen to the powder room.
Not all of the 115 groups lobbying on issues related to Cuba since 2011
are seeking licenses. Some of them are religious or human rights
organizations, for example, and don't sell products. However, many of
the groups that have lobbied, including trade groups or umbrella
organizations representing a variety of smaller entities, are looking
for licenses and now it appears likely that dozens could be approved.
Clif Burns, an attorney specializing in export control and economic
sanctions, said that in his view, lobbying had little to do with
obtaining export licenses.
"I think there were a number of factors that led to the sectors
designated for liberalization of the embargo," Burns told OpenSecrets
Blog in an email. "Chief among them was to build on existing exceptions
and to add new sectors based on considerations of fostering civil
rights, free flow of information, and private entrepreneurship."
Whether that's the case or not, lobbying on Cuba has ramped up. The U.S.
and Cuba moved to begin restoring ties at the end of 2014. The number of
lobbying reports mentioning Cuba correspondingly soared, from 74 in 2014
to 261 last year. And the number of lobbying firms working on
Cuba-related provisions has gone from 43 to 81 from 2011 to 2015.
There's more to be done, especially in areas such as travel. Twelve
companies or trade groups representing cruise lines, hotels and other
tourism organizations have lobbied on Cuba since 2011, and there are
surely more to come. Direct tourism from the United States to Cuba is
not yet allowed but families, religious organizations, and researchers
from the United States are among the groups allowed to freely travel.
So will Cubans soon be taking swigs of Bacardi before fattening their
lower lips with pouches of snus? Hard to say, but there's no shortage of
effort going into making it happen.

Source: Tobacco, rum and other interests lobby on Cuba as restrictions
ease | OpenSecrets Blog -
https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/02/tobacco-rum-and-other-interests-lobby-on-cuba-as-restrictions-ease/

Vatican updates papal itinerary for Cuba, Mexico visit

Vatican updates papal itinerary for Cuba, Mexico visit
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
2.8.2016 10:55 AM ET

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is scheduled to have more than two
hours alone with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba in
addition to signing a declaration with the patriarch before flying on to
Mexico for a Feb. 12-17 visit.
The Vatican announced the pope-patriarch meeting Feb. 5 and, on Feb. 8,
released an updated itinerary for Pope Francis' trip. The pope will
leave Rome almost five hours earlier than originally scheduled so that
the meeting in Havana with Patriarch Kirill will not impact his schedule
in Mexico.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that
in addition to official events on the schedule in Mexico, the papal
motorcades are expected to be long and lively. For example, he said, the
route from the airport to the nunciature in Mexico City, where the pope
will sleep, is about 12 miles, and people are expected to line most of
the route when he arrives from Cuba.
Five popemobiles will be on hand because papal flights to San Cristobal
de Las Casas, Morelia and Ciudad Juarez would make it difficult to move
the vehicles efficiently each day. Two of the popemobiles are being
shipped down from the United States where they were used in September,
the spokesman said.
No evening event is planned for Feb. 13 after Pope Francis' Mass in the
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the spokesman said. Instead, the pope
will have all the time he wants and needs to pray before the image of
Mary preserved there, something the pope said he wanted to do. "He did
not want to feel under pressure because of his program," Father Lombardi
said.
The trip was designed for the pope and his entourage to return each
night to Mexico City and avoid having to sleep in a different city each
night, "something which is rather tiring and complicated," the spokesman
said.
Another key in the design, he said, was to fulfill Pope Francis' desire
to visit cities and dioceses that did not have a chance to host either
St. John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI.
The pope's outdoor morning Mass Feb. 14 has been delayed by one hour.
The Mass will be celebrated in Ecatepec, a diocese just outside Mexico
City; the indigenous name "Ecatepec" means "windy hill" and overnight
temperatures are frigid. Father Lombardi said the Mass was delayed until
11:30 a.m. to allow people to arrive in the morning without attempting
to spend the night at the site.
A meeting with "representatives of culture" in Mexico City originally
scheduled for the evening of Feb. 14 has been canceled, Father Lombardi
said, mainly because of the hour delay of the entire day's program
because of the Mass.
Pope Francis has made it a tradition to invite a lay Vatican employee to
join his entourage on trips abroad. This time, Father Lombardi said, it
will be one of the Vatican firefighters. "Let's hope he won't have to
work," the spokesman joked.
Here is the updated schedule as released by the Vatican. Times listed
are local, with Eastern Standard Time in parenthesis when it is
different from local time:
Friday, Feb. 12 (Rome, Havana, Mexico City)
-- 7:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino airport.
-- 2 p.m. Arrival at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.
-- 2:15 p.m. Private meeting with Patriarch Kirill.
-- 4:30 p.m. Signing of a joint declaration. Speeches by patriarch and
by pope.
-- 5:30 p.m. Departure from Havana airport for Mexico City.
-- 7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) Arrival at Benito Juarez International Airport
in Mexico City. Officials to greet pope.
Saturday, Feb. 13 (Mexico City)
-- 9:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m.) Welcoming ceremony at the National Palace.
Courtesy visit with the president of the republic.
-- 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.) Meeting with representatives of civil society
and the diplomatic corps. Speech by pope.
-- 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Meeting with Mexico's bishops in the city's
cathedral. Speech by pope.
-- 5 p.m. (6 p.m.) Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Homily
by pope.
Sunday, Feb. 14 (Mexico City, Ecatepec, Mexico City)
-- 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Ecatepec.
-- 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Mass in the area of the "study center" of
Ecatepec. Homily by pope. Pope recites Angelus.
-- 2 p.m. Lunch with the papal entourage in the Ecatepec diocesan seminary.
-- 4:45 p.m. (5:45 p.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Mexico City.
-- 5:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m.) Arrival in Mexico City.
-- 5:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m.) Visit to the Federico Gomez Children's Hospital
of Mexico. Greeting by pope.
Monday, Feb. 15 (Mexico City, Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de Las
Casas, Mexico City)
-- 7:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Departure by plane for Tuxtla Gutierrez.
-- 9:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m.) Transfer by helicopter to San Cristobal de Las
Casas.
-- 10:15 a.m. (11:15 a.m.) Mass at the city's sports center with the
indigenous community from Chiapas. Homily by pope.
-- 1 p.m. (2 p.m.) Lunch with representatives of the indigenous
community and the papal entourage.
-- 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) Visit to the cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas.
-- 3:35 p.m. (4:35 p.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Tuxtla Gutierrez.
-- 4:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m.) Meeting with families at the Victor Manuel
Reyna Stadium at Tuxtla Gutierrez. Speech by pope.
-- 6:10 p.m. (7:10 p.m.) Departure by plane for Mexico City.
-- 8 p.m. (9 p.m.) Arrival at the Mexico City airport.
Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Mexico City, Morelia, Mexico City)
-- 7:50 a.m. (8:50 a.m.) Departure by airplane for Morelia.
-- 10 a.m. (11 a.m.) Mass with priests, seminarians, religious men and
women, and consecrated persons. Homily by pope.
-- 3:20 p.m. (4:20 p.m.) Visit to the city's cathedral.
-- 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) Meeting with young people at the Jose Maria
Morelos Pavon Stadium. Speech by pope.
-- 6:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.) Departure by plane for Mexico City.
-- 7:35 p.m. (8:35 p.m.) Arrival in Mexico City.
Wednesday, Feb. 17 (Mexico City, Ciudad Juarez)
-- 8:35 a.m. (9:35 a.m.) Departure by plane for Ciudad Juarez.
-- 10 a.m. (12 p.m.) Arrival at Abraham Gonzalez International Airport
in Ciudad Juarez.
-- 10:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Visit to Cereso prison. Speech by pope.
-- 12 p.m. (2 p.m.) Meeting with workers and employers at the Colegio de
Bachilleres of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Speech by pope.
-- 4 p.m. (6 p.m.) Mass at the fairgrounds of Ciudad Juarez. Homily and
greeting by pope.
-- 7 p.m. (9 p.m.) Departure ceremony at the Ciudad Juarez International
Airport.
-- 7:15 p.m. (9:15 p.m.) Departure by plane for Rome.
Thursday, Feb. 18 (Rome)
-- 2:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m.) Arrival at Rome's Ciampino Airport.

Source: Vatican updates papal itinerary for Cuba, Mexico visit -
http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2016/vatican-updates-papal-itinerary-for-cuba-mexico-visit.cfm